Tag Archives: solitude

Turn your face to the sun

I recently spent a week backpacking in a remote region of the Washington Cascades. My hiking partner and I were on the trail for three days before we encountered another soul. Now that’s some solitude.

We rose each morning and looked eastward for the sun. There were wildfires burning north of us in Canada and sometimes our early sunshine was smoke-hazy. On this particular morning, the last day of our trip, Steve faced the sun and saluted it with this yoga pose.

Meeting nature on her terms can be a humbling experience. I am reminded how small I am in the world and how vulnerable we humans are in a wild, natural environment. But immersing myself in this wild place is also renewing and uplifting. Time spent in the great outdoors clears my head and nourishes my spirit.

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Wallowas: A Hike on the Wild Side

Wallowa wildflowers

Wandering a wildflower-filled meadow while gazing at hazy blue mountains in the distance, the Wallowas casts its magical spell on me.

One of the advantages of living in Puget Sound is easy access to hiking in the mountains.

One of the disadvantages of living in Puget Sound is that nearby hiking trails are often busy because of their close proximity to the urban area.

Because we craved an outdoor experience that would be quieter for our 4th of July holiday, Steve and I journeyed to the lofty Wallowa Mountains in eastern Oregon. We were rewarded with expansive views, winds whistling through evergreens, sparkling mountain streams dancing downward to valleys, and sharing sunset with an elk herd. And solitude.

Solitude is a key element of the wilderness experience for me, and our backpack into Eagle Cap Wilderness delivered on this point. We avoided the popular Lakes Basin area and chose to hike into the wilderness via the lonelier Summit Point trailhead. Amazingly, we encountered only one other backpacker during our 4-day ramble.

But we were not alone. We camped a couple of nights on the edge of a beautiful meadow populated with song birds, hummingbirds and Clark’s Nutcrackers. At sunset, a herd of elk joined us to graze on wildflowers and drink water from a nearby pond.

Camping in view of granite peaks.

Camping in view of granite peaks.

One morning as we hiked a trail, I noticed a cougar paw print among the elk hoof prints. Now alert, I looked around but saw no other sign of it. This is typical. Backcountry visitors seldom get to see this solitary, secretive creature.

Hiking in the Wallowas is an exhilarating experience as the granite peaks rise like skyscrapers above the valley floor. We found ourselves wandering meadows and ridges upwards to 8500 feet in elevation. These heights offered us breathtaking views of mountains near and far, farm lands in surrounding valleys, and glimpses of the Snake River and Hells Canyon on the Oregon-Idaho border.

This was my fourth visit to the Wallowas and I don’t expect it to be my last. When the daily grind of urban life builds its crust on my spirit, I will again answer the siren call of those remote peaks.

Spring Pedal on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail

Snoqualmie Valley TrailMetro Seattle has an amazing network of trails. On a sunny spring day, some of these trails become clogged with people recreating, commuting, and enjoying the outdoors. It makes for great people watching.

But today I didn’t want to watch and dodge other trail users. I wanted to take a quiet bike ride and embrace spring. It was time to ride the trail less traveled, the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.

At 31 miles, the Snoqualmie Valley Trail is the longest trail in King County’s regional trail system. It meanders through scenic Snoqualmie Valley, passing through the towns of Duvall, Carnation, Fall City, Snoqualmie and North Bend, before terminating at Rattlesnake Lake and the start of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. Continue reading

In Between: Solitude

Solitude, the state of being alone, can be a treasure or a torment.

A few months ago, my days were filled with human interaction, juggling priorities, and deadlines associated with work. Solitude was a rare jewel. Today, after a layoff, I spend hours alone researching employers and scanning dozens of job announcements in hopes of finding a few relevant positions to apply for. Solitude is a guest who has overstayed its welcome. Continue reading