A Fragment of Solitude

A piece by Daniel Silver describing a weekend hike to Mount Solitary in the Blue Mountains.

10am on a windy Saturday in late June. Having left Sydney a few hours earlier we shoulder the self-conscious anxiety of that great metropolis, painstakingly dissecting all matters of whether and weather.
Admire the forecaster but humour the forecast.
Gratitude to the wind. She fans the flames of wonder. And we descend the Golden Stairs.
It is customary to choose from the bush a stick tapered to a point at one end, a little over waist height. It is curious the attachment one develops for his stick when all his possessions are behind him.
In a clearing we look out over Jurassic ferns with herringbone fingers. Trees adorned with acrobatic vines.
This is the birthplace of the colour green.
Directions. This way to the Ruined Castle. The first ascent draws first beads of sweat. Huge boulders chaotically arranged in perfect balance at the summit. We leave our bags in search of a route to the apex.
Roar the flames of wonder atop the Ruined Castle.
There is a grove of casuarinas at the first peak of Solitary. To reach them we scramble. Hands grip the mountain. Howls the wind the rain is coming. We laugh in reply.
From a distance the Blue Mountains appear deep blue.
At last the ground is soft underfoot. A bed of damp spindly leaves meanders beneath the buttresses of lazy trunks littered with small acorns scored by false trails. We make camp in Chinamans Gully.
The same is true from no distance at all.
We take shelter in a nearby cave. On the wall, black scrawl memories of former occupants and dancing red devils. The flames of wonder welcome the bitter cold.
There is nothing like a fire when you really need it.
We dance to the rhythm of heart beats deep in the belly of the dancing flames.
On the other side of the camp is a lookout. We lay on our backs let our bodies take the curve of the earth and peer into the space between the stars like figureheads on the prow of a cosmic ship.
The wind talks in its sleep.
Morning breaks. We warm our bellies with coffee and oats and laughter. We remove all traces of having been anywhere. We head east to the Kedumba River.
The path is steep. We step till we skip till we skid till we slide. Say, is that the river?
The water must be lonely for it clenches our chests and rips the air from our lungs. Gratitude to the lonely water. We breathe deeply while we lunch in the sunshine.
Gratitude to the trekkers who hear trees fall.
There are three moments of silence to remember: trees, wind, birds.
The final ascent. Lever by lever. One foot urged to follow its brother. Before us the sun returns to its mother. The end of one path the birth of another.
Dusk at the gate.
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