Today’s Miles: 23
Total Miles: 3,376.5
Near Brunnen, Switzerland – December 20, 2016
The mountains that existed yesterday disappeared in the night, swallowed up by low clouds that settled in from horizon to horizon. I wake, pack my tent, and walk out into a grey canvas where giants once stood. It feels empty without them. Not even a shadow remains, no dark shapes in the light, no solid edges fading in and out, nothing. It is as if I’d imagined them all, these mountains floating in the distance.
I feel the weight of them as I slip along the first steep slopes in the early afternoon. I knew they were there by the lines on my map, but the way the land swelled with conviction gave them life. I stare up, following their slope with my eyes. It disappears into the sky and I wonder how tall the giant hanging over me is, how far does it reach beyond the trees, grass, and rocks fading into grey.
The slopes steepen, the walls rise all around, and civilization funnels to fit into the narrowing cracks between them. Roads braid together and press against railways. Tracks converge. Houses crowd close and tight along lake shores.
Windows of air break open in the fog near nightfall. Shoulders and shadows emerge, blurry and dark. Bits of the giants peer down, fading in and out, appearing for a moment before they are swallowed up again.
I brush ice off a sign to see a picture of the world around me. Peaks stretch across it, mountains behind mountains, each with a line pointing out names and altitude.
I look up at the grey fog, the forty feet that is my world. The air is quiet. All I hear is my breath, in and out, as I stare at nothing, as I peer into the grey. I breathe deeper, filling my lungs with oxygen, in and out, feeling my breath come back to me. Then a smile cracks across my lips.
I don’t need to see. I know they are there. I can feel it. The mountains aren’t waiting on the horizon, they are crowding all around me, looming in the mist, watching me walk toward the heart of them.
Six months after I stood at Kinnarodden and stared South, six months after I imagined the thousands of horizons between then and now, I have arrived at the edge of the Alps.