August 24, 2011

Letters from the Pacific Crest Trail #9


A Deeper Shade of Pure (Guest Post by Blue Grass)
Snoqualmie, WA, Mile 2401

The thought enters my mind....ten days from now, my life becomes the life of one who thru hiked (past tense) in '06, as in a past thru hiker, no longer hiking. Often in conversations with strangers who become animated when they realize that Scarecrow and I are doing what they "had always wanted to do", the what will you do next? question slides through their unassuming lips and pierces my delicate ears.

What they don't understand is that this question tickles me daily. One minute I am off to the Himalaya on a journey to find the creator of the moon and the next, I am a suit clad business person entertaining clients on the links while drinking bottled water. No matter how far my thoughts roam, the present always call me back and I celebrate another breath of Washington's mist densened air. Nothing matters beyond the next step, the next glaciated volcano.........until ten days from now when reality changes.

I've adjusted well to life on the trail. It seems to satisfy my desires and challenge my curiosities while keeping me humble beneath the magnanimity of glorious nature. Admittedly, there is a part of me that is ready to be finished with the grueling 30 mile per day pace, away from a junk food diet and into a life of doing something to fulfill my urge to make a difference in this world.

Before all of this happens, let me tell you about the world I currently live in and will forever be part of.

Washington is dark. Dark green, dark grey, dark glacial waters and dark mist shrouded peaks. Mountain Goats are white. Pure white, wedding gown white, living on white snow fields with giant white haunches to propel them into the security of white mist encased crags.

Scarecrow and I had been told by many that Goat Rocks would be the highlight of our trip, that it's the most beautiful place on the entire trail. It's hard to proclaim any place the most beautiful but Goat Rocks did rank high on the list. Once we hit the Goat Rocks Wilderness sign, nothing spectacular suddenly appeared. It was a nice walk through a lake littered basin, meandering beneath the shade of forest canopy. The huckleberries were of average size, abundant in shades of blue from robins' eggshell to cobalt. As we walked we teamed up with section hikers for steep hill climbs. One by one they would stop for the day as we pressed on determined to make our 30. After hiking with friend Sarah of Seattle, we hiked with past thru hiker Bandana '03 of Portland. We began a steady 2000 foot climb towards Cispus Pass, talking about her Naturopathic education when the beauty of Goat Rocks derailed our trains of thought and stirred our swirling frenzy with the swoon of its magnificent creation. Below us was a glaciated valley of ten shades of Washington green which created a runway to accentuate the horizons distant gem, Mt. Saint Helens.

Overcome with laughter, hoots and hollers, we walked past trailside waterfalls and onto the Packwood Glacier where we were granted big views of Mt. Rainier and astonishing valleys to the North. We crossed the snowy flanks of the "knife edge" traverse and climbed razor thin ridges which flowed north from the glacier. From atop the ridge, herds of mountain goats first dotted the distant landscape then came into plan view once we came close enough. The inhospitable talus slopes of crumbling volcanic rock with sparse vegetation were their preferred habitat. Here they could use their skills to scale 70 degree slopes, stand on miniscule rock outcrops and feel safe to enjoy the company of their elite kin.

After the amazement of being in their presence subsided somewhat, Scarecrow and I followed the ridge west around a Rainier facing bulge. Ahead, a noise much like thunder resounded in my memory before my eyes could make a positive identification of the cause. Slowly I understood that a giant Mountain Goat was hauling down the 70 degree pitch directly in front of us, moving at a clip of 20 miles per hour. We watched as it moved passed us 10 feet ahead on our trail until it became a spec of white in the blurred green landscape 1000's of feet below. It was at this point that Serena and I agreed that Goat Rocks was among the most special places we've experienced on the hike.

When I force myself to sit in front of a computer screen and write, I am able to do it for one reason....I wish every time I see something indescribable that I could have you all there with me to see it. As ever, thinking of you from on high.