I toss a pair of black convertible pants, caked with dust, into the laundry. I clean my fingernails and smooth out the chips and snags with an emery board. I put fresh bandages on the backs of my heels to soften the sting of blisters. I dampen my curls to remove all trace of “hat head.” This can mean just one thing.
Hiking season has begun.
We took off on a whim after yet another round of personal legal hassles in a week defined by bombs and blasts. Yet again, we are faced with a terror attack, and yet again, another community suffers the blows of what appears to be an industrial accident. From Boston to West, Texas, we were shaken as a nation. I feel weary, and everyone I speak with does, too. These events bring up sorrow, but also the increasingly bitter rhetoric of political sides screaming ever louder.
There is nothing like a big-shouldered mountaintop to carry one’s burdens, so we piled into the car, packs and poles in tow, and drove to the Methow Valley on the eastern side of the Northern Cascade Mountains.
Highway 20, also known as the Northern Cascades Highway, is closed during the winter and just opened a few weeks ago. At the highest points of the drive, remnants of the 35 feet of snow that covered the road remain. Many trails will have to wait until July or August, but on the eastern side, in the Methow Valley, most of the trails are sunny and dry.
On our first hike of the season, we took a simple stroll on a trail outside Sun Mountain Lodge. Though we had 360 degree vistas to admire, I found myself fascinated by the flowers at our feet. It was hard to know where to look. Every plant finds its own way to survive in this tough, dry terrain that could just as easily be West Texas as Washington State.
On Saturday, we took a hike at Pipestone Canyon. We’d never heard of it, but our kind host Dan at The Chewuch Inn in Winthrop recommended it to us. Though the hike is not well marked, it happened that an organized footrace was taking place that day, so we took advantage of the flags that the organizers had put out to direct the runners. The first few miles were ho-hum, but we discovered that by hanging in there, our patience was rewarded with views both looking down into the canyon and looking up from its floor. The treasures of green, glacier-formed valleys, snow-covered mountaintops, and rocklike canyon formations reminiscent of Sedona gave generously of themselves, and we took in their splendor as they fed nectar to our parched spirits.
In the summertime, rattlesnakes slither and sun themselves. Pipestone Canyon has the largest concentration of rattlers in Washington State, we’re told. It made me extra careful when I had to make a potty stop on the path! This being springtime, though, we didn’t see any such critters.
We humans have fought and disagreed since the beginning of time. Whether or not one believes in an actual Cain and Abel, we can agree that we will fight, often passionately and to the death, for what we believe in.
We can also climb to the mountaintop and look around us at the exquisite, boundless beauty of God’s earth. It overflows in its abundance and gives us perspective. Along the path, we greet strangers with smiles. We come across yet another patch filled with wildflowers. On the way home, new snow blankets trees in a living postcard.
From the craggy peaks to the smallest flower, we see all points of view. It’s easy to see, after all, that a mountain’s nature is to be a mountain, as a flower’s is to be a flower, and a snake’s to be a snake. We can’t change the snake, but we can look to stay out of its path.