I miss the mountains.
I miss fine-tuning the route. Reading guidebooks. Poring over maps. Checking the weather forecast.
I miss packing my rucksack. Sorting my kit. Filling my water bottles. Making a sandwich and deciding how many Mars Bars to take.
I miss loading up the car the night before. Laying out my clothes ready.
I miss going to bed early. Waking up in the early hours. Sneaking out of bed and wolfing down some breakfast. Creeping around the house in the dark. Urging the kettle to be quiet as it boils water to fill my flask.
I miss how deafening my car engine sounds in the stillness, as I try my best not to wake the neighbours.
I miss driving along quiet roads, hoping for a glimpse of an owl, a fox or a deer in the headlights.
I miss having only lorries for company on the motorway. The pre-recorded radio shows.
I miss the imperceptible brightening of the landscape as day breaks. And that thrilling first glimpse of the mountains silhouetted in the distance.
I miss the anticipation of seeing what the weather’s going to do. Is Blencathra shrouded in mist? Are the skies dark over Borrowdale? Will I get a view from the summit of Haystacks?
I miss being the first to park up. Killing the engine, leaving only the clicks and hisses and hums of the car cooling down in the silence.
I miss opening the door and that initial shot of mountain medicine. The wind in the trees. The white noise of the river. The dawn chorus. The cold on my face. The fresh smell of the countryside wafting into my nostrils.
I miss stretching out the long drive from my limbs and lacing up my boots. Shouldering my pack. Checking the time and taking my first steps. Enjoying a second breakfast on the go.
I miss the feeling of being the only person up and about. Of having the paths to myself. Of double-checking the map to make sure I’m on the right track in the gloomy light of early morn.
I miss the terrain evolving as the ground becomes steeper. Rising above the valley floor and sensing the growing landscape. The colours changing as the world wakes up and the sun warms the ground.
I miss the buzzards calling as they soar overhead. The waterfalls cascading down from the slopes above. The pebbles skipping across each other as I disturb them with my boots. The scratchy sound of waterproof fabric rubbing rhythmically with each step.
I miss the cold air in my lungs. Of breathing harder as I climb. The anticipation of reaching higher ground.
I miss the thrill of walking in mist. Of ticking off features on the map. Of sensing subtle changes in the weather. Of making decisions.
I miss the feeling of freedom. The emotion. Evading the irritations of modern life. Feeling the brain fog lift. Silencing the constant doubting chatter in my head. A clarity I only experience in the mountains.
I miss the tactile sensations of fingers on rock. Of bare legs on wet bracken. Of rain on my face.
I miss the euphoria of reaching the summit. Of ticking off peaks. The reward of views and seeing familiar friends and new faces.
I miss lingering on the tops for just a minute longer before deciding to press on. The aching knees and clumsier footing on the descent as thoughts turn to the joy of a hearty meal in a warm pub. Or even just the remnants of that soggy tuna sandwich back at the car.
I miss taking off my boots and peeling off my socks. Rubbing my sore feet as they cool off in the mountain air before settling back into the long drive home.
I miss looking in my rear view mirror to catch a final glimpse of the mountains.
I miss that initial feeling of sadness on leaving this world behind being overtaken by the excitement of knowing I’ll be back soon.
I miss drowsily looking back through photographs from the day, before tiredness gets the better of me.
I miss falling into a deep sleep and dreaming of the day’s adventures.
I miss the mountains.