No one else went East this weekend on account of the heat, but I told Rip I had to visit one more time. We both needed rock and water and we knew just where to find it. Index was surprisingly cool that morning, as if that place- a place where I'd only ever been happy- was granting me one last favor. We put up a few shaded routes on cracked granite, then spent the afternoon in the Skykomish, chilling beer cans and wading across the rocks in water still as cold as snow.
From there we plunged ahead on highway 2, straight into the swelter of Leavenworth in mid July. We crossed Tumwater canyon on a pipeline and ran up the trail on the riverbank, searching for a boulder we'd heard of that leans out over the water. We found it, and stayed there until the sun sank away in the West and all the evening's color bled out.
Rip's sister Sarah joined us at the brewery that evening, and we sat back, sun burnt and content, drinking glasses of cold wheat beer with lemon. We camped off a dirt road in Icicle canyon, our favorite spot, and hiked up to a flat rock that overlooks the notoriously dangerous creek. Every climber in Seattle knows about this spot, and yet it still feels like a secret, and I've never had to share it, I've only ever had it all to myself.
The moon was a glowing white stone in the ice blue sky. Rip brought his guitar, and we sang songs which all sounded so sad and beautiful to me, but a warm breeze blew the notes across the rock and scattered them down into the river, and thankfully I didn't have to think about things too hard.
For the rest of the day we hiked through the woods to a lake with water cloudy and gold. The clearing swarmed with clouds of flies, rising and swirling around us like the bubbles in a glass of champagne. We kicked and cowered and slapped as we tried to swim, then found the last gasps of a camp fire whose trailing smoke fended off the bugs long enough for us to eat lunch. My two friends drank beer mixed with clam juice, good New Englanders they are.
With lunch over, although barely digested, we ran down the trail, back into the shelter of the shady pines where we could breathe without inhaling a colony of insects.
I haven't told many people that I'm leaving, so it feels sometimes like a secret wound I keep hidden beneath my clothes. When the overpowering landscape makes it throb I try and cover it up. I make excuses, I say oh it's because I'm missing this person or that person, or I try and change the subject.
But Rip knows me inside and out, we joke sometimes that we share one brain between the two of us. He knows what it means when he's playing guitar on the rock over Icicle creek and I get all quiet. When I'm gazing out over the ridges of rock that cut against the edges of the night sky, steep and black, and trying not to think about eleven years worth of laughter and leading and falling up on those walls.
He'll stop and he'll says, "Oh come on, this place isn't going anywhere."
And he's right, it's not.
But I am.
I wish just one moment of this weekend had been liquid, I wish it had frozen and I could be suspended just like this, between rock and water, happy just to be traveling between one place and the other.
Dedicated to Rip Hale, who puts up with me