What Is Essential

I should be finishing a letter tonight. Or making cards. But I feel like I need to write (if only to reassure myself) about two tragedies ( of too many ) on the trail this summer.


Sam Sayers is still missing. Hope hasn’t died but the light is dimming. She headed out on August 1st for a day hike to Vesper Peak. It is now the 6th of September and she is not home. I’ve never hiked in this part of the state. The photos from the area are striking. If Sam hikes like I hike, I know how beautifully distracting it can be to find yourself in the midst of a place like that.

This is Copper Lake, to the noth-east of Vesper Peak - view from

(Not my photo)

There is a lot that goes racing through one’s mind. Did she fall ? Was she properly skilled ?  Did she encounter wildlife ? A person ?  Did she have what she needed in an emergency ? Would it have mattered ?

I say a prayer for her every day.

Yesterday, a 64 year old woman died on the Kendall Katwalk trail. She was an experienced hiker who had been camping the previous night. Many details are still missing from this story but we DO know that she lost her footing and fell from the trail. ( A trail that is a ledge along the side of a mountain …)  It is part of the epic Pacific Crest Trail. The path narrows as it winds around the mountain. A friend was there earlier this summer and she wrote about her own experience of it here.  It is challenging in many ways.


(I’m tired tonight so while I’m sure there is a way to link this video in a better way, here is Kendall Katwalk from last year)

This one really hit home for me. It’s one of my favorite hikes off of I-90 and I have been there three times. I’ve included some photos from last year and from 2015. It is dramatic and extraordinarily beautiful.


And there are parts of that trail that command respect. There are no warning signs up here. No guard rails. You step carefully because the loose rock is unpredictable. It’s an awesome place to experience, but with that comes a fierce need for vigilance.


It always gets me thinking about how fragile life is. How we never really know what comes next. Is it like a clock ticking away and when the alarm sounds, your time is up without regard for where you are, what you’re doing or if you’re ready ?

Or maybe it is somehow determined by our own series of acts.

Do we subconsciously choose ?
Is there a script we’re following ?
Are there lessons we must learn ?
Do we ascend to somewhere better ?
Different ?
Do we come back ?
The unanswerable questions. I suspect we all have different answers and maybe they even change as we change.
I definitely won’t know tonight.
Or maybe ever …
Here is a guide to the ten essentials. Being out in the wild can fill your senses like nothing else can, but preparation is a huge part of any good experience.
I love being out in the world alone. I don’t have to worry about my pace. I can stop when I need to or move swiftly if that’s what feels right. I’m not worrying about anything or anyone.
But there’s a trade-off.
The biggest reminder of the summer has been the one that has shown up in every corner of my life: Pay attention.
Because as Maezen says :
“Attention fixes everything “.
And so it does.


3 Comments on “What Is Essential

  1. I wish I had not read this. I cannot unread it, and it voices the reason I am filled with trepidation (such an old fashioned word for naked fear) every time I see those early morning gps coordinates. I know you can’t sit at home and do nothing or a little this and that when the great outdoors calls, but some of the trails you photograph … alone … no gear can help. ‘Be careful’ sounds impotent, looking at the image of that missing hiker. I’ll say it anyway. Be careful.

    • Love you, Mare. I am always as careful as I can possibly be. These stories live inside me long after the headlines. I respect every stream I cross, every ridge I walk and I always, always trust my gut on everything else. Thanks for caring -♡

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