Pics or it didn’t happen

We head out early. Bleary-eyed and ever-so-slightly headachey from a late night, I plop out of the bed so high off the ground that I have launch myself into it at night and land unsteadily on the carpeted floor, hoping that I don’t wake my slumbering roommates. I grab the maroon school-backpack-cum-daypack I packed in a drunken haze several hours earlier from the closet and throw a couple Cliff bars into it. Reconsidering, I quickly smear a bagel with peanut butter and snag a banana from the pile on my desk before heading out into the pre-dawn chill.

We rendezvous in the parking lot in front of Case, speaking in hushed tones even though we’re outside and no one else is up. The sun peeks above the horizon, and the pink glow of dawn creeps steadily across the asphalt, lengthening shadows growing as we perform our final gear checks and plan our mandatory pre-hike Stewart’s run.

It’s only minutes before the first smartphone makes an appearance, initially to map out our route, but quickly transitioning to a highly instagramable sunrise silhouette photoshoot.

“Put on your backpack, it’ll look better.”

After a series of action shots of us packing and congregating around the car, we cram our backpacks, gear, and finally, ourselves, into the backseat (shotgun, no blitz!). Suddenly, a flurry of activity — someone has discovered their phone is dead. A quick tete-a-tete later, we decide that there will be plenty of pictures to go around and agree to make a shared dropbox as soon as we get back.

Stewart’s is deserted save for a few bleary locals and uneventful save for a couple quick selfies with a digital clock in the background to document how much earlier we’re awake than the rest of the world. We purchase coffees and glass bottles of soda, joking about how much we’d rather be having summit ciders. Several people wonder about whether or not the bottles will be mistaken for beers in Facebook pictures.

After tetris-ing our way back into the car, slotting our purchases into any available gaps and settling our coffees between our knees, we head off. The sunrise is now in full swing, and we briefly admire the countryside speeding by and reflect on how lucky we are to go to school so close to the wilderness. The conversation turns, and phones reappear to authenticate last night’s stories with photos and humorously autocorrected text messages. Tales of drunken shenanigans and 3 a.m. turn-ins fill the cozy space with the warm buzz of conversation, punctuated with occasional snorts of laughter and disbelief.

“It was off the hook, I don’t even remember taking this…”
“I can’t believe you’re here right now dude, I was still getting snapchats of you drunk off your ass at like 2 in the morning.”

We reach the trailhead at precisely 9 a.m., half an hour behind schedule. No one is worried — we’ve done this plenty of times. By this point, we’re out of cell phone service, and everyone is careful to put their phones on airplane mode to conserve battery. We pose by the trail sign, flashing peace signs and thumbs-ups. After a few shots, people swap places, to make sure we get a picture of everyone. Several people chug water, a last-ditch effort to rid themselves of any lingering headaches, and we start up the trail.

Several hours, dozens of water breaks, and hundreds of pictures later, we arrive at the summit. Everyone rushes to touch their muddy boots to the summit marker, joking about what basic bitches we are as we struggle to get everyone’s foot into the picture and find an angle where our shadows don’t obscure the writing on the metal disc.

Mission complete, we move on to the ledge with the most scenic view and pose against a backdrop of row upon row of mountains bursting with the colors of fall set against a crisp autumn sky.

“Andy, you majestic creature… that’s propic material right there, that’s so badass.”

We bust out the summit sodas and unpack our lunches, lounging in the unexpected warmth of the October sun. Sweat evaporates, and we compare scrapes, mud stains, and laugh about how scruffy and dirty we’ll look in the photos. We hoist our bottles to the sky and toast first the mountains, then the beginning of a new year at Skid, then the fall, the weather, Fig Newtons and pilfered D-Hall bagels, Cliff Bars, and Outing Club gas reimbursements. We take pictures of our legs dangling over the edge of the ridge and our raised fists clasped around our root beers, silhouetted against the sun. There is no one else here but us. This is our place, we are one with the mountains and the sky, away from the crush of society and school and the Skidmore bubble.

And as I ponder the mysteries and majesty of the natural world, I glance over to catch a last glimpse of someone wandering off to see if they can get cell reception on the other side of the summit.

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