Mount Marathon is beautiful. It’s quiet, the vegetation is lush, and the animal life is everywhere.

And I’m never going back up.

Why? Oh, I don’t know, maybe it was that the mountain was out to destroy me utterly (and, I suspect, devour my soul).

It began innocently enough at first. I walked the parts I had walked yesterday without a hitch. Apparently, yesterday, when I thought I reached the bowl of the mountain, I had only reached the bench…the bowl is still way up there. On the way, I got some nice snappies of Seward from a high vantage point.

And then I hit the waterfalls. Or snowfall. Or snow-water-I dunno whatever it’s DEATH ON A STICK- fall. The falls were running beneath the snow, which was surprisingly deep. It was softening, too, so it wasn’t stable. At any time, I could’ve sunk up to my midsection in snow. Which I did.

See that? That’s where my leg fell through. That’s where I almost became trapped in an icy prison of DEATH. I almost turned back…but then I saw this.

A ptarmigan feather. The little white bird was MOCKING me. I knew I had to keep going.

I finally made my way up to the bowl to find…

A near-barren, snowy wasteland, where the fog rolls in and out, at some points getting so thick I couldn’t see 10 feet in front of me. Seriously? SCREW IT. I started to walk back down…when I heard it.

I could only imagine that the bird was far off…still, even if I got to see it from afar with my binoculars, it would be enough. I moved closer to the source of the sound, walking through fog and snow. What happened next was the closest thing to a religious experience I can imagine will ever happen to me.

I heard the sound again, and the white bird, only a little bigger than a pigeon, swooped out of the fog and landed on a rock, looking at me, as if saying,

“ ‘Sup, brah?”

I was stupefied. I was amazed. Mostly, I was tired. But still, it was all worth it. I didn’t try to get really close for a good picture, because the rock was surrounded by snow that I imagined was a death trap. I did, however, get some cruddy ones.

There was a bunch of interesting crap on the bowl of the mountain. Literally, in some cases. Some scat for you all:

Ptarmigan Scat

Moose Scat

Plus, this wacky-looking mushroom.

I dreaded walking back down the waterfall, knowing that the snow was treacherous. So I did what any reasonable human being would do when presented with a steep incline of deep snow that could potentially give way at any moment.

I sat down, and slid my way to glory.

Was it stupid? Undoubtedly. Did it work? Yes.

Well, partially. When I went to get up, I stepped from one death-hole into another. And another. AND ANOTHER. The snow looked like Swiss cheese where I had gone to get up from my wild ride.

I took care when going down, only to find that the trail had become a lot muddier since I first passed through. Which made the trail a lot more slippery and dangerous. Which made me say, “Aw, hell…”

Thankfully, the walking stick I had picked up off the ground at the base of the mountain yesterday saved my sorry backside (literally, in some cases) more times than I can count, not just now, but throughout the hike. Which is funny, because it’s a fantastically unimpressive-looking curved stick. There were times I was sure it was going to snap, sending me hurtling to destruction, but it just bent like freaking rubber, holding in place long enough for me to get back up. My little walking buddy has found a new home with me, for the next time I go hiking, or feel suicidal and come back up this stupid mountain.

So in the end, I returned home, battered, bruised, dirty, and soaking wet, but one life bird richer.

Like I said. Totally worth it.

Total Alaska Life Bird Count: 30 (Rock Ptarmigan).