Smoke, Rocks, and Trees: Four Days on the Wonderland Trail

Record of an attempt to thruhike around a massive volcano as wildfires raged in the forests nearby. I went to grieve, to mend a broken heart, and to walk my own talk with the Divine. Hiking thru deep grief was an initiation. In doing so, however, I also made new friends, one of them a dog. I struggled with aging as I pushed thru smoke and dust, darkness and light, and came face to face with…myself.

*This is a work in progress. Feel free to enjoy in the meantime. Thank you!*

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Wayne & I gaze up into the smoke-choked Tatoosh Range from where we stood along the banks of the Nisqually River, Mount Rainier National Park. Tuesday morning the 5th of September 2017. May the fires stay far away! May the long-promised rain finally fall!

Wildfires burned along the eastern edges of the national park, spilling out from the Norse Peak Wilderness from lightning strikes during a short but severe mini-drought. Even so, aye, even so, the Trail beckons and calls my soul forth to walk these paths thru mountain forests. I felt the energy of the area shift when I walked thru this place between trees. Felt like I passed thru a portal in spacetime. This is a section of the Wonderland Trail on the western flanks of the park near Longmire, Day 1 of 4.

The Sun burns thru smoky haze in the late afternoon at Klapatche Park on the Wonderland Trail, Day 2 of 4.

Tahoma Creek thunders below the infamous swinging bridge across the gorge. In the morning of Day 2. Felt like I was walking into the apocalypse and all was beautiful anyway. Living and dying are but processes as we move thru our experiences toward wholeness. Isn’t what we do as we choose how to live, however, what really matters as we journey along the way? 

I went into the wilderness to grieve. My attempt to thruhike the Wonderland Trail, one of the most celebrated of the short long-distance trails, wasn’t to conquer nature or rack up another win on a list of long-distance hiking trails. In fact I didn’t even trail for this expedition as I have rigorously done so for all previous adventures. I trusted in my extensive backcountry experience and felt confident enough to push thru any pain. My bodymind would adapt. Right? Wouldn’t my broken heart still be heart enough to carry the rest of me onwards? Even with guts? The intention was to immerse myself in solitude so as to engage the Divine one-on-one with what the hell happened and why. Especially while deep in the backcountry far away from crowds of people. Truth is I went into Nature to heal, to heal my soul, to heal my capacity to open to love no matter what. An adventure hiking the famously beautiful and difficult Wonderland Trail provided the canvas of nature to paint my sorrows and joys upon.

This solo backpacking trip would be my own Walk ‘n’ Talk with God & Goddess, so to speak. For while I didn’t always show it, I remained in deep pain from the heartbreak of being ghosted and feeling abandoned not quite two months earlier by an otherwise extraordinary woman whom I loved and adored and, it appeared at the time, she, me. At least she seemed to love and appreciate me in the beginning of what was to be a remarkable and unusual albeit short-lived relationship. The irony is she was a bit of a globetrotter herself. She sought out long-distance hiking trails to heal and in doing so strip away the faux veneer of urban civilization. Aye, in many ways we were so much alike our similarities felt uncanny. Yet it was not to be. Nor did I see the end coming. 

Life goes on for the living, however, and tears heal. Grieving is healthy albeit painful for those grieving. It’s uncomfortable for those around the bereaved. So I chose to hike around the massive bulk of a giant volcano as my way of moving forward in this life. For as I took one step after another and one breath upon the next the immediacy of the Trail demanded such total focus as to push out all thoughts of anything else but the next breath and the next step and the next bite to eat and water to drink. These demands plus the threat of rapidly-spreading wildfires during a short but severe drought in the wake of record breaking snowfall and flooding all became part of my healing process.

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Dreams of Sasquatch: Solo to Mason Lake & Mt. Defiance

Conversations with the Invisible on a day hike to Mason Lake then climbing up Mt. Defiance in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness of Cascadia

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This is an unfinished work in progress. Feel free to explore what’s already here. Thanks!

Looking down from atop the summit of Mt. Defiance (5584 ft / 1702 m) into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Lake Kulla Kulla is in the lower left. Mason Lake beyond over in the right center. Bandera Mtn rises behind Mason Lake, followed by Pratt & Granite Mountains further back towards center ridge side. Foto by the author. Monday 22 June 2015.

Gazing deeper, steeper from Mt. Defiance into the belly of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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