I earned it last night, clawing my way up a thousand car sized boulders. I leapt upward, from one to the next, over, under, and around until the Green River became a thin, snaking line in the valley below. I earned it crashing through a maze of trees and plunging across Tourist Creek a half-dozen times, my legs numb and body shivering from the icy water. I earned it this morning on a mile of jagged loose scree, pieces of broken mountain that shifted under me with each step.
Still, I may have underpaid. It’s almost flat on top of the Divide here, as if the world used all its jagged edges on the cliffs below. There is no trail, just endless boulders strewn across a ridgeline. Deep, cutting valleys drop away from the top, carved by ancient rivers of ice which still linger in the shadows of the mountain tops like white, cracked tongues.
For ten miles, I leapt across the rocks. My pace was slow, but my mind was at ease. I knew that time meant little amid all that beauty. Whatever I lost can be regained somewhere else. Pushed for in some lesser place where it is not a sin to pass in a blur. There is no rushing here, not along the northern crown of the Winds, not along the ceiling of the sky.
Seven hours later, I looked back as I began to descend. I could still see the white tongue of Continental Glacier stretched across the Divide and the thin line of my footprints here I crossed. I could see the boulders of Downs Peak rising towards the clouds where I crouched behind a rock and stared at the eastern plateau while the wind ripped at everything but me. I could see the jagged teeth around Knapsack Col in all their unreal beauty, reaching up to bite the sky and watch over the place where I faced death with a smile. I could see everything and could have stared for days, but an approaching storm nudged me down, reminding me just how lucky I was to have seen it at all.
I took one last glance, said goodbye to the Winds, and dropped away from the Divide.