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!*

Click on any image to enlarge the foto. Enjoy.

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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Farting Uphill to Poo Poo Point

A Tiger Mountain Adventure,

Or, rather, a Meditation on Relationships

Mount Rainier aka The Mountain from along the Chirico Trail on West Tiger Mountain on Monday the 26th of January 2015. Furthermore, it’s time to restore The Mountain to her Native name: Ti’Swaq’ … the Sky Wiper!

Mount Rainier aka The Mountain from along the Chirico Trail on West Tiger Mountain on Monday the 26th of January 2015. Furthermore, it’s time to restore The Mountain to her chosen Native name: Ti’Swaq’ … the Sky Wiper!

Monday 26 January 2015

Our day hike had two purposes: to spend time together reconnecting as father and daughter, and for my daughter to train for her upcoming attempt to thruhike the Appalachian Trail. Morgan and I are both rather eccentric. We both know it, too, and value such in the other. We both appreciate being outdoors and nature is a spiritual connection. Otherwise it feels like night and day to me. This day, however, we were late getting ourselves together as we made the gravest error of making busy work a priority. Especially me.

“Hurry up, Dad!” Morgan shouted. “Jeezus, Dad! You’re always yelling at me to hurry up and let’s go and all, and here you are texting old girlfriends and stuff!”

Except I didn’t have any girlfriends at that point, old or otherwise, as I was divorced and still single.

At this point our hike had to meet several criteria so as to qualify both as quality bonding time and provide at least SOME training. First, both drive time and trail mileage had to be short. The trail also needed to be steep as all get out to make up for being so short. We also wanted a trail we haven’t done over and over again.

Ah! Poo Poo Point! Yes!

“What?” Morgan asked with a scowl. “Poo Poo Point? Ew, gross, Dad. Like what, horses and cow poop and stuff?”

“No, it’s a short, steep hike up the side of Tiger Mountain from the back side of Issaquah. You’ve done it once before with Kate and Talia and me and Kristina back when Kristina and I were married. We watched paragliders sail off the cliff top.”

“Oh. Yeah, I remember now. OK, let’s go.”

What many call the Poo Poo Point Trail is really the Chirico Trail. This locally notorious footpath drives straight up the slopes of West Tiger Mountain. It’s steep and sweaty sweet before unraveling into rambling twists and turns. Two open, grassy meadows high up near the summit provided launch jump-offs for hang gliders and paragliders. Well, one doesn’t see hang gliders much anymore as paragliding has won out as technology advanced. Hiking thru wintry trees, however, one can look south upon the mighty leviathan bulk of Mt. Rainier, or as the Native Americans prefer, Ti’Swaq’ the Sky Swiper!

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At the Bottom of The Mountain

A Winter Day Trip to Mt. Rainier in the Throes of Climate Change,

Monday 29 December 2014

Morgan (L) & Anne outside the Nisqually Entrance to Mount Rainier National Park.

Morgan (L) & Anne outside the Nisqually Entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. Normally the snow is deep and there isn’t much frozen snowmelt on the road. Not the case here this time nor up around the bend.

On the last Monday in the Year 2014 Common Era, I drove three of us to Mount Rainier National Park. The other two were my oldest daughter Morgan, a few months shy of turning 21, and her maternal cousin, Anne, of about the same age but a little older. Morgan had recently moved back to Seattle from Bellingham to prepare for her journey along the Appalachian Trail. Her mother Gwen Hughes, Anne’s auntie, and now my ex-wife tho still dear friend, and I had thruhiked the AT once upon a somewhat long time ago back in 1991. Gwen and I, originally from Virginia, still lived in Seattle, Washington. Anne was from Florida, and had not ever been to Seattle or Mt. Rainier before, and wanted to go. Woo Hoo, Mt. Rainier! Off we went. We didn’t make it past the bottom of The Mountain.

We determined to have fun anyway.

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Hiking & Climbing up Mt. Rainier to Camp Muir

Foto Essay of a Day Hike & Climb

Up thru Global Climate Disruption & the Movement to Restore Native Names

to the Mountains

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Global Climate Disruption leaves Mount Rainier bare, baked, and dirty. Even so, it’s time to restore The Mountain to her Native name: Ti’Swaq’ … the Sky Wiper!

“Saw something beautiful Tuesday I’ve not ever seen before. During a dark, early morning drive to Mt. Rainier, the upper half of the massive volcano appeared to spout clear yellow flames without smoke. Weird. And pretty! The top half split into a dozen scimitar slices of bright golden pink. Ahhh, sunrise! The mountain’s glaciers, bereft of snow due to the drought, revealed giant crevasses open wide and staggered one above the other up the side of the volcano. These steep-sloped glacial crevasses of undirtied ice caught the dawn reflections. Traffic was too heavy to snap a pic, & I hate shitty pics. So I drove on. We ended up hiking up to Camp Muir at about 10,180 ft. Needed crampons. Hard blue ice. And dirt. No snow. True gold was the morning Light as it fell from the heavens into the open jaws of Earth.”

~ From my Facebook post of Thursday 8 October 2015 “at 5:20pm.”

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