Back in Chamonix, we hunkered down for a few days, licking our wounds in a tiny French mountain hut, or mazot. We only dared escape our cozy cottage to restock our supply of bread and cheese or to refuel in a nearby café.
Rushing through the village between giant raindrops, I couldn’t begin to imagine how difficult our journey would have been if we had to hike cold, wet and without incredible views to lure us forward. It was then that our mantra turned to a question. Are we really “of the mountain?” Could we have resisted the temptation to give up or give in under less stellar weather conditions?
More than two years later, I’m still figuring out how to unpack this.
Outside of being forced to race these miles, I have no way of knowing how our hike compares. What I do know is that we greeted fellow travelers, including sheep and cows and herd dogs, with all the patience and kindness our tired souls could muster. From bonjour to buonasera, we did our best to speak in their native language and, when words escaped us, we offered a friendly, universal smile.
We treaded lightly, leaving nature as we found it, pristine and breathtaking, and were giddy, yet courteous guests in every home and hostel and hotel we visited.
And that is how we’ve learned to move through this world — earnest, grateful and willing to sacrifice simple comforts. As for what we are, I only hope it includes incomprehensible views, the company of others having a similar, transcendent experience, and the satisfaction of doing what’s hard but good.