Waughop Lake, Lakewood, WA
I've been getting a lot of email from people over the last few months as I slowly release my Pacific Northwest Trail hike photos and narrative. There is a common theme to many of them and I think it is worth commenting on. Although many of the trips that I've taken are long, drawn out affairs, such as the Pacific Crest Trail, Great Divide Trail, traveling in Syria, or exploring Northern Canada most of my time is spent around town and in the local mountains.
January 19, 2009
The theme to the emails is frequently: "I want to do what you do, but it seems like so much. It is too overwhelming and I don't know where to start.". Even a simple hike down Buckskin Gulch and Paria Canyon seems distant and out of reach for many people.
At times I need to remind myself that living for the summer and some epic adventure isn't a healthy thing to do. I need to tell myself that today is important. That it has quality. That it won't come again and if I don't take advantage of being alive, healthy, and financially secure, then I am wasting what fortune, fate, karma, Jesus, Buddha, Mother Gaia, Thomas Jefferson whatever and whomever you pray to, has given me.
Doing big trips is sexy. But life happens in between them. Indeed, the big trips are the culmination of the small ones that get done all the time. Some of these I write about, others are left only to my memory. To put it another way, being fully alive for three or four months out of the year, and dead the rest of the time, isn't a good bargain. It is better to be happy and engaged for the whole year.
And this is what I tell people when the write to me: Be alive. You don't have to hike the Appalachian Trail or wander down the length of Death Valley. You may have a family, a job you love, obligations that are important to you, reasons, valid ones, why committing yourself to a long trip isn't something you can reasonably expect to do.
And so you, and I, need to find things that make life worthwhile. Small things, like sitting down and talking to a friend for three hours. Or maybe volunteering at a literacy center. Or taking a class on the natural history of your town. Or spending an afternoon picking wild mushrooms and gathering other edible plants. How about writing a poem? Maybe learn to paint?
When I don't feel well and can't make it into the mountains, I like to pretend to make art, usually through a visual medium like photography. You don't have to go anywhere fancy to do this. A street corner will do. Train tracks. A farmers market. You don't need fancy equipment either. I took all the pictures on this page with camera that I'd have a hard time selling for $100. The lens cost me $90 new three years ago. There is $10 memory card in it. The purpose is to try to see common things differently, to look for interesting contrasts, textures, combinations, to try to isolate in a frame something that has sparked an interest in me, or made me curious, or drew my mind to a long dead memory. To put it simply, I try to be creative and to engage that part of me where the rational, emotional, and spiritual sides of my self are not distinct, but rather are unified.
And so, as I wrote earlier, while epic trips to exotic locations are sexy, they are only a small part of me and how I try to live. It is the smaller, shorter activities that make life on the whole worthwhile. Finding those activities that work for you is part of the fun, not a tedious job to be avoided. Enough pontificating! I promise that in the next thing I write I'll tell a more entertaining story, like maybe about the time Lint and I snorted bourbon up our noses and tried to hop a freight train going to Portland like a couple of old fashioned hobos.
Drive to Pierce College in Lakewood. Park and walk down to the lake. There is a paved walkway around the lake that is about a half mile in length. I would not go there after dark. If you want to explore more, you can go down the hill to Fort Steilacoom Park, which is much larger and has other attractions. I doubly wouldn't go there after dark.