Archives for posts with tag: Oregon trails

I’d put it off for weeks. (For years?) It wasn’t even a long hike (2.5 miles). It wasn’t rough terrain, just steep (as steep as 6%). As a bus ride, Terwilliger Blvd is long-ish, twisting through forest, around the sides of small-ish mountains, gaining and losing elevation. It’s also quite lovely, with views that are difficult to enjoy driving a vehicle, or to enjoy long enough as passenger. I’ve had my eye on walking it for… years. Yesterday was a lovely cool misty gray morning, suitable for hiking. So I went.

I felt rather reassured that on foot, the perceived steepness of the paved trail seems quite manageable.

Hey, this isn’t so bad…

I felt rather reassured that on foot, the perceived steepness of the paved trail seems quite manageable. Trail? Sidewalk? Hiking? Walking? Do those distinctions matter? Not today.

In the distance, a city I love.

In the distance, a city I love.

The first view-point, hiking from my starting point at Sam Jackson Park Rd, was well up the hill and quite beautiful enough that if the hike had been tough going, I could have contentedly turned back at that point and felt satisfied with my progress… maybe. I exchanged pleasant greetings with a nice elder gentleman smoking a large aromatic cigar, and walked on.

A route for another day.

A route for another day.

I observe side trails along the way, taking note of each one and considering future hikes as I pass by. Once they are behind me, I return my attention to the path I am on, and this moment, now.

What's left of us when we're gone?

What’s left of us when we’re gone?

Along the road, off in the weeds, are the remnants of a well-planned exercise course laid out along Terwilliger Parkway. It hasn’t been maintained. The signage is rotting away in the weeds. Stations with exercise equipment still in place (like this one with a balance bar) are in disrepair, and not safe to use. We leave bits of ourselves behind as we move forward in life, don’t we? I found myself curious about the vision and intent of the parkway itself, and promise myself I’ll read up on it when I return home.

Nearing the top... and a place to rest.

Nearing the top… and a place to rest.

It would seem amusingly metaphorical some minutes later… but for now, I pause to enjoy a celebratory moment – I can see ‘the top’ just ahead!

The top!

The top!

Nope. Not the top at all. Just a peak, not the peak. There’s a lesson to be learned there, something about becoming attached to, or emotionally invested in, some goal or another… 🙂

...And then, too, there's the part about how it rained softly much of the way.

…And then, too, there’s the part about how it rained softly much of the way.

I have a raincoat, and proper rain gear for hiking. I could have worn it. Or brought it. Or checked the forecast. Instead, I just enjoy the soft mist, and cool fresh scent of petrichor as I walk through the forest.

Another beautiful view.

Another beautiful view.

I look eagerly up the trail… (“No. It’s not the top. Stop asking.” I tell myself.)

Beautiful parks and green spaces dot the trail.

Beautiful parks and green spaces dot the trail.

It’s a lovely day, and delightfully, I have the trail (and the day) mostly to myself. It is quiet, aside from the sound of traffic passing me now and then. Good timing… mid-morning on a Tuesday. 🙂

Just beyond the forest, the city.

Just beyond the forest, the city.

I keep walking. The trail keeps climbing.

Some of the exercise stations are well back into the trees, and quite overgrown.

Some of the exercise stations are well back into the trees, and quite overgrown.

Every point of view is subtly different. Each perspective on the city and the world beyond has nuance, and value. The trail just keeps climbing. So do I.

More forest, please.

More forest, please.

More acreage has been added to the original parkway over time. The high value placed on green spaces in the community is a characteristic I cherish about living in this area. More forest, more green, more trails… more ways to find a few chill content moments of stillness in a busy world. [Your results may vary.]

A handy side trail down into the dense wetland acreage conveniently at hand.

A handy side trail down into the dense wetland acreage conveniently at hand.

I stare down the trail into the wetland acreage… It’s tempting… but a lot steeper than I feel prepared for… and I’ve just spent nearly an hour walking a more or less continuous incline. I’m already feeling it. I’m not up to it, standing there staring down the steep staircase built into the bank… but I am thinking about other days, other hikes… I walk on.

Looking back from around the next bend.

Looking back from around the next bend.

I almost reconsider that side trail… I look back from farther up the trail, and see the staircase down through the trees from the other side. New perspective. Yeah… totally too steep for me, in that moment then. I chose wisely. I continue to walk on. My only real destination is to finish the 2.5 miles I’ve planned, and reach the bus stop at the far end. I’ve passed the last bus stop I could take if I cared to shorten the trip; I have to reach the finish at this point.

An exercise station deeper into the forest, seemingly without a path to reach it.

An exercise station deeper into the forest.

Each exercise station I pass reminds me of other forgotten human endeavors, trips with my Granny to see ghost towns, crumbling homesteads along country roads, isolated cabins left standing in land claimed by national parks… we settle, we live, we move on…

Approaching the final peak on this trail (in this direction).

Approaching the final peak on this trail (in this direction).

I laughed at myself when I experienced real relief seeing the final peak in elevation just ahead. Tired, and feeling more committed than joyful at that point, I feel renewed and re-energized by the feeling of achievement. Silly primate – it’s just a hill. lol

Unexpectedly pointless...

Unexpectedly pointless…

I shot a picture standing in a moment of utter stillness. No cars. No voices. No traffic in the distance. Nothing but the soft breeze, birdsong, and one still moment. I breathe. Relax. Exist so gently and contentedly… one moment that put the entire walk into perspective. This. This is my destination. A picture seemed appropriate…

…It was the last picture I took, with half a mile left to go. 🙂 I rounded the next bend and instantly frustrated myself with regret about the way I use my device; the battery died entirely, and my device powered down just as I approached a viewpoint called “Eagle Point”, with a carved wood totem pole standing nearby, and the landmark restaurant located there, The Chart House. I might have considered stopping there for coffee, but I was completely distracted by the sudden lack of camera, my feet were really aching by that point, and the bus stop was just a half mile further, down hill. I got started walking, after a few minutes enjoying the view from Eagle Point.

My bus ticket? On my device, which was as entirely dead and powered down as a device can be and still ever come back to life. lol I’m fortunate that the bus driver was very understanding about it, and my morning hike ending as the afternoon took over. If I took a moment I could remember what I did with the rest of the day… I do remember feeling quite content. That’s enough.

Every day is a solo hike on life’s journey. Destinations come and go, and have only as much meaning as I give them. The map is not the world. The destination is not the journey. I am my own cartographer, and each day is a new beginning. The future is a vast unwritten page in our unfinished story. What will I do with it?


(There are verbs involved.)

Simply enough, life is fairly unpredictable whether or not my assumptions and expectations are accurate.

What are your obstacles made of? How do you overcome them?

What are your obstacles made of? How do you overcome them?

Certainly, life is even more unpredictable if my expectations are wildly off the mark, and my assumptions are untested made up bullshit in my head. It’s easy enough for that to happen; most of what we ‘know’ amounts to the sum of a lot of internal expectation setting within ourselves, and assumptions we made about events, the expectations of others, their assumptions, and what things mean to other people (we generally assume they share our understanding and definitions of terms) – and based on observation in my own interactions alone, it’s fairly clear that few of us rigorously fact-check our assumptions, or share our expectations clearly in advance of disappointment or unexpected change, or ensure that we are working with a shared definition of terms. I’m just saying; set clear expectations explicitly, understand that life changes things without warning, and be sure to test your assumptions. Being wrong happens, it’s part of the human experience, refusing to change your position, and perspective, in the face of new information is kind of a dick move, and doesn’t do much for relationship building.

Being present on life's journey brings more into view.

Being present on life’s journey brings more into view.

Yesterday’s hike was lovely, and the rainy start to the day was no deterrent. It stopped raining long enough for a merry hike on unfamiliar muddy trails, and conversation with friend.  It was time well-spent. I arrived home feeling renewed, and able to provide my traveling partner the emotional support he needed for most of the remainder of the day, until my fatigue – and very human limitations – finally stopped me. I have more to learn about setting clear expectations when I see myself reaching my limits.

It's a journey. My journey. I am my own cartographer; it helps to be aware of the path.

It’s a journey. My journey. I am my own cartographer; it helps to be aware of the path.

Today is a good day to begin again.

I am at home now, slowly warming up enough for a hot bath to be comfortable, sipping tea, looking forward to clean dry clothes, and catching up on calories and medication.

The only picture all day isn't of anything much; the photos are not the experiences.

The only picture all day isn’t of anything much; the photos are not the experiences.

I hit the trail at mid-morning with my hydration pack and emergency gear carefully checked off, map in a side pocket within easy reach. I felt utterly prepared for the hike ahead of me – new trails to explore, and a good plan for 6 to 8 miles of beautiful forested winter countryside, and considerable solitude along the way. I hopped off the bus with a smile at the trailhead most convenient to both mass transit and miles I had not yet walked. I crossed the street and headed up the trail – which in this case was rather literal, as the trail headed steeply upward, renewing my appreciation for my anti-shock hiking staff. I spotted the first snowflake as I neared the hilltop, and the drizzle carrying it along to the ground was quickly becoming more tiny snow flakes than drizzle. I wasn’t discouraged in the least, and visibility was not particularly impaired, except at a distance. There would be no distant vistas to view today. I walked on.

As I walked I contemplated how very prepared I felt when I departed for my hike – and how little my preparation seemed relevant in the present moment, unplanned snowflakes falling all around me. I considered this other solo journey I am taking – the one we each take, every one of us, through this wilderness territory called life; I am my own cartographer. Another way of saying that is – I don’t actually have a map. Yep. I’m making it up as I go along, aren’t I? Aren’t we all?

I turn the ideas on their heads a few times and consider things I do each time I hike to depart as well prepared as possible for all those many things that may come up along a journey, unplanned. Even the snow – I didn’t expect it, and in that sense I didn’t plan, but I did take my day pack, and checked my emergency gear quite carefully before I left, removing the Deet that isn’t needed in December and adding things that seemed more likely to be necessary for a winter emergency, then checking off my basics: a compact emergency shelter, bivy sack, an emergency blanket, first aid gear, water, fire – and my map. I hadn’t planned for snow – but I had done my best to plan for ‘whatever’ might come up that could find me out in the cold over night, and maybe lost or injured.

I hike solo most of the time, and being prepared is one of those things that is about more than me; my traveling partner relies on me to depart prepared to come home safely. Getting home safely may very well be dependent on preparation handled before I ever leave the house at all – and there’s no way to know in advance if this is the hike on which it will matter that I had my _____. With my injury, my PTSD, and the implied potential limitations of each, and both together, I take my time preparing for new trails. I study maps. I read trip reports by other hikers, and articles from the Forestry or Park service overseeing the area. I outline the route, and study alternate routes and connecting loops that may offer scenic opportunities also worth exploring. I make a plan, and share it with my partner. I pack, inventory my gear, re-pack, try it on for size, and double-check my choices against recent experiences in similar areas – I’ll ask myself what I have overlooked, more than once. I’ll ask friends to share stories of recent camping or hiking outings to glean likely circumstances I may not have considered from my own experience. When I am finally ready to put boots on the ground, I generally feel very well-prepared, and by day’s end sometimes find myself wondering why I ever bother to take some of the things I do – like an emergency shelter. Really? Even hiking a nearby park, wrapped entirely in suburbia? More than once I’ve laughed at myself for being over-prepared.

Some time after noon, the snow flakes had plumped to the fat fluffy sort that splat on impact, my glasses were no longer helping my vision, and I had removed them. Visibility – with or without my glasses – is about the same forward, as it is looking down at my feet, and the muddy trail beneath my feet is slippery – another opportunity to be very happy to have my hiking staff; I really need it as the trail turns, twists, and heads down hill. This is no time for photographs – and I had already determined some time ago that the wet cold was not ideal for camera or camera phone – I stay focused on the trail, a dark line ahead too muddy for snow to stick to. I stop at a trail crossing, rest a moment, check my map and finish the last of the still-hot coffee in my hydro-flask (another piece of gear to appreciate today). My hands are not cold; my gloves keep them warm and dry. My feet are not cold or wet; I chose my hiking boots with great care and they serve me well. My rain gear keeps most of the rest of me dry, too, but the flakes of wet snow have begun to sting my cold face, and I think of gear I don’t yet have that would do nicely right then, and even consider whether I am prepared, at any point, to admit I can’t proceed and take shelter. I breathe the winter air deeply and smile; if I need to set up an emergency shelter, I’m ready for that, too. I walk on.

I stood some wet tedious minutes waiting for the bus that would take me out of the woods. I exchange messages with my traveling partner so he knows I am safe, and heading home. I keep thinking about life; it’s a hell of a journey to have to take without a map, without ‘all the right gear’, without feeling prepared…without even the certainty that our experience is a shared experience that will be understood in the telling of the tale; we are solo-hiking through life, and we do it without a map, making it up as we go along, and hoping for the best. Hell – sometimes we start the journey without having even a destination in mind at all! It’s no wonder life can be so confusing, so surprising, so difficult sometimes.

The tea has taken the chill off me as I write. I smile, and think about the ‘gear’ I now ‘pack’ on my solo journey through this wilderness, life: mindfulness practices, meditation, a healthy approach to fitness and to food, an understanding of my physical needs day-to-day, and some ideas about what it takes to be the woman I most want to be, like emotional self-sufficiency, critical thinking, perspective, and an understanding that contentment is an excellent stepping stone to happiness, and more sustainable. I still don’t have a map – but this journey isn’t going to take itself, and it’s time to get going; the journey is the destination. The map is not the world. One year ends, another stretches out in front of me, an unexplored trail – it’s time to plan the next hike! 🙂

It’s been a very comfortable pleasant day. I slept in, and slept deeply. I walked to the farmer’s market, and assembled a very nice picnic lunch, and loaded it into my pack. I headed into the trees for a few more miles and hours of autumn leaves and birdsong.

Autumn rose hips along the trail.

Autumn rose hips along the trail.

Yesterday was okay, too. I did some great work, but had had so little rest I was more or less a zombie analyst, and didn’t notice the day go by, and don’t really remember that much about it. I got home shortly before 6 pm, and was crashed out not long after that. I was up again around 9, and stayed up some little while before returning to bed, and to a deep sleep rich with surreal dreams. Stress reaches this point where it both disrupts my sleep and requires ever so much more than usual amounts of rest to recover from it. I slept a lot last night. I napped this afternoon after my hike – one of those sudden urgent naps when sleep simply overcomes me and I must succumb to it.

Tonight is gentle and easy. The deep consciousness encompassing sleep of my nap this afternoon left me wrapped in drowsiness. I’ll probably go to bed early again tonight. No reason not to; one of the perks of adulthood is the opportunity to choose rest. That great boon is sometimes forgotten in the fuss and bother of all the other sorts of things I think I ‘have to’ get done; choosing rest, real rest, is sometimes the best thing I can do for myself – or my partners.

I am okay. I’ve still got work to do – this fragile vessel isn’t going to heal itself without some practices and some verbs. This broken brain needs a little support, structure, and patience to find some better ways to handle small challenges. Sometimes I am going to fall short of my expectations – or fail to meet my own needs in some important way. I’ll begin again. One step at a time, one practice at a time, one moment at a time – I can begin again.

It may not be the shortest path - but this journey isn't a race, or a contest - I'll just keep walking.

It may not be the shortest path – but this journey isn’t a race, or a contest – I’ll just keep walking.

What is ‘enough’, anyway? Is it ‘everything’? I think we all know ‘enough’ has never been expected to be ‘everything’. Is ‘enough’ some measure more than I’ve got?

Half empty? Half full? Why does the size of the glass matter if the contents meet my needs?

Half empty? Half full? Why does the size of the glass matter if the contents meet my needs?

There’s the thing, isn’t it; ‘enough’ varies depending on the intensity of the need being fulfilled, the difficulty fulfilling it, and our own wisdom and perspective, too – we can’t recognize ‘enough’ unless we’ve gone without, perhaps, or somehow directly experienced the contrast between ‘feast’ and ‘famine’, in some way. ‘Enough’, in my own experience, tends to require just that amount of whatever thing (or experience, or emotion, or resource) is required to meet the need adequately, nothing more. ‘More’ would go beyond ‘enough’, and thus the expression ‘more than enough’.

This morning is enough. I’ve not asked the dawn of this new day to be perfect. I’ve nothing specific in mind for the coming week. ‘Enough’ will do, nicely. The weekend? Realistically, it was ‘enough’ in many respects. Could it have been improved? Well…damn…it’s a bit late to be thinking that over, right? The weekend is behind me now. I think I’ll just put that question off to the side, over here, with this dusty list of questions that didn’t seem worthy of the time to answer them, because answering them would change nothing. I’m all about questions, but I do strongly prefer the questions that provide their greatest value in the asking. 🙂

It's about where the question leads, not about the answer.

It’s about where the question leads, not about the answer.

My weekend camping trip was completely and entirely perfect, inasmuch as I did learn what I needed to know about my readiness for longer – or wilder – solo hiking/camping trips; I’m not ready. No, not really, not yet – just not quite ready. Simple things went sideways early on that resulted in the decision to shorten my trip a bit, primarily challenges with building a good fire in the damp conditions (I need practice on that specific skill, and on fire building in general), on top of forgetting to bring coffee (or tea), and over-looking my bee sting kit (which I didn’t forget, but chose not to bring – the swarm of bees I encountered was a very serious wake-up call). Aside from a bit of general embarrassment over my lack of readiness, making the wiser self-care decision to come in from the woods early was as easy as a phone call. My traveling partner took time out of his day to come get me, and I spent the remainder of the weekend in a fairly ordinary way – and it was enough. I like ‘enough’.

It isn't about rare wildflowers previously unseen by human eyes for me; it is about simple sufficiency, and the simple beauty of any flower.

It isn’t about rare wildflowers previously unseen by human eyes for me. It is about sufficiency, and the simple beauty of any flower, simple questions, too, and ideally simple answers.

What will ‘enough’ be today, I wonder? What questions will light my path most beautifully? What experiences will I enjoy, cherish, and invest my heart in? What experiences will teach me a profound lesson about life, or love? What will frustrate me as I deal with cravings and attachment? What will uplift me as I succeed in beating back my demons? On which small choices will I build my future? Will prior other choices appear as hurdles today? What can I learn from now? Which moments will become moments of long-standing joyous recollection?

This guy is probably not concerned with so many questions.

This guy is probably not concerned with so many questions.

Today is a good day for ‘here’ ‘now’ and ‘enough’. Today is a good day to savor each moment, and each experience, to either learn the lesson presented, or enjoy the journey simply because it is enjoyable. Today is a good day for love, loving, and investing will and wholesome intention into mindful love; what could serve love more skillfully than being awake, aware, and engaged in the moment? Today is a good day to enjoy the journey; change is, and it isn’t necessary to force it along.

The journey is not without challenges; the challenges do not detract from it's beauty.

The journey is not without challenges; the challenges do not detract from the beauty of the journey.