It all began with family picnics to the worn old mountains one first encounters heading west from East Coast cities. These mountains seem to have different names as you travel from state to state. Still, no matter where you enter them, they become places of escape and enchantment. As a child, I had to be taken to them; as I aged, I’d escape to them when I needed refreshing. No matter when or where I went, I seldom saw many other folks. The mountains became a place for me to go to do what I couldn’t do in a church; I could see and feel and hear God. I could worship God in church, but I seldom actually ran into God there.
Of course, from the very beginning, I knew that there were dangers in the mountains. There were wild creatures that I could meet and the unexpected lay just around the next corner. I soon learned to enjoy the unexpected and learned that the wild animals were really not too interested in me; they were as wary of me as I was of them. Every turn in the trail seemed always to have some new thrill: a new flower, a pretty moss, some new sound, a sudden vista or a dancing stream that I had to cross.
For a long time, I walked into the woods either with family or alone. I actually was over 40 before I ever ventured into the woods with friends or went into the mountains for multiple days at a time. There probably is no better way to know another person than to walk with them, eat with them and sleep with them in the wilderness for a few days. We usually knew pretty much where we were going on these trips and we’d plan ahead, looking over topographic maps and trying to imagine what we’d see.
What we saw and experienced always was unexpected, no matter how well we planned. The weather was unpredictable, the maps often were misleading and none of the maps indicated swimming holes or berry patches.
When I moved here, I walked with folks from church. I was a little intimidated by these young, vertical mountains. These folks taught me how to cope with sheer drops and never ending upgrades … well, I did learn to cope with these realities, sort of!
It’s ironic that I discovered that walking with a group larger than five didn’t work for me: Any magic, excitement or even fear disappeared. I couldn’t hear the wind blowing through trees or the birds or the quiet. All of my life hiking was a chance to feel a closeness and communion with my creator … I had to get that experience back. So, today I walk with Candy or my friend Diane or one or two other folks — or alone.
Hiking alone may not be the wisest thing to do at my age, but I hike trails I know and unless I see a mother bear and her cub on the trail in front of me, I’ll probably stay on the trail. And, given the weight of my daypack, I can survive for a good while on pills and power bars. At least I have a camera and can take a picture of whatever it is that is starting to eat me!
These new mountains aren’t always so much different from those I traveled through years ago. These trails are some of the most heavily traveled in the Olympic National Park — and still you seldom see more than one or two other hikers.
Mon, Jan 30, 2012
A pleasant surprise and a lost art
Wed, Nov 2, 2011
On this summer, global warming and facial hair
Fri, Sep 9, 2011
A summer almost gone?
Mon, Aug 1, 2011
The origins of trail names
Wed, Jul 6, 2011
Where exactly does spirit reside?
Wed, Jun 1, 2011
Where to begin?
Wed, Apr 6, 2011
Considering cougar cuisine
Wed, Mar 2, 2011
The folly of resolutions
Tue, Jan 18, 2011
A place of uncommon beauty
Tue, Jan 4, 2011
Christmas: What does it all mean?
Tue, Dec 21, 2010
A spiritual advisor
Wed, Nov 10, 2010
Understanding personal gifts of everyday people
Tue, Oct 26, 2010
So, after you've done it all, what's left?
Wed, Oct 6, 2010
The context of place
Wed, Sep 22, 2010
Revisiting old friends
Wed, Sep 1, 2010
Paradise is all around on peninsula
Wed, Aug 18, 2010
The wonder in waterfalls
Wed, Aug 4, 2010
A walk in the park does the soul good
Wed, Jul 21, 2010
Trying to explain
Wed, Jul 7, 2010