I didn’t see the glacier to my right through the thick cloud of smoke several days prior when I first passed it. However, after the first day of rainfall in a month, it was made visible along with new mountain faces I hadn’t seen before. They were grinning with their white teeth, happy to not be hidden behind the grey veil. Something about this glacier, something about the surrounding mountains drew me in as if it had a magnetic field pulling on the iron in my blood.
I parked below with a hundred (or so) other vehicles, trying to scope out a view of glacial movement. I got out of my car and packed my short trip essentials: a folding chair, sandals, and a water bottle in a smaller red bag I kept for the occasion. There was a bridge to cross to get to the eight-meter-wide trail. It didn’t look like much of a climb from afar, but as I got closer, I noticed that other people climbed the hill slowly, with some taking breaks halfway up. I’m competitive, and I wanted to show everyone that I wasn’t going to take a break, that I could scale this hill faster than anyone else and not break a sweat. I raced up the hill with ease, passing those out of breath and those that were as determined as I. My eyes were looking towards the ground. I was focusing on powering through, showing no signs of fatigue. My mind drifted (I’m a daydreamer) and I started thinking, there’s a lot more people here than where I was in the morning. I wonder if anyone else woke up on a mountain today? I wonder where everyone’s coming from? Loose rocks slid underneath my left foot, causing me to stumble slightly. It was enough to break my trance causing me to lift up my head. My eyes fixated on the glacier before me. My enlarged pupils gathered as much information as they could. I continued walking towards it not regarding a single person. I stared at the face of the glacier, and it stared back at me. I could feel the glacier blowing its freezing breath onto us below, sending shivers up our spines and causing goosebumps to form as the air kissed our skin. Now that I remember the shivers, I remember that most wanderers were wearing coats of many colours, possibly to show the glacier they were well favoured where they were from so it wouldn’t turn them into a pillar of ice.
I was in an open area. Signs were posted saying where the glacier used to be and at what time in history. There had been signs the whole way up actually, but remember, I was staring at the ground and didn’t have time to read, hence not mentioning them earlier. The ground that I was on remained dirt, and there was a thick white rope that enclosed the area. There were signs saying ‘don’t go any further.’ Do you suppose the people that were past those signs were illiterate in English and French?
Despite the lack of smoke, the sky remained a cloudy light grey. Why do I remember dirt? It wasn’t dirt, I said before that it was loose rocks, natural gravel really, that the glacier had placed down for all to come and see, its own golden brick road. A river flowed beneath the glacier, and I assume the glacier had enough of a heart to feed the river like it was a nursing babe. The glacier sat on its throne between two mountains, ruling over the valley where its ancestors reigned for thousands of years. Thankfully, the glacier decided not to speak that day with its thundering voice that shakes you to your core. The glacier wore a celestial blue hue as its crown.
This place felt familiar to me, but I could not explain why. Have I dreamt of this place before? Couldn’t say I have. It wasn’t until later, as I started up my computer, that I realized I was back at the glacier. The background on my computer had been an image of this very spot, but I didn’t recognize it fully in person. The background image on my computer had been taken closer to winter and in the evening with the moon at its focal point. It was a satisfying moment knowing I visited there.
What was not satisfying was watching how far tourists crossed over the roped fence. Everyone that crossed was to the left of me, following a set path or road that led closer to the glacier. There was another road up above them with traffic. Buses rode to and from the glacier, it seemed, but I couldn’t see exactly where the road led. I squinted my eyes profusely and saw an unidentified object on the glacier. It was long and black, and it looked like little colourful aliens marched around it in single file. My brain clicked. That’s where the buses are taking people, right onto the glacier. A true tourist’s dream, to touch the beast. I was not willing to disrespect the monstrous object, so I kept my distance and continued to observe from afar (I’m lying, I didn’t want to pay).
I took out my folding chair and sat for a few minutes an arm’s length away from the roped fence sipping on different glacial water. Relaxing, isn’t it? I wouldn’t say not knowing where you’re going to sleep was relaxing, nor skipping a meal after exercise. Despite the astounding sight of the glacier, my attention turned to my stomach. I was hungry and needed calories for my trip tomorrow. It was late afternoon. I took in one last view and slowly walked back to my car, enamoured with what I had just seen. I had already picked out where I wanted to eat. I still felt pain in my knees walking down the hill, which slowed my speed to a crawl. There were still many people wandering, young and old, from a girl on her father’s shoulders to a great-grandmother seeking out something older and wiser than her.
I closed my car door and buckled up my seat belt. I pulled out of the parking lot and was looking forward to a hot meal later that evening, just as I’m sure the car driving past me was looking forward to the hot parking spot I left him.