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Trail of Blue Ice

By Katherine Haghighi

Words for the Hiker

Your footsteps are a rhythmic heartbeat.
A pattern similar to many, but one of a kind.
A theme that differs in each place it is played.
A symphony that accompanies the Earth’s progression.
A music that only the Universe understands.

Your measures fill in the rests that have appeared along the path.
They seem more frequent as the atmosphere cools.
Steps are louder in this gelid air.
heard almost like an exhaled breath is seen,
lingering a moment longer, not quite an echo.

Your eyes soak in the color before it sleeps.
Blues brush the water, the mountains, the glaciers, the horizon, the sky, the moon.
Every blink frames a story, centuries old or just now new.
Tales tickle the inward eye filling in where more ice once rested,
where stone was shaved flat, and where water smoothed rough edges.

Your heart keeps its pace counterpoint to your step,
the contrast emphasized by wind whirling leaves across the ground.
For it is here the post-glacial rebound lifts your feet,
reminding you to return from where you came before light slips down.
And as you do, the Trail of Blue Ice gifts you again with a whole new symphony.


Words about the poem “Words for the Hiker”

I have my “go to” trails. I’m sure you do too. You know, the ones we hike by default. Close to home. The perfect amount of time. Terrain we want. Good in most weather. Familiar. Comforting. They speak to us. Lure us. They are ours.

And then there are the trails we hike occasionally, with a certain person, or for the first time. Those are approached a bit differently, maybe, with more preparation or attentiveness, awareness, or openness. They may require a longer drive and more time, be more accessible in certain types of weather or require different equipment. Less familiar, they may even cause discomfort.

For me, the Trail of Blue Ice was familiar, but I had not hiked it for many years and never with my husband. It had been on my mind. I don’t know why, really, except that I knew Doug would like it.

On the last Friday in September, Doug got home from work earlier than usual. This never happens. Ever. I noticed the time of day when the front door opened. Gears started turning in my head. All week we talked about taking a hike. Not a “go to” trail, but somewhere else. It was cold but clear and the roads were dry. This was good news. We sat down to an early daylight dinner, the sun streaming in through streaky windows. We crunched on crispy salad and reheated pepperoni pizza just to get full. We looked up the expected time for sunset. We looked at each other. We could do it. We left.

The drive to Portage was divine. The water mirrored everything. Clouds, mountains, snow, and ice were all doubled. We arrived at the parking lot, prepared our hats and gloves for the start, and took the obligatory trailhead photo by the sign. The wind wasn’t strong, but that could change. It would no doubt get colder as the light left. There would not be many people around. There were only two empty cars in the parking lot and a Discover America RV. They were definitely cooking dinner. The chef stood in front of the yellow lit window, stirring something in a pot.

We set off, knowing we would finish in the dark. That wasn’t said. Nor intended. Nor ideal. We both just knew. Stones crunched under our shoes. We kept walking.

Maybe it was the shift in sound from the stones to the paved trail that announced a clear rhythm to our stride. Our pace stayed consistent to make good time. Eyes high, we drew in the mountains and glaciers, inhaling the smell of wet leaves and evergreen needles underfoot. I didn’t breathe in too deeply. Not because I didn’t want to, but because my nose hair was getting too frosty from the cold. It almost hurt.

We didn’t talk unless we wanted to point something out. A camper on the lake. A muddy place on the trail. Moose prints. Dog prints? An eagle. A frosted mushroom. The color of the sky. The approaching restroom, just in case. The area where the girls planted trees on Earth Day 15 years ago with Girl Scouts.

This trail has no right or wrong way. It is easy and accessible. It is partly paved and clearly defined. It is full of eye candy, westbound and eastbound. It is also a place of tremendous energy.

Maybe it was finishing the trail in the dark, or the communal feeling that comes from walking where so many others have also trod, but we had changed upon our return. I know many hikers could say that happens on every trail. Maybe so. But that night, the energy was different. There was a music there. We didn’t hear it. We were part of it. The kind that only happens when we allow ourselves to tune into the frequencies of this vast land we call home. A natural symphony of sorts.

After that evening, two months passed by that were filled with a whole lot of unexpected life. That hike was a salve through tests, diagnoses, surgery, and caregiving for my husband. It was comforting. It was grand. It was wonder. I intended to capture it, but hadn’t yet figured out how. When I finally sat down to write, recalling the experience in my mind, Words for the Hiker emerged describing a magical music created in tandem with the Universe.

Katherine Haghighi

Katherine Haghighi is a writer with a love of storytelling about living and grieving. For her, there is no separation. She is passionate about recognizing compelling moments that inspire and provoke what living life is all about. Music and nature inform all that she creates. Katherine lives in Anchorage where she and her husband have chosen to raise their 3 daughters and 2 pugs for the past 16 years.