Park Butte

I’m usually a solo hiker but my preference is to take a dog with me. If not a dog than one other person is usually plenty for any outdoor excursion. But I am branching out and trying new things so I signed up for a group hike via The hike turned out much better than I had expected. But the hike came close to falling through the cracks.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.

Rachel Carson

Earlier in the week while working out at the gym I injured my foot. The pain was ongoing and intense which made me nervous because my ability to reset outdoors could be in limbo. I’m not ready to tackle the idea of losing the best thing I have to combat life’s stresses and to manage my well being. I simply haven’t found anything that has the same effect. I don’t care who you are, next time you’re in the woods check your blood pressure. You’ll see what I mean.

Mark, the host of the hiking group, got word from the lady that I was less than physically perfect so he decided to drop back and walk with me. He made a point to assure me that he stayed with the slowest person. It was nice to know that I had a trail ally and I also appreciated that Mark double checked with the group to make sure everyone had what they needed. No one needed to suffer in silence or go without, he assured. Sometimes strangers have no idea how right they are.

My limp was noticeable as soon as we began the trail and a lady in the group commented about it. I understood her concern because silently I had my own trepidation. I told her what had happened and reassured her that I was okay. But then I started to feel the pressure on my foot so I fell back in line. Anyone who has hiked with me knows this isn’t my usual placement. I am the guy in the front people are wishing would slow down.

We trekked on and for miles he talked to me about being from Dublin and his Irish heritage. He mentioned a traumatic brain injury and about the divorce that followed. He remarked several times about being disabled and through all that became a self described hiking bum. Mostly he just talked and I was happy to listen until politics came out and that was the beginning of the end. I walk into the woods to take a break from the world.

At this point my foot actually started to feel better and I was feeling that second wind and began to pass everyone in the group. I finished the last mile up to the lookout with another member of the group and hung out with her a bit at the top but after that I went off on my own and found a steep ledge to dangle my feet in silence. I decided I’d finish the trail solo.

On the way up I had seen a lake off the main trail that looked mighty enticing with the temps rising uncomfortably. I left the group at the lookout and went to find it. It wasn’t deep enough to swim but it was enough to create a cooling effect with the light breeze and the snow still lingering along the lake’s edge. This is where Cookie seemed to get her second wind as well and went zooming through the snow.

I’ve been to a few fire lookouts and they’re always really popular and it’s so easy to see why. They all offer epic 360 views for miles. This one happened to include up close views of the third highest peak in all of Washington state, Mt. Baker at 10,781′.

Mt. Baker

This year seems to be particularly busy because of the current pandemic that is limiting what people are allowed to do. I’ve felt the rise of new hikers since it hit. Crowds present their own set of issues but maybe it can mean something positive. Maybe with the influx of new hikers and a renewed appreciation for the trails we have there will be a push to help maintain them. But beyond that what If we all pushed hard enough so that we could continue to expand the legacy of hiking in America and build more trails and reach further into the heart of the Pacific Northwest.

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