Last week, this body was enduring pain due to too much heavy lifting and gardening. A little secret – a good long walk naturally adjusts the spine, bringing it into alignment. As usual, I always check the forecast before heading out into the mountains – morning showers in North Bend. Not too bad I figured – fewer people on the trail. Mount Teneriffe is a difficult day hike. The counterclockwise loop – up to the Falls, up the Kamikaze “trail”, west along the ridge towards Mount Si, and then back down to the parking lot, is 11 miles.
The solitude of being alone in the mountains is terrifyingly beautiful. As I neared the summit ridge, breaking trail and trudging through knee deep snow in places, I paused to take stock. Having neglected to bring gators, my shoes were stuffed with snow, my feet wet and on the edge of being cold. Not having anticipated this much snow, I realized my snack rations were low. This being my third try to stand on the summit with clear skies and expansive views, I wasn’t surprised to again be in white out conditions in the clouds, with snow falling.
As I searched for the route through the trackless snow drifts and thick trees, I zig zagged across the ridge heading in what I thought was a westerly direction when I came upon some tracks. “Fantastic”, I thought. I can just follow these. But wait, these tracks are very fresh, and if the mystery person who made them had continued to the summit, I would have crossed them earlier. Umm…I suddenly realized I was looking at my own tracks and I was lost in a white out. Of course, I could’ve always retraced my route back down the Kamikaze trail, but descending a steep, rocky, snow and ice covered ridge wasn’t something I was looking forward to. Stay calm…first rule in any difficult situation. I pulled out my satellite tracking app – the map showed me exactly where I was on the ridge, but the compass wasn’t functioning. Mental note to self – bring the old fashioned magnetic compass next time! I opened and closed the program and the compass came alive. Ah – this way.
Why go to the mountains? Yes, the scenery is beautiful, the air is fresh – how often do you get to eat snow off a cedar tree? Or drink melt water directly from a creek? Yes, there are pleasing brain chemicals generated by extended physical activity, and enhanced conditioning and energy. All of these things, but most importantly, quiet time in nature makes us aware that we are interconnected with everything – the elements, the directions, all forms of life – flora and fauna. We depend upon these things. They nourish us. We must care for them. Going deeper into the awareness of interconnection, as one mindfully attends to sensations of feet touching the earth, the body moving through space, thoughts, the breath, arising and passing away, one awakens to wisdom mind, beyond limited ego self. True freedom. Yowza! (Hikers – a few more details in my WTA trip report).