"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature's sources never fail." - John Muir
Around the bend lies infinite possibilities: another hill to climb or a downward path; fellow humans or a startled bear; perhaps the mysterious sound you've been hearing in the last quarter mile finally reveals itself, or not and you'll never know; a meadow, a creek, fallen trees, your campsite for the night. When you submit to the power of nature, you become a malleable creature, a child of the wild. I've had many firsts this year, and backpacking in the wilderness of Lassen Volcanic National Park ranks high on the list.
For a few days we shared a living space with nature and walked amongst wildlife, reminded of our own mortality by the pounding weight of the backpacks on our shoulders. Mount Lassen watched over us from a distance, telling a tale of destruction in the shape of its peak. Some parts of the forest are still healing from the devastation caused by an explosion that took place a century ago. Life and death take their time out here. What we think of as serenity is the forest carrying on with its business. It's oh-so-quiet here because it's so terribly noisy where we come from.
We experienced breathtaking beauty, but we also felt a loss that made us gasp. The Reading wildfire in 2012 apparently took fifteen percent of the park. We saw what appeared to be fallen trees from the fire and ailing trees stricken with disease. However, look closely on the ground and you will see the forest renewing itself: next to a dead tree trunk a baby pine grows. Such is the irony, such is life.
By the end of the trip, the weight of my backpack, which had been from the beginning the most challenging aspect of this maiden adventure, melted into my being and became a part of me. What all this walking has taught me is that if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will get there. Somewhere.
"Nature is always lovely, invincible, glad, whatever is done and suffered by her creatures. All scars she heals, whether in rocks or water or sky or hearts." - John Muir