Three months have passed since I took my last few steps along the Continental Divide Trail. It is a wonder to me how those brief 90 days have found some way to defy time and space, seemingly stretching into years. Somehow our journey along the Continental Divide almost seems like a dream now, and yet at times it feels as if it is the only real thing that I have done in recent years.
This is the paradox that my life often adopts. There is a feeling of drifting from one dream to the next, nothing seeming quite real, yet feeling as if I simply would cease to exist without each of these experiences. Without realizing it was happening, my life has become a dream scape in which I am the heroin of my own tale, finding hidden treasure and saving myself all at the same time.
Each experience builds who I am, and opens my soul in new ways. Nature has a remarkable way of helping you grow at times that you are most resisting it. There have been many times she has offered me a gentle guiding hand as I move through feigned reluctance toward a growing opportunity, and in those times that I insist in wallowing in self-pity and staying stubbornly anchored to the beliefs that aren’t serving me, she has a remarkable way of metaphorically slapping me in the face to knock me back into my senses. It is in this way that being immersed in nature has shown me her unconditional love. She puts up with me in whatever state I am in, and like a loving parent continually helps guide me back to my true self.
So it was this past summer while hiking along the Continental Divide. Day after day I walked, hand in hand with my beloved mother nature. Some days filled me with awe and wonder as I moved effortlessly over the landscape, and other days felt as if I were pulling the whole weight of the world behind me each step of the way. This of course was not the world that I was pulling behind me, but instead my thoughts, beliefs and expectations that I insisted on carrying with me at times. I found myself shedding unnecessary emotions like a newbie hiker sheds gear from their overladen backpack. Each item I was able to let go of offered a great relief off my being. And each spiritual tool that I picked up along the way was like acquiring lightweight backpacking gear, a great asset that helped better my journey without the weight.
As I fine-tuned my spiritual self along the hike, I also deeply enjoyed the process of refining my physical being on such a monumental journey. It is always a marvel to me to witness and feel how my body changes on a daily basis. It is both subtle and astounding all at the same time. By the end of the 4 months of hiking my body is efficient and strong. My legs always become the most toned part of my body, but on this hike they took a whole new form than any time before. They were stronger, and bigger than they had ever been. Just like my mind and soul, my body is an ever shifting entity of its own. The sheer amount that my body does for me each and every day on a long distance hike never ceases to amaze me.
Having not solidified my choice to hike the CDT until just a couple of weeks before we found ourselves at the Canadian Border, planning for this hike was brief and efficient. With so many long distance hikes under our belts, it does not take much effort at all for Bernie and I to pull together all the information that we need to start one. And in this same regard, we rarely put much focus into physically preparing for such a journey. There is always a period of a couple of weeks in which the body has to adjust to hiking 20 to 30 miles each day, and I have found that no matter what form of training I have attempted to get in shape before a hike, it never seems to prepare my body for what it experiences in daily movement carrying a backpack for months on end.
Montana proved to be an intense and admirable training ground. I would go to bed at night exhausted in an invigorated and inspiring way. Each night my body would go to work and mend my weary muscles, allowing me to traverse the landscape again the next day. I am reminded again and again that when I release all expectations and simply let my body go, it is able to do anything I ask it to. It is when I cling onto expectations and negative thoughts that I start to put limitations on what I can accomplish each day. So when I start to feel run down, and worn out in every way, I finally remember to release all the stories looping through my head, and once again I am able to flow with ease in each moment.
At times it seems I am a stubborn student, repeating the same lessons over and over. I am discovering that with each long distance hike the lessons seem to integrate more fully into my being. Along with the spiritual lessons, I have with time become more in tune with the gear that I carry when hiking. With lightweight backpacking the aim is to carry all that you need to most efficiently and comfortably traverse through various weather conditions and landscapes while carrying as light a load as possible. Every year there are new innovations in lightweight backpacking, and thus one could constantly change their gear. Over the last 10 years of backpacking my gear has shifted and been refined.
It is truly amazing to me at just how little one needs to live on a daily basis in relative comfort. My backpack filled with gear becomes one with my body, simply an appendage of who I am as I move across the landscape. Every night everything is pulled from within its depths, like a magic carpet bag it produces an amazing array of items to create our nest for the evening. My sleeping bag magically expands from its compression sack like a novelty snake exploding from its can. On nights that hint at rain, our shelter is produced from a bag no larger than a water bottle, keeping us dry and warm. Our clothes are simple and efficient; one pair of shorts and a shirt for the whole hike serves us well. A few additional layers give us the flexibility to adjust to most weather conditions that we encounter.
To know that you can carry all that you need to survive each day upon your back is a profound feeling. It shows how vastly simple our needs are, and just how flexible we can be. From this I have developed a more intimate relationship with nature. With so little to separate me from her, I am keenly aware of her rhythms, and moods. In a time in which we have forgotten how to read the rhythms of nature, being so fully immersed within her embrace places me in the role of student, re-learning what some of our ancestors were always aware of.
This summer was filled with stunning beauty, great rawness, and profound simplicity. It is a journey that I will always cherish, as is true with each of our hikes I managed to discover another part of my true self that had been forgotten.
Each Step Is a Journey
Today we are in Chama, New Mexico! Last night we enjoyed a nice little hotel room. We technically have a few more miles of Colorado to hike when we hitch back up to Cumbres Pass. It feels good to be finishing up with Colorado and starting our journey into New Mexico. New Mexico is a world in and of itself. It has a whole different feel from the rest of the trail. I look forward to days filled with more sunshine, and the beauty of the desert.
From here the rest of the trail will fly by in the blink of an eye! We have probably a little less than a month to go. The hiking in New Mexico over all is easier than what we have been experiencing, and so we will be able to do some more miles each day. It looks like we might still have a couple days of rain, but hopefully the weather will make a shift in the direction of sunshine to dry us out after the Colorado experience.
Now it is time for us to go re-supply, and grab lunch before we hitch back up to the pass. As we move into the fall months I reflect on all that I have experienced this summer, and I hope all of you have fully enjoyed your summer in what ever way brings you most joy!
Watching the Miles go by
Greetings from Salida Colorado! I know it has been a while since the last update. It feels like months in some ways! There is just so much to share about all that has been going on, and simply not the time to share it. We have been blessed with stunning views, amazing wildlife spottings and interactions, and of course the never ending personal discovery journey.
I am going to be honest here. Colorado has been a grand challenge for me up to this point. I have wanted to give up several times since we have been making our way across this beautiful state. Why? Well for a few reasons. First the physical nature of this state has been pushing my body to its limits at times. Often climbing anywhere from 3,000 to 7,000 feet in elevation gain each day. Whew! Second, the thunder storms. We have had a minimum of one thunderstorm if not two to three come over or near us every day (except the first two days in the state). Now I love watching and hearing thunderstorms from a distance, but when they are over or near you, and you happen to be on an exposed ridge top....... not so much fun. But it has been an expereince that is helping me to push past my fears more and more, and to accept the rawness of mother nature.
It's an Art
So am I still wanting to give up? No. As of yesterday a grand peace came over me once again about being on the trail, and it was inspired by a conversation that Bernie and I were having. We were talking about how the greatest of atheletes never have to Try at what they are doing, because they make every moment an Art. What ever sport each of them chooses to immerse themselves in, they take their deep soul passion and express it through each moment of thier sport. I realized I wasn't being an artist in my hike any longer, and that was why I was suffering. I know there will be plenty of challenges ahead for me, but now I remember that I can make each step that I take an Art. I am the creator of my own masterpiece, and I am going to make this an amazing one!
I look forward to sharing so much more about our hike later, when I have more time. I wanted to say how much I am enjoying the interactions and conversations with the people we meet along our journey. I look forward to getting to know each of you better with time!
The Desert of Wyoming
We were truly blessed as we hiked through the high desert of Wyoming. This is typically one of the sections that can be more challenging to hike through. It is open desert with no shade for most of the way, and the days are usually warm. Our days were dominated by cloud cover and very reasonable temperatures. It was cool enough to even wear our coats from time to time as we hiked. We were averaging 35 mile days as we traveled along the easy dirt roads of this stretch.
I had imagined that the landscape would be barren and somewhat flat, but was pleased to see the terrain change each day. We saw over 100 wild horses through this section of the hike. We were even blessed with a few close encounters in which we were able to interact with the horses on an intimate energetic level. It really amazes me that there is enough vegetation throughout the basin to sustain the sheer number of wild horses, free range cows, and pronghorn antelope that live out there.
Although we had amazing weather for our crossing, it was nice to get the desert behind us and re-enter the mountains once again. We have crossed into the state of Colorado. It is always a good feeling to move into another state. We should only have another 2 months ahead of us on the journey, and we have hiked over 1,500 miles so far.
The Kindness of Others
One of the beautiful parts of the trail is to experience the generosity that is alive and thriving in the world. There are so many people that give to us in various ways along our journey. We call them Trail Angels.
It might be as simple as giving us a ride into town when we are hitching from a pass to resupply, to going out of their way to drive us around to do our errands, or inviting us to stay in their home. There is nothing quite as hospitable as inviting a complete stranger into your home to shower, eat, wash laundry and sleep. We make some strong and lasting friendships along the trail, and it is an amazing opportunity to meet people from all walks of life.
One of the most shining examples of sheer generosity toward hikers is a couple that lives along the Pacific Crest Trail, The Saufley’s. They turn their whole yard into a hiker sanctuary for the hiking season. They erect large white tents filled with cots, turn over the extra single wide trailer on their property into a hiker hang out, and go all out. When you walk in the gate Donna greets you and runs you through the process. “Grab an extra set of clothes out of those bins, a towel over there, a clothes bag from there. Go in to the trailer, take a shower, put your clothes in the bag and your name on the bag. Bring it back here, I will wash and dry it for you and place the clean bag of laundry over there for you to pick up. Relax and enjoy your time off here!” I have never seen such kindness, and pure love for the hikers as Donna Saufley has!
One hiker even did a full documentary on the amazing kindness of trail angels, he is in the process of working on it and hopes to debut it next year. I can not convey the gratitude I feel for the Trail Angels we have been blessed to meet!
Reflecting on the Past
Hello again everyone! Here we are in Atlantic City, WY. What a neat historic area, a great place to visit if you ever find yourself in this corner of the world. This is a very important milestone along the trail for me, as 10 years ago this is where I got off the CDT for a month because of a stress fracture in the arch of my foot. What an experience it is to process the pain and uncertainty the memories of this part of the trail hold for me. It is so great to be feeling strong and vibrant as I enter this next stretch of the hike.
From here we head out into the high desert of Wyoming. This is one of the "challenging" stretches of the trail that all the hikers talk about, and worry about before they even start the hike. Yes, it can be a bit warm as we cross this open stretch with no trees, and the potential of warmer temperatures. But to be honest, just like any part of the trail the experience is what you make of it. As I feel slight apprehension arise about this upcoming stretch, I simply remind myself of all the things I have been through, and this is just another opportunity for me to expand myself and fully accept the situations that surround me.
Many Paths to Take
One of the unique experiences of the CDT is that you can choose what route/path you want to take, essentially making it your own trail. There are a few main routes that most people take. And then every once in a while you take your own path without really intending to. By this I mean getting "lost" as it were. We are rarely actually ever lost, as we often know roughly where we are within the landscape. But we might have missed a turn that we were supposed to take, or passed by an extremely faint trail/track with no signage. Yesterday ended up being one of these days. We continued down a drainage that we were supposed to climb out of. A mile or two after the point we were meant to turn we realized that we had indeed missed our turn/junction. So we decided to figure out our own way. It is these moments that one discovers just how much you are capable of. It is not that it is hard, it is simply a matter of awareness as you move through your surroundings. Most hikers now carry GPS with them on this trail. While it is not a bad idea, and can be a great tool to use out here, there is also part of me that feels like it is a bit of a safety blanket. We are making our way along the trail using only the "Ley" maps. This makes certain parts quite challenging, but it also stretches us in all kinds of ways. Calling upon us to stay aware of where we are and what we are doing as we travel along this pilgrimage.
On almost a daily basis the trail offers me opportunities to remember that I am always going through the process of personal growth and discovery. Just when I start to think I have moved through my emotional outbursts, or negative moods, I am presented with another opportunity to work through another layer of it. While I fight these lessons as they first come along some times, when I roll out the other end of it I am grateful for another opportunity to find another part of myself. Each experience makes me stronger and more aware as I take one step in front of the other along this life journey. Life offers us these lessons and experiences on a daily basis, but there is nothing quite like the intensity of a Long Distance hike to really accelerate our learning curve!
Well it has been a little while since my last update. I have had access to the internet a couple of times since the last update, but honestly have not had the focus and energy to do an update. But here I am to try to share a little bit of what we have been experiencing. We are currently enjoying a rest in West Yellowstone, giving our bodies and souls a good rest before we make our way into Wyoming.
Since leaving Anaconda we have expereicned so much! It never ceases to amaze me how much the scenery and terrain can change even within one day. We have been through some rugged mountains, and rolling meadow covered hills. We never stray too far from the Continental Divide, and often find ourselves right on top of it. By hiking 25-30 miles a day we are able to see the landscape with an intimacy that most simply do not experience traveling by car or plane, but we are still moving at a rapid enough pace to be able to see the landscape change drastically in as little as a day or two.
Tearing Apart & Re-building
When hiking a long distance trail, one quickly learns that it is an experience that will tear you apart and re-build you in so many ways. Physically, Mentally & Emotionally. There is little more powerful than having the opportunity to go through a full re-build of all that you are.
Some days when you feel your body being torn apart, you don't want to take another step. The fatigue and soreness can feel like more than you want to handle. It is both extremely challenging and rewarding to be able to push through those moments. To push your boundaries in a way that you never knew was possible. For some long distance hikers this part of the experience might only last a week or two, and then for some people like me there might be little things that come along off and on through out the hike. With each of our hikes I have learned how to move through this experience sooner, and with less re-occurance.
Emotions are one of the most powerful messengers to remind you what you have been thinking and expecting from your journey along the trail. I even have days that I am hiking up a hill and I am over come with emotion as my body physically expresses my exhuastion and frustration. Any heavy or negative thoughts I may have been carrying with me well up and come pouring out through tears. A sure sign that I have been carrying the burden of expectations on my soul and body. A valuable reminder to turn my focus back to the possitive experiences and beauty of the trail.
The mental realm is such a large part of any experience as grand as a long distance trail. That which we focus our attention on is what we get out of the world around us. I can all too easily slip into a place of focusing on all the challenges and hardships that I might be experiencing on a daily basis, and of course this only compounds the experience. When I am able to turn my focus and expectations around, I find that everything becomes a more effortless and fullfilling experience. Life is constantly offering us a reflection of our state of being. We might be able to ignore some of the messages it sends through to us in daily life, but on a long distance hike, those messages and lessons are so clear and large, there is no way that we can sidestep them.
I suppose we are finding ourselves for our entire lifetime, it is all part of the human experience. I am taking the opportunity this summer to really reflect on myself and my life, and to figure out what the next chapter of my life is going to hold. There are so many reasons that this is the culminating hike for me to really take the next step. Since this is the 10 year anniversary of my first long distance hike, and on the same trail it really gives me the opportunity to reflect on how far I have come personally, and how much farther I have yet to go. It gives me ample time to ponder all that I have been blessed to experience in the last 10 years, and what I would like to experience in the next ten.
It allows me to see just how much I have expanded myself, and also the places I still feel limitations. There are endless opportunities to expand my comfort level, and my abilities. For this I am grateful and challenged all at the same time.
To See & Be Seen
One of the great things about long distance hiking is to see your surroundings in a whole new way. I love being immersed in nature, and having the opportunity to witness all the living beings that she nurtures. We have been surrounded by wild flowers almost every day of our journey. The sheer number and variety of them has been stunning and inspiring. At times whole hillsides will be painted yellow, red or blue from the flowers that cover it.
The wildlife has been breathtaking at times. We have seen a few herds of 50+ elk. To watch that many majestic creatures move together like a wave over the landscape is truly amazing! Everything from grouse that let us walk within 5 feet of them, to pronghorn antelope who spook with the first sight or smell of us has graced our journey.
It is great to realize just how much the land and animals are watching us as we travel along our path from the Canadian to Mexican border. They all communicate with each other, sending the message that we are coming. Once in a while if the conditions are right, we might crest a hill to catch a small group of elk or antelope unaware, but they are quick to respond once the realize we are there.
The Journey Continues
We are just about 1/3 of the way along the CDT. It is surreal to ponder that we have already hiked 1/3 of the trail, but it also seems like we have been out here for months. It is simply one step at a time that will take us from the Canadian border to the Mexican border.
Walking the Divide
Since leaving Lincoln Montana we have pretty much been hiking along the Continental Divide. The mountains have transitioned from the rugged peaks that bring such beauty to Glacier National Park, to more rolling sometimes meadow covered hills. While they might look a bit more friendly and easy, following along the divide has proven to be quite the work out for me this last week.
As you can well imagine, being on top of the divide has provided us with some stunning views this last week. That is one of the greatest parts about being on top of the divide, is being able to see behind and ahead of us a whole days walk. To see where you have been, and where you are going is a powerful metaphor for life. The more aware you are, the more you are able to read the landscape that you have been through, and where you will be traveling next.
We have also entered logging country. In these areas the trail sometimes travels along dirt logging roads as an efficient and cost effective means of traveling along the divide. Eventually the CDT may be made up of all trail as the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trails are, but for now it is a route that sometimes travels along roads. Some of the ridge top roads are blessed with breath taking views, and are more enjoyable than the new trail that they have been building down through the forests in these areas the last couple of years. While trail is always an enjoyable path to walk upon, I have to say that some dirt roads are truly a lovely experience.
Moulding the Body
With constantly climbing up and down while hiking along the rolling ridgeline of the divide, our legs have started to form into the efficient muscle powered machines that propell us along our long distance hikes. Just when I start to think that my body is getting into shape, we are presented with another stretch of trail that offers just slighly different terrain to build up another set of muscles. Some days are just plain painful as the body lets you know when you are pushing its limits. Thankfully most of my aches and pains have been mild enough that a nights rest is enough for my body to reset itself just enough to do another 25 mile day.
My body proved to me just how strong is has become in these three weeks of hiking as we did our hike into Anaconda. We took a route called the Anaconda cutoff. It includes a good section of road walking. Our intention was to hike a 25 mile day that started with 10 miles along the divide, and then another 15 miles dropping off the divide road walking towards town. We would then camp and finish off the remaining 10 miles in the morning when the heat was much more manageable. Well as it turned out, when we got to the point we were intending to camp, it was all private land. With no other option we decided to push on toward town. We were now in the valley, where the temperature was in the 90's. With the last 10 miles in sight, I was growing tired of the road walking, and wanted to get into town as soon as possible, so I decided to see just what my body could do. I pushed my speed up, and for 5 to 6 of those miles I was able to keep the pace at 4 mph. We were able to make it into town by 8:30pm, and after a 35 mile day we gratefully settled into a comfortable hotel room for two nights of rest.
I look forward to the opportunity to have more of these moments of slipping into the flow and allowing the body to express itself through the pure expression of being in optimum shape.
Doing a long distance hike makes you appreciate the simple things in life. This is one of the most powerful blessings that come from such an experience. When we come into towns along our journey to resupply, we enjoy fully absorbing all that they have to offer. The simple joy of sleeping in a bed and watching televsion while in a hotel. Or inhaling as many calories as possible in the form of yummy foods such as ice cream and pizza! It is so very valuable to have the opportunity to appreciate all the comforts that we have in our lives. The fact that it takes me a whole day to hike 30 miles, but that same distance can quickly be covered in half an hour by car. This makes me deeply appreciate the amazing machines that cars are, and how much they do for us each and every day.
Our day off in Anaconda Montana was filled with relaxation, good food, and the kindness of others. I will talk about Trail Angels and Trail Magic in one of my next updates!
Two Weeks In
Here I sit in the Historic Hotel Lincoln, in Lincoln Montana. We camped just north of Rodgers pass last night, and with an early start we made it down to the road to hitch hike into town. We made it in by 8:30am, the ideal way to make use of a day in town. We wasted no time getting a hotel room, and relished a nourishing breakfast. The day has been spent relaxing in bed watching copious amounts of tv. The muscles are going through some much needed mending and restructuring as we take this time of rest.
So how have things been? Beautiful, Challenging, Exhausting, Frustrating, Enlightening, Ass Kicking, Awe Inspiring, Painful, Scary, and so much more! This is the beauty of something like a long distance hike, it really shows you all parts of yourself, and the world around you. If you have any illusions of who you really are, it will help to strip every layer of that away until you can't help but face all that you are.
Glacier National Park
Starting out our journey in Glacier National Park is both awe inspiring and boot camp all at once. Since we did no training at all for this hike, I knew that it would take a good couple of weeks for the body to really get into hiking shape, but it always does. Thankfully Glacier over all is great terrain that proves to be pretty easy to navigate. There were a couple points that proved to be a bit slow and challenging, but it is those moments that make us realize just how strong we really are.
It is a little odd to start out a journey like the Continental Divide Trail in a National Park. One of the main things that we so cherish about being on a long distance hike is the pure and untethered connection that we get to experience with nature, and the opportunity to remove ones self from all the fear based rules that society has tied itself up in. I am so very pleased that our National Parks are here for people to experience the beauty of some of the amazing places our country is blessed to have. I am saddened that they also adopt a long list of rules and laws to impose on all who choose to enter their borders. I understand where many of these rules and regulations have developed from, but I also find them to be frustrating and so limiting to the nature experience. This always feels like a little bit of an uncomfortable leash to lash around our necks as we start a journey that is designed to unleash all that holds us back from being truly free and living the most vibrant life possible.
But beyond some of the minor frustrations experienced from becoming part of their system for a week, we really had a great experience through this gem of a park. It really is a sanctuary for a wide array of wildlife, and we got to see our fair share of our furred and feathered friends along the way. We saw several moose along the length of the park, I don't know if I have ever seen an animal that is able to be so awkward and graceful looking at the same time. We have marveled at so many groups of Mountain Goats over these 2 weeks that work like professional acrobats on the sheer cliffs of the mountains that surround us daily. To watch how they are so naturally able to tip toe along the edge of crumbling stone ledge that is hundreds if not thousands of feet from flat ground, or to watch two kid goats play on a steep snow field that would most likely have me half frozen with fear is just amazing to me. Two separate groups of 3 Big Horn Sheep rams greeted us at the top of two different passes. Talk about an animal that truly likes to be on top of the world! I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to watch a Grizzly Bear browsing on spring greens from about a hundred yards away as the sun slowly lowered itself into the grasp of the mountains towering above us. I simply marvel at the wonder of the stunning creatures that share this earth with us. How can we be so fearful of these amazing beings that we are willing to kill them for no other reason than fearing the wildness that they represent?
After making it through the park, two nights off in East Glacier gave the body a much needed time of relaxation, and allowed us to wait out a couple of storms that rolled through the area.
The Bob Marshal & Scapegoat Wildernesses
The Bob Marshall Wilderness is the less known sibling to Glacier. With some similar terrain, and stunning land marks of its own, it is an area that is well worth visiting! Containing less rules and regulations, and is experienced by more horseback riders, it has it's own unique Montana feel to it. The Chinese Wall is an immense formation that is well worth seeing once in your life, if not more!
We finally kicked our mileage up to 23-30 miles a day through these two areas. My feet and legs have been complaining as I go through the process of re-building the fine tuned muscles that it takes to experience those miles on various terrain day after day. It really is stunning to feel your body get into optimum shape after several weeks of hiking. By the end of one of these long distance hikes one finally understands just what the human body is designed to do. We are meant to be passionate, strong, healthy beings in all that we do.
As we moved through the Scapegoat Wilderness we watched our terrain shift as we moved out of the jagged mountains and into the more rolling terrain of the mountains and hills we will be hiking along for a while to come. Now wee hike along the Continental Divide itself for a while, admiring the fact that one day we are drinking water that will flow to the Pacific, and the next we are drinking water that flows to the Atlantic.
Tomorrow we continue our journey south. The next town stop will be Anaconda. Perhaps an update will be published while we are there!
Today we start our summer adventure. This morning I have spent packing up all of my hiking gear, and in a couple of hours we will be on Amtrak headed for East Glacier, Montana. After a day spent with a friend there we will be setting foot upon the Continental Divide Trail, starting a five month journey of being immersed in nature!
I hope to have the opportunity to do updates along the way, and share with everyone the beauty and magic that we have been experiencing along the way.
I thought I would address one of the most common questions I am asked when we are on such a journey. People often ask me how we can afford to take so much time off from work to do something like this. The truth of the matter is that I take time off from my life to work when I need to. My focus is living the most vibrant life that I can. We live very simply, and so we require relatively little money in our day to day life.
When my savings does happen to run low I take the time to settle in one spot and work for a few months. For me the focus is to enjoy each day of my life. The question I ask, is how can you not take time to do the things that you are passionate about? There are so many ways to live life, and experience all kinds of wonders without needing a huge savings account. There are endless opportunities to follow your dreams, what do you want to do?
I look forward to sharing with you the experience of hiking a long distance trail!
I climb up the quickly ascending ridge, my legs and pulse calling out for stops along the way. I enjoy the opportunity of each stop to survey my surroundings. Most often the expansive views catch my attention, other times the tiny details draw me in.
The valley is covered in a slightly tattered blanket of snow. The recent weeks have been filled with a warming and cooling trend, a pattern that has compacted some of our snow, and all together freed some southern slopes, such as the one I was currently climbing. The warmth of the day eats away at the edge of the snow banks. The patches of open ground expanding quickly, but quietly. As if they are gently coaxing spring out of her slumber, being alert to not make too much noise as winter slowly drifts to sleep, lest he be roused in a moment of flurry before relinquishing his shift.
After many snow shoeing excursions, the novelty of walking on dirt is exciting, and freeing. I carry my snow shoes instead of wearing them. They become a somewhat useful walking stick as I traverse the steep hillside. I am watching the ground as I climb, and the smallest thing grabs my attention and halts me in my tracks. My snowshoes hold my weight as I lean forward to get a better look. There in front of me is a wee little red seedling, bursting forth from its seed. My heart flutters with excitement, and a smile spreads across my face. Indeed one of the first signs that spring is rousing. All in one moment the joy of life is playing itself out in front of me, and yet I am keenly aware that we will most likely have many more nights of very cold weather, which might just be the undoing of this little soul. The ebb and flow of life is so simply played out in nature.
There is no regret in nature. Everything is part of the greater rhythm. There is not life without death. And so I find myself cheering on this little seed. “Hang in there my little friend! Spring will be here in the blink of an eye.” Within one season these annual plants will live a life filled with beauty and passion. A whole lifetime, in just a blink of our own. And ours, less than a blink in the timeline of Earth.
I pause once more, this time to watch a herd of Mule Deer climbing the hill to my right. They move with ease up the slope, embodying the alertness of a prey animal, but the knowledge that their athleticism far exceeds mine. With keen awareness they sense me on many levels. No doubt they hear my heart, feel my breath, and can smell me miles away. It’s a funny thing, that within the evolution of human society, it has become an admirable trait to distance ones self from our animal nature as much as possible. This has separated us on many levels from the nature around us, and with that has deadened our senses on so many levels. As I moved away from the realms of society, and explored nature through long distance hiking, I found senses that had been forgotten, starting to stir again. Thankfully I was raised in a household that nurtured my soul connection with nature more than many are allowed in our modern society, so perhaps I did not have as far of a leap to make. No matter how separated from nature we may have become, she will always be there to welcome us back into her womb to heal.
Cresting the hill I find myself standing before a bathtub sized boulder, a natural alter, looking out over the valley in silent contemplation of the passing of life. What had this rock witnessed sitting here in the time since it immerged from the dirt? Leaning my snowshoes up against it, I walk around and sit down in the middle of the rock. The Methow Valley is laid out before me, a spectacular scene.
The scale of the landscape embracing the valley has a remarkable way of dwarfing any human imprint. In this corner of the world, nature still commands the attention of all. While some still try to shelter themselves from the unknown forces that nature holds, those who live here can not help but become entangled with the soul of the land. This is why my soul has been called back here. Even the human development laced throughout the valley feels as if it is intertwined with nature.
My eyes float across the scene, the rawness of the mountains at the head of the valley, great jagged sentinels, always reminding us that we are held in the embrace of the North Cascade Mountains. Down the valley the jagged peaks become interspersed with tall rolling hills. An outcropping of rock here and there hinting at their one time grand status. The river below snaking through the heart of the valley, shedding its skin of deciduous trees along select stretches of wide valley floor.
It becomes clear from my post atop the hill, that there is no way that we can be separate from nature. Just like the images of earth from space, I get a greater view of my home. I can see that nature still permeates all things, especially in this magical place. Humans are simply one piece of a greater whole. I send out a prayer for the human race to remember what we are, and what we come from. With just a few changes we can start to heal ourselves, and our Earth together.
Follow along as I share highlights of the adventures that bring me such joy in life, and the wisdom they have imbued into my being.
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