Travel to Mount Emei -- a father’s dream – a midlife crisis cure part iii
Everyone has their own reasons for climbing Mt. Emei and their own styles. Take for example the old woman I met on the mountain. She was leaning against a walking stick. She told me that when I am her age I will become the same as her - a stick-walker. I didn't want to think about that: I don't want to be an old stick-walker anymore than I want to be the sort of person who drives up a mountain in a car and calls it mountain climbing. With the onset of my third decade has come a nagging internal voice that in my youth was quiet enough to ignore. The voice tells me that I must face harder, more extreme challenges, even dangerous situations in order to prove myself and avoid stagnation.
Of course, I realize everyone continues ageing day after day - there is no escaping time; in the end, everyone gets the stick. But it's comforting to think that holding on to one's heart of gold is perhaps just as precious as youth. Instead of explaining my mid life reasons for climbing Mt. Emei to the old stick woman, I decided to help her along her way. So, the three of us set off for Golden Point together. Golden Point, also called The Golden Summit, stands at 3,079m (10,101.5 ft.) on the Wanfo Summit. Wanfo Summit is Mt. Emei's highest peak, at an elevation of 3,099m (10,167.2 ft.). The Golden Point covers 16 square kilometers and has an average temperature of 3 degrees.
Golden Point is beautiful year round, but for tourists and pilgrims hoping to catch a spectacular sunrise or sunset, April and October are probably the best months. During the other months, the horizon is often shrouded by thick clouds, obscuring the view. Tourists from all over China and the world journey to Golden Point to observe its majestic sunrises, Clouds Sea and Buddha’s Light, making Golden Point one of Sichuan China's most splendid sightseeing destinations.
Indeed, Golden Point is nearly as famous as Jiuzhaigou National Park. Golden Point is also the top of the mountain, so it is every climber's goal. The majestic view is their reward for reaching the top - the icing on the cake, so to speak. Whenever I felt short of breath on the trail or my legs got shaky, I visualized the spectacular view at Golden Point - the brilliant golden arc of the sun, clouds materializing above and carpeting the green valley below - and that gave me the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Climbing Mt. Emei can be strenuous if you are not in good shape and the hike can last several days, depending on how many attractions you wish to visit. The trail meanders and is steep in some places. But there are easier and more leisurely options than foot travel. Tourists can hire a mini bus or a sedan chair and be carried up the mountain like a king. Or they can ride a cable car and enjoy the sights from above. The cable car delivers you to a pair of famous temples at Jiding, about an hours' hike from the summit. But if you want to experience the natural splendor of Mt. Emei to its utmost, you'd better climb the mountain and avoid the transports as much as possible. If you are a middle-aged man like me, or older, you can try switching between riding the cable cars, buses and climbing - mixing it up in order to conserve your energy for the next day.
But I am not the sort of man who enjoys taking the easy way out. Besides, I wanted to set a good example for John. I wanted to instill within him a spirit of adventure and an irrepressible desire to always try new things. I wanted to teach him to never stop until he gets where he is going. Mostly, though, I just wanted to keep up. Watching John climb the mountain, darting back and forth, brought back memories of my own childhood, when I climbed Mt. Emei for the first time. Back then, it seemed a lot easier, or at least I don't remember getting so tired. This time around was a little different - I was shorter of breath and sorer in the morning, but whenever I saw John charge up the trail I was inspired. Sometimes, when I caught sight of him playing effortlessly on the trail, I felt an odd sense of comfort. I thought: well, he still has a long way to go. Up the mountain and in life.