Though difficult to do full justice to our joy at having found the path, I can say that we swiftly put it to good use by turning south and heading for the nearest crest. As is often the case, the going proved longer than one would think merely by looking at it, but the path of beaten earth and turf carried us along quickly enough and with drier feet.
An occasional sheep emerged from uphill or down to pull at the scruffy grass lining the path. We stopped for a minute to watch it whereon I noted a mark upon the fleece, a strip of royal blue spraypaint across the midback. Looking out farther, I could make out several more, similarly marked, back towards the lower ground. At that point, I turned and asked G. for his take on the matter.
He expressed the reasonable view that the blue strip denoted ownership, likely of the farmers whose fields we had just tramped through. I was inclined to agree with him, though part of me wondered for a moment whether there might not be other traits worth tracking in sheep beyond their property status. Perhaps a farmer might sort sheep on the basis of heredity to trace the farm’s bloodlines or instead on the quality of the wool, be it rougher or finer from one animal to the next. Conceivably, that same person could thereby set out any number of traits from one another: leg-length or personality, origins or social status within the flock. Yet such interpretations found themselves undercut by the uniform blue strip which I saw on each sheep that afternoon.
So, naturally, I turned my attention back to the path before us. Now out of the pastures, G. and I felt the full force of the biting wind. So much stronger was it on the heights than in the cuts that we had to pull jackets tight around ourselves and lean into the wind to advance. Fortunately, the crest lay not far ahead, and we managed to power through the last two hundred yards, climbing at a good clip.
It was only once crested that the realization dawned on us, again as it often does for trekkers, that the crest was anything but. For the rise where where my companion and I now found ourselves hid the hill’s summit from sight below. Certainly, it provided an outlook over the lake and valley, but five hundred yards on, we could see what we took to be the true summit and a mile beyond a hill still higher than ours. Straining my eyes, I could almost imagine that this oneupsmanship continued the length of the lake, each hill in turn surpassing its neighbor.
G. and I shared a look and came to the same, silent conclusion that we would go no farther that day. We sidled over to a boulderpatch where we found a ready seat to catch our breath or smoke or record the view via photo. Still, I could not entirely myself from glancing at the summit longingly, not resigned as of yet to the way we, bound by time, are continually falling short.