I’ve Been to the Mountain

My first semester of graduate school is over. I managed to survive. There were a few times where I felt like packing my things and driving back home. Returning to college after being out in the real world for eight years was a bit rough; however, I am thrilled to be in school and can’t imagine what would have become of me if I weren’t accepted. I was not in the best mental state before coming to Idaho. Working at Whole Foods and living in a crappy studio apartment at the age of 30 made me depressed and tired of the whole thing. By the whole thing, I mean life. Those were some dark times. But luckily, I am now in school, and my first semester has come to an end. To celebrate, I decided to climb a mountain.

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One of the benefits about living out west is the ability to do cool outdoor activities. There are lots of mountains and forests and lakes within a 15 to 90 minute drive. I never really enjoyed working out in a gym. I would rather go hike or do some sort of outdoor activity. The mountain I decided to climb is about 30 minutes away in a town called, Troy. The name of the mountain is Moscow Mountain. When I pulled up to the small parking area there were three other vehicles. There was also a ribcage. And a head of a deer. These, and some other remains, were sitting at the last remaining parking space. I could have parked on the side of the road, but I decided to park directly in front of the carcass. I took it as a bad omen: a sort of warning of things to come.

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There’s nothing like hiking yourself. You are alone and completely vulnerable to your immediate surroundings. I could be murdered any second. At one point, I was thinking there was a sniper in the woods. He is watching me in his scope, waiting to pull the trigger. Any second my mind will go black, and that will be it.

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As I hiked, I listened to that Serial podcast that everyone has been listening to. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the Serial podcast is basically a true crime story involving a Baltimore murder case which took place in 1999. It’s super interesting and has this eerie transitional music throughout each episode that makes you feel super safe when hiking alone.

Side Note: If you want to listen to the Serial podcast, here is a link to the website: http://serialpodcast.org/

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I was wearing gym shoes, so I only planned to hike to where the snow started and then turn around. When it gets too snowy, I told myself. I will head back. I always do these mental exchanges. Silent discussions. Weighing the options. Pros and cons. My mind, most of the time, doesn’t want my body to do anything. It likes being in a room with four walls. Alone. Secured by a door and a lock. Safe from the outside! The dangerous outside where people kill and rob and rape and do all sorts of horrible things. This is the fanatical part of my mind. I must go on these hikes to turn it off.

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A lot of ATVs and off-road vehicles drive up and down the path, so even though there was snow, it was packed down and easy to walk through. Most of the time I walked directly on the tire tracks. Sometimes I walked in the middle. My main fear about walking in the snow with gym shoes is soaked socks. There’s nothing worse than soaked socks. One time I was at Six Flags Great America and went on a bunch of water rides. My shoes got drenched, and I walked around with soaked socks for hours. When I got home and removed my shoes and STILL soaked socks, the bottoms of my feet were as wrinkled as an old man’s…fill in the blank.

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I’ve hiked Moscow Mountain once before. I was with another person. This was the first time I hiked it alone. I had a knife with me, but it was in my backpack. Even if someone or something (like a bear) came at me, I’d pretty much be screwed. I would have to remove the backpack, unzip it, and grab the knife. By that time, it would most likely be too late. In Illinois, there aren’t many animals that can kill you. I’m pretty sure there are bears in Idaho, but I don’t know if they’re hanging around this mountain. I have been meaning to do some more bear research, but due to the excessive amount of schoolwork, I’ve been slacking.

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Halfway up the mountain there are some great views.

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The higher I hiked, the snowier it got. About an hour in, I was determined to make it to the top. The initial fears of getting sniped or eaten by a bear or soaked socks were now gone, and I was living in the moment and heavily involved in my Serial podcast. I find this is how I am. I always have to be pushed. Like I said, I’m a room, four walls, alone, lock on the door guy. I would do that forever if I could. But I have the best time when I get out of that comfort zone and push myself to do new things. The podcast was also getting really good, and I wanted to keep hiking so I could continue listening.

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Most of the hike was absent of other people. I only saw one group of three guys with two dogs. Neither of the dogs had a leash. I love no leash dogs. I always wanted a dog that had that intelligence to hang out and had an understanding as far as where they can and can’t go. The two dogs my family and I had growing up were runners. You couldn’t let them loose because if you did, they’d be gone. Running away as fast as they can. I would have to scream and chase after them. This probably had to do with improper training.

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As I approached the peak of the mountain, it was like looking out into an ocean. Just openess. I love that open look. It calms me for whatever reason. I like the bigness of it all. It’s hypnotic and makes me feel at peace.

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I was basically in the clouds, which is weird because when you’re in the clouds, it feels like you’re slightly out of the clouds. Can a person ever fully be in the clouds? People sometimes say, “Your mind is in the clouds.” This means your mind is foggy or hazy. Now that I think about it, this entire paragraph is in the clouds.

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One last picture.

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I took in the view a few moments longer and began my descent. My legs were tired, feet cold, and I wanted off the mountain. I did what I came here to do and wanted to get back to my car and return home. A little more than halfway down the mountain, I heard what sounded like two gunshots. I thought, Oh great, now I’m going to be questioned in some murder case. I pulled out my phone and checked the time. It was 3:09 pm. I made a mental note, so if I were to be interviewed, I could at least tell the officials when I heard the shots. Ten minutes later I heard an ATV approaching. The ATV pulled up next to me and slowed. There were two guys on the quad. The driver asked if I broke down. I told him, “No, I’m just walking.” He said, “Okay,” and drove off.

The Serial podcast kept me company until I returned to my car. The same two guys who were on the ATV were standing outside their truck. One guy was leaning into the passenger side of the vehicle and had what looked like a shoulder holster strapped to his body while the other guy examined the deer carcass. I got into my car, locked the doors, and drove off.


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8 Comments I’ve Been to the Mountain

  1. AvatarBC

    Pretty sweet dude, makes me want to go hike! I haven’t done enough hiking since I moved out west… so much to do out here isn’t there? You have certainly inspired me, those pictures alone were worth the cold/wet feet and tired legs. Nice work Jason!

    1. jlsarnajlsarna

      Thanks! Yeah, haven’t had much time to get out during the semester. Got to go off roading in SD sometime. Those pics always look awesome!

  2. AvatarEileen

    Hey, Jason! Congrats on finishing your first semester! I wish I’d had a mountain to climb to commemorrate my first, but I just took the el home and slept for the next day and a half. Man, it was a lot of work, right? I actually cried like a baby a few times during the semester- but all in all it ended on a good note, and I’m going back for more. Enjoy your break! Hope you have a mostly kick-ass spring semester. Keep on keep in’ on!

    1. jlsarnajlsarna

      Hey, Eileen! Thanks! Congrats on finishing your semester as well!! Yes, tons of work. A lot more than I expected. I’m pretty sure I cried as well. Enjoy your break as well! Spring semester should be a bit more relaxed, and I now know what to expect. Have a good one!

  3. AvatarIris

    Those are some gorgeous photos. I’ve been hiking only a few times but with a group.

    Serial! So that’s what it is! I’ve heard people and blogs mention it but thought it was a TV show. Sounds like my cup of tea; I will be tuning in once I’m done my podcast backlog.

    Happy new year, and all the best for your studies.


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