We Own This Mountain | Montserrat, Catalunya

On a rainy evening last May, my friend Carolyn and I stood at a candlelit highboy in Maude’s Liquor Bar in the West Loop, slurping gin and vodka smashes and discussing our shared need for some sort of summer escape. I mentioned that I’d booked a trip to Spain; she revealed that she’d been considering the same thing. I expressed a significant amount of interest in the ridiculous but magical prospect of meeting up halfway around the world; she didn’t disagree. I promised to share my itinerary; the next day, when I did, she responded one hour and twenty-three minutes later with news of her freshly-booked airline ticket. A few months later, there we were: improbably together in Barcelona, jetlaggedly toasting to the craziness of it all with early-afternoon glasses of wine.

Even crazier, though, was our hike in Montserrat. We decided on the most difficult route up the nearest mountain, and ten minutes in considered quitting until a three-year-old kid passed us going the opposite direction, clambering down happily with his parents in tow. Our motto for the next few hours became, “If a baby can do it, we can do it.” We did it, though by the descent, we were chanting “Cerveza, helado, cerveza, helado,” hell-bent on procuring either a frosty glass of beer, a towering ice-cream cone, or both.

On the train ride back, sweat-encrusted and in need of ibuprofen, Carolyn insisted we do the right thing and give up our seats to the elderly Spanish women who had just boarded. Much to our chagrin, the women decided to stand, but an overly-affectionate teenage couple took our proffered seats and proceeded to maul each other’s faces with their tongues for the ensuing forty minutes. I have forgiven Carolyn for this episode, but I have not yet forgotten it. The forgiveness happened, I think, over the kielbasa, French fries, and cheap beer we fed our aching bodies afterwards. At that moment, it was the most delicious food I had ever tasted, authenticity be damned.

We spent all of two days together, replete with sixty-some unflattering selfies taken at various landmarks across Barcelona, and one marvelously celebratory meal of expensive tapas. But the crowning achievement of those two days was certainly our hike at Montserrat. When I think about us standing on the summit there, I remember the badass-ness I’m capable of. And if I’m ever handed another chance to meet up with a fantastic friend halfway across the world? Especially if it’s Carolyn? You can be sure I’ll say yes.

Camera: Canonet QL17 GIII
Film: Kodak Portra 400