For thousands of years we have existed without the idea of technology in the modern sense. The “technology” that was available to us until extremely recently were things like horseback and fire. And people were extremely resourceful with their technology. For instance, many of the nightly activities were centered around the fire, as it was the central place of social gathering, cooking, and warmth. So it’s bizarre to consider we live in a time that is so fragmented from 99% of history; where actions have a more lasting visual impact than the thousands of years before it, evidenced by the widespread industry. Now we seem to need multiple items to reproduce the same sensations and abilities that were cultivated with one or two things during the rest of history. I too enjoy the fruits of our current world; I simply contemplate whether we overcomplicate our entertainment.
I contemplate these thoughts and our impact as I hear several military jets dive down into the valley and shake us in our boots. I gaze upon the landscape etched in the blue light of the noon sun; a landscape that is still somewhat unique. Usually we associate uniqueness with a remarkable experience; doing or creating something to set it apart; now uniqueness in terms of the natural world seems to be associated with that which hasn’t been spoiled. I marvel at the uniqueness of a landscape that has no signs of clearcutting for miles. Steep summits line the horizon as meadows before us show their sun-weathered golds and browns.
Numerous climbs over ridges finally bring us to the aptly named Camp Lake some 11 miles and 6,000 ft. from the trailhead. The cobalt lake rests in a pocket lined with steep granitic slopes. The sun shines through and accents its greenish tones beneath the surface. An osprey hovers over the far end of the lake catching the afternoon sun on its wings as a fish rises near us. I could imagine after having traversed countless ridges the lake is kind of welcoming, despite there not being a premier view. Ever intrepid we would continue on to Lake Byrne.
I reach for a branch on our descent and whoosh; down the hill I go. I thankfully come to rest on some graceful fir trees not far from where I slipped, but it is amazing to see the amount of cuts one can accumulate just from hitting the ground with any speed above zero. I gaze at the rose-colored shade that my forearm adorns.
The clouds had been interesting all day. And they didn’t disappoint at sunset. The low-angle light painted the slopes of Glacier Peak in crimson. It is interesting what climbing a few feet can do for a mountain’s relative size. Down near the lake shore Glacier Peak was barely visible, and from this vantage point it dominates the horizon.
I was thankful that it was a moonless night. As there now was a dark theater to the heavens above. The giant celestial screen featured countless stars, planets, and satellites. It was so quiet that the stillness seemed thick and tangible. The lake rested silently below. Glacier Peak gathered the warm glow above during a long exposure.
I am setting up my tent and I hear a snap; my trusty tent of several years has finally unveiled a flaw. The distorted top pole now turns my tent into a near-teepee configuration. Sleep is somewhat light as I adapt to my new limited confines in the tent. I think about this dance we do between growth and decay. On enough trips things begin falling apart, but these moments illuminate the replaceable and fleeting nature of these things. Their demise shouldn’t hinder our experiences, yet it should build our resilience. Because over a lifetime ,hundreds of different accessories will accompany us, but it’s our resilience to move on and grow stronger despite their faltering that stands apart from them. A resilient mind says that experience is the most important thing and I can work with any object to better serve the experience.
Splash is the sound made from leaping from a giant isolated rock into the cold-blue depths. “Just dive in” I think to myself as the deep water constricts the muscles and invigorates the spirit. I make the long swim back to shore. The clouds again are amazing. The sun creeps below a massive cloud formation to briefly illuminate the hillside and Glacier Peak. I quickly grab my camera. The water below me gently laps against the talus field leading into the water.
There are many aged logs that have fused with the rocks on this slope. The wood has been dissected by time and its colorful entrails form circular patterns around the rock. A small pine cone gets a sense of security nestled on the patterns of a fallen friend.
The lake developed this calmness that lingered through sunset to sunrise. This afforded many different angles of reflection. The mid-ground seemed like a distracting detail to this scene so I went with virtually no details in it to focus entirely on the reflection. In this day in age of striving for technical perfection, where many night shots have more details than even the naked eye can perceive, posting a daytime shot with blocked shadows comes with a bit of trepidation. But the decision should rest with what serves the moment best, and voila.
We soak up some of the remaining rays and pose for a shot of our home over the last few days. We then set off to culminate another fantastic experience that will stay with us forever.
We pass more groups than spots to park on the way down. I then begin to question how we can walk the fine line between enjoying these landscapes and overusing them. I think as long as we walk with humility and reverence our steps will carry less impact.
The more time that goes by the more I realize that my list of dream experiences will far exceed my time left. This realization could lead to anxiety and scrambling for the next immediate experience to add to my list. But this is never the road to peace of mind; it is more of the path that leads one to missing the forest through the trees; for the experience is that which is lost when we’re narrowly chasing experiences. Alternatively, there is a path that seeks to take in more of the surroundings and expand how one experiences in order to enliven even the simplest of journeys. For we may be limited to the amount of experiences we can have, but our capacity to experience is ever expanding.
When we take time to notice and engage the senses, the world begins to come alive. I like to think of the world as an onion where the more in tune we are the more we begin to peel back another layer to the complexity. The more the senses are engaged ,the richer the story starts to come; which is why a few fleeting moments listening to the wind through the trees or seeing big waves crash against the rock have the ability to stay with someone longer than a more extravagant vacation seen through the lens of a busy mind. Everything is a great big story, and there are great pages and sentences that we miss when we keep seeking the next chapter.
Tapping into a richer experience starts with gratitude. The eyes of gratitude accept and appreciate any moment. And it is when we’re in this state that the moments reveal their true gifts to us. Living by the senses is something we lost as a culture when we no longer relied upon them for our survival. One that is responsible for their own food and shelter has to be acutely aware of their environment in order to ensure their survival. Living through the senses is a lost art that we need to relearn, but life will become much more rich if we work to employ these traits more fully again.
Since experiences are ultimately limited, crafting the art of being resourceful and maximize how one experiences will lead to a more vibrant story whichever plot structure and setting is to come our way.
These are some recent haikus that I wrote with some of my corresponding images.
All of the magic.
Is everywhere around us.
Just open your eyes.
Glaciers and clouds move.
Nature flows purposefully.
Stay in the rhythm.
I come to nature.
To study harmonious sound.
It sings of joy found.
There’s something that is always enjoyable and anticipated about making camp and spending a few days in a place. It’s a brief dose of getting back to nature’s time; I would like to consider it one foot in modern time and one foot in nature’s time. Out here one truly gets a sense of just how separate humans have conditioned themselves from the mechanics of everything else.
While the societal machine chugs on, fleeting is the recognition that nature still does and always has maintained the same pulse irrespective of what we have deemed important. Our actions can certainly stifle nature’s flow, but the flow still moves and seeks to carry out its predictable function.
I get great enjoyment from immersing myself for a few days in these natural settings. The only thing that prevents me from doing it more often, is my relative dislike of packing/preparing for these adventures. I have favored day trips mostly due to this reason. But when things do align and I am able to make a backpacking trip happen it always creates some lasting memories.
I will summarize my recent trip with some images and corresponding prose.
Moody Alpine Lakes
The clouds created a thick blanket all day; cooling the lowlands and pulling the deep greens from the foliage. Rain fell on the devil’s club acting like cymbals reverberating the individual drops.As each leaf is pulled down by the weight as if in slow motion. The thick cloud cover began to part as it was scattered by some swift winds. Small dashes of light illuminated the hillsides and splashes of pink fell from the waves of clouds. The clouds flowed in a circular motion around Otter Lake and the adjacent mountains as a brief clearing in the clouds lead to the extensive western horizon. A larger band of clouds was ushered in as we greeted nightfall above the lakes.
The clouds were more sparse the following day and created interesting patterns in conjunction with the wind. Much of the day was spent marveling at the variety of shapes that would be painted on this deep blue canvas in front of us.The clouds reflected in the cerulean tones of the water My friend Josh was formally a photographer, but has since parted ways with the art to achieve more simplicity in his life. Equipped with a much lighter pack than me and a great John Muir book, I can certainly say there are admirable aspects to his approach, but for me I have signed the contract with photography and am committed to this art and all the weight it entails. Josh is seen enjoying some modern comforts while amid contemplation in front of some glorious sights.
I felt the urge to roam a bit more during the day. I thought it would be nice to move about without the pack weighing me down, so I moved on without my camera gear. I kept moving beyond false clearing after false clearing until a scramble across a talus field and a hop over a 60 foot hole between the rocks finally afforded a view of the valley. The painterly light illuminated the valley filled up my mind and planted the seed for the urge to photograph it. Being ever the persistent one, I climbed back up the hill in the hot sun to attain my gear and hoofed it back to the same spot. I loved the way the peaks scaled from the floor of evergreens; making these large trees seem like little dots in the valley. This valley brings a strong change in the landscape and geology from just a mile back. What was mostly granitic boulder fields, transitions to a deep green valley and floral meadows; It is a startling transition. Perhaps not the strongest image from the trip, it does weigh heavy in sentimental value and embodies my persistence to capture a certain image.
There’s something about a moonless night in the mountains. The stars are in seen in their full glory as they do their celestial dances. The activity of the day dwindles into a darkened hush with the exception of a faint passing wind. The stars are a limitless ceiling filling the tired eyes with wonder as sleep washes over.
It’s difficult to get myself stirring when the air is cold and the dawn light is dim. I don’t see many sunrises, so I am thankful when I do get to witness this variety of light in the mountains. Morning light always carries a clarity and warmth I can appreciate. Clouds filled the sky on this morning as the air rolling over the peaks condensed into wonderful shapes. I like how these streams of air mimic that of water; one section passes yet a similar shape is created in its place.
I add all my hopes and desires to this mountain of dreams.
In the lowest valleys this mountain watches over me.
It battles sever pressure and intense storms.
But it always stays true to form.
I look over at this mountain to spark the life within me.
And through a lot of effort, I climb up it excitedly.
I may not have all the equipment to reach the summit on this stay.
But perhaps I will easily rest on this pinnacle another day.
Just a ripple on the massive wave.
Just a branch on an endless tree.
Just a pebble in this grand mountain.
Just a note in this great melody.
Just a turn on the endless spiral.
A microscopic piece when seen macroscopically.
Just a layer to this complex fabric.
The whole expressing itself individually.
I thought some abstract images from Iceland were fitting for this poem.
This great light
that will illuminate the rest of your days.
Is only a cloud parting away.
All of my steps up mountains.
All of the toil of these preluding acts.
Are justified by a mountain scene at its most stunning;
By a perfect encore.