Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hiking through History

Listening to the clank of donkey bells winding through the mist below, we journeyed up Mount Olympus with history as our companion. We couldn't see the crowning peak where, according to Greek mythology, Zeus and his army of gods defeated the Titans. But we knew it was there, far above us, just another few thousand huge steps up away.

The night before we had stayed at "Summit Zero" - a hiker hostel on the Aegean sea at the edge of the city of Dion. Dion, from Dios, meaning "of God." We weren't there because Olympus was the prettiest mountain, or the tallest, or the quaintest. Or at least I wasn't. I wanted to see what had inspired the ancient Greeks to create such a beautiful and detailed set of stories, stories I have taught to 9th grade students and read references to my entire English-studying life. Was it the swirling fog that inspired creative thinkers to pinpoint the origin of the world on this mountain? Was it the sheer rocky crests? The impossibility - back then - of ever climbing to the top and seeing what was there?

One foot after the other, we plodded up the mountain, switching and switching back in an endless zig zag. We fueled ourselves with salty cashews and drawn out games of Boticelli, taking lots of pictures of mountain bits poking out of mountain mists, all of which seemed to look the same. An orange breasted bird sang from a pine tree, springlike purple flowers popped up here and there, but mostly Olympus shone soft in grays and browns.

When we arrived at the refuge just before the end of the treeline, it began to rain, and we discovered the refuge beds were full. Jeff, Brett, and I made a final attempt to see up to the top, if not to actually get there - hiking up the steepest section yet despite the screaming protest of our calf muscles. But the higher we went, the clearer it was that it wasn't going to clear.

Apparently Zeus and Hera wanted their privacy. Maybe some other day we'll emerge above the clouds and see where the world was won...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the text, especially. JM