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View from the top.

The last mile and a. half up San Gorgonio Peak is a killer. I'm thirsty, headachy, and halting every 500 yards. At one stop, I meet up with a guy who's descending the mountain. Sweaty and disheveled and leaning on two walking poles--"both my knees are shot," he informs me--he's not in good shape either. On the other hand, he's going down the mountain. How far to the summit? I ask. Maybe a mile, he says. Up that ridge, across a saddle, and up to the top.

I go. By this point I'm not thinking about song lyrics, or the place of wilderness on a changing Earth. I'm putting one foot in front of the other. Then I'm at the top. There's a view--too hazy to include Catalina but a broad swath of Southern California. I'm too exhausted to appreciate it. There's a metal box and one of those notebooks hikers sign. at the top of peaks. I'm too tired to sign it.

The sense of triumph comes later. Not on the hike down, which isn't as easy as I thought it would be, but hours later when I'm chugging gallons of celebratory iced tea at a Starbucks in San Bernardino. I look back at the mountains and the whole hike sweeps before me--trees, creek, canyons, cliffs, mountaintop, the moments of tedium, pain, and beauty. If anybody asked whether it was worth protecting the planet to protect places like this, I'd say yes. If anybody asked, I'd say it was the best hike of my life.

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Title Annotation:travel
Publication:Sunset
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2014
Words:257
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