Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - There is a mountain, if you believe in mountains, that rises so high it kisses the heavens.
If you don’t believe in heaven, the mountain continues farther than most are able to comprehend, let alone conquer.
A friend of mine scaled that mountain.
The mountain has everything we climbers, explorers, hikers, photographers, philosophers and runners need.
It is the Mecca of our adventures.
It is that last mountain left unclimbed.
My friend left a path there.
About a mile from its base is a large hazelnut farm and a fruit orchard and a trout lake and a small baseball diamond where the Seattle Mariners hold spring training.
It is a place you can park your car, unhitch your buggy or let loose your dog and slowly work out muscle kinks, compare Shot Blok counts, trade wrapped snacks for packaged power bars, and talk about things that are only mentioned on the trails.
The mountain glimmers in the distance.
It appears to have a dozen different routes that are never “in face” to mortal athletes.
It has beckoned the faithful since man started his frantic first steps toward upright running.
The journey there is long and arduous.
It is short and fast.
It is a joy to undertake and it is a miserable experience.
Its path has many twists and turns and enough routes and diversions that attaining the peak is a triumph no matter the direction taken.
The trek begins with a slight half-mile lead in.
The wind is soft here.
It whispers a pleasant conversation.
It tickles the ear like the warmest secret a young child would tell you.
It is just strong enough to push you through a field of Alaska wildflowers and Oregon grasses, thigh high with potholes and hidden rocks that are only there to keep out those not on the true path.
The path becomes a trail of stories and legends.
It winds among the harshest and most technical terrain, yet it yields the most wonderful sights.
Beasties live here.
And little flighty things.
Cairns are here and there and will remain in place forever.
None of us would be on this path if not for our friend.
A seasoned alpinist, he shared a love of knowledge, a knowledge of love, and how the difference of the two stretched along an Etch A Sketch of nature’s doodles.
Lessons were straight forward, and they were obscure.
Some came in a casual observance of a distant ice crag.
Some in a story gleaned from a past trail.
They instilled in us a childlike sense of wonder.
“Oh world!” they said. “How large and full of adventures you are!”
My friend has explored far ahead of us.
His footprints blur into boreal muskeg, trail off over Arctic sastruga, wash away over cascading falls.
They corkscrew from a scree base out of view on the last beckoning cliff.
Yet when we look close to our own path his prints loom large and distinct.
Their indentations are what we will cherish and remember and strive to follow.
(Author's note: In remembrance of my friend Glenn Frick who passed on March 7, 2014, shortly after being diagnosed with lung cancer. He was 75. He led us into the wilds and over mountains.)
The author, left, with Glenn Frick on a mountain outing. (Klas Stolpe)