I left Portland on Tuesday and headed further north. Along interstate 5 I see a sign for Mt. Rainier National Park and think, “That sounds awesome.” So I ditch the original plan to go to the Olympic National Park and take the exit for Rainier.
Of course a mountain is always far away, so I drive and drive and finally I round the bend and there it is. Spectacular.
The visitor center is appropriately named Paradise. Some people would say paradise is on a warm beach in Hawaii, but I would agree with Rainier. Paradise is on a green mountain, the top speckled in snow.
I talk to the rangers at the help desk and we plan a 2 night trip through the Wonderland Trail, a trail that encircles the base of Rainier. And off I go, again.
On the drive down to the trail head, I think to myself, why not add more days? I have no reason not to. So I go to the rangers at Longmire and add 2 more nights to my trip. It almost makes a loop and my total mileage would be roughly 38 miles.
Around 3pm I set off for the first camp. Sometimes I don’t know why I backpack because carrying all that shit is hard. The first leg is is the worst leg, being all uphill and in the heat of the day. I get to camp around 7pm and set up, eat and pass out. The next morning I wake up to rain.
Rain is a beautiful thing. I really miss having the pitter patter of droplets to wake me up or soothe me to sleep. Luckily I have all day to hike 7 miles to the next camp, so I roll over and sleep some more. The rain stops around 9am and I pack up and head off. A heavy fog surrounds everything, the trees, the meadows and it’s so thick I can’t see Rainier. The fog lasts for 2 days and I’m disappointed for the whole two days because those were supposed to be the most beautiful part of the trip.
But what can you do about weather? Nothing. I try to practice mindfulness and embrace my disappointment. I try to tell myself there will be another time. But really I don’t know if that’s true.
When you’re surrounded by nature, somehow you just forget you even have a phone. I don’t know if others feel like this but when I’m home all I see and want is my phone. But when I’m outside, it doesn’t even exist. This is why I wanted to be outside. To be away from the distractions and to face what’s really inside. The truth came in full force the next day.
When I woke up, everything was dry. Wow. After two days of wet, drizzly weather, the sun came out and burned away the clouds and dew. It felt amazing! I was so excited that I set off early, eager to see what I had been missing the past two days. Needless to say, it was gorgeous.
But it also made me grateful. I had to backtrack a little bit so I saw some of the trail I hiked the day before and it was completely new to me. Then I understood why it was called the Wonderland Trail. Rain or shine, this place could transform in minutes and bring wonder to your life.
After 3 hours I had nearly reached a fork in the road where I was supposed to turn to reach the next camp. But there was a washout. I spent the next 30 minutes wandering around, backtracking, then wandering more to no avail. Frustrated and upset I try to decide what to do. I could go back to the last camp and just hike back out the way I came, making it a 15 mile day. Or I could follow the river, which also meets the road, meaning I would be hiking off the trail.
I really didn’t want to go back, and the fork was so close, so I decide to hike along the river. The river is surrounded by rocks on either side, making it more manageable than a trailless forest, but still rough and difficult. Wow. I really developed an appreciation for trails because hiking off trail is really hard. Often I had to backtrack and find another way because I hit an impassable rock or set of fallen trees. Even worse, being off trail is scary. At one point I stop and think, what if something happened to me? What if I trip and sprain my ankle? And I start to freak out. Why did I decide to go this way? Why didn’t I just stay and keep trying to find the trail? Why couldn’t I find the trail in the first place?
Immediately I calm myself down and keep forging on. “I’m here now, it’s only been 15 minutes, just keep going Miinkay.” I tell myself this over and over again, until finally I see the road. It takes me another 15 minutes to find my way up to the road, and I’m so relieved. So so relieved.
On my way to camp I meet a group of hikers heading back the way I came and we talk about the washout. I asked if they figured out where to go and they said, “yea it was easy, you just go around the tree and up and then you’re there.” (-_-)
I DIDN’T LOOK UP. Wow. I was so upset at myself. How come I didn’t figure it out? Why was it so easy for others and so hard for me? What is wrong with me? I talk to myself like that for 4 more hours. FOUR HOURS. And it’s so clear to me that I am my own worse enemy. I am the source of my suffering. I am the meanest person in my life.
I thought that through yoga I had burned away this voice, and maybe in parts of my life I did. But in many ways it was still there and it was sobering to realize.