Walking in the Wilderness

There’s something healing and refreshing about being on a mountain, beside a river, or in front of the ocean’s waves. For me, the experience of nature’s power gives me the peace to remember that this world is bigger than my own life, and that there is much beauty in the things that I cannot understand or control.

I long to hike and bike and kayak and raft mountains and lakes and rivers. I’m surrounded by beautiful scenery that leaves me in awe as I drive to work each day. I am hoping to make it to Mt. Rainer, St. Helens, Mt. Hood, and the Olympics in the next 11 weeks before I bid the Pacific Northwest adieu. I’ve picked up guidebooks and will further ponder my ambitions of exploration tomorrow, but in this moment, I am content to reflect on how much nature means to me.

This evening I finished reading Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. It reminds me of Eat,Pray, Love, but in a rougher, poorer sense. This is not a luxury vacation around the world. It’s a three month journey of physical and emotional brokenness backpacking alone on an arduous trail without the know-how to make it through. It’s the story of a remarkable journey, the strength of human resiliency, and the power and freedom that travel, nature, and hiking can all bring. It’s a recent publish and is a “hot” book right now, the power in it for me is in the reminder of my own journeys in nature and the subtle calling to return and participate in a much less intense version of this communion with mountain trails that involves far less straying.

Reflecting on this, I stumbled across a blog post that I had written nearly three years ago, after returning to California after a month long Outdoor leadership camp near Estes Park, CO where I learned more about my own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities than I had in any month in my life. I read the blog post and remembered so many wonderful views and relationships from that month. In that post, I’d written,

it’s so hard to find the words to describe what project was and why I feel like such a different person inside, though I know people around me would have to look for a while before they noticed a difference. The change? I’m alive. Yes, that’s right, alive. Before I breathed, I spoke, I walked around and I managed to live up to, if not exceed, the expectations that others held for me. But now, there is life in me, propelled by my heart and not simply by my physical body. I didn’t know what it was to be alive before my Crusade trip. Or maybe I knew and I forgot along the way when I lost my teenage self in disillusionment, disappointment, self-doubt, and weariness.

That summer was the first time I’d spent any extended time outside of California, and in a sense, it paved the way for the adventure that I’m currently experiencing in Washington. I don’t know what adventures await me after this, but I do hope that in them there is room for me to renew my intimacies with nature, for that is where my heart lies once I’ve set aside my worries and my books at the end of the day.

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