A day like today commands attention. And it was not lost on me for a moment. For as far away as I live from here it is a curious thing that I should find myself here so often. I have missed (yes, really) that 3 AM alarm and the drive through every kind of twilight.
Starlit astronomical twilight.
Moonlit nautical twilight.
Sun-kissed civil twilight.
I am in love with these mornings. After Toledo there are few cars. No one behind me and just a handful of headlights approaching as they depart the tiny towns that hold them. As you cross the Cowlitz County line into Skamania County, your only real companions are the herds of elk and occasional coyote on the hillside.
And always the birds.
I chase the emerging light up the mountain. Elk Rock, Castle Lake, and then back down to Coldwater Lake and up again to Loowit overlook. Finally, Johnston Ridge. New perspectives emerge at every stop as day breaks fully open. If you look away, then a minute later rest your eyes upon the same spot, the clouds will have swirled and shifted above the crater. Weather happens moment by moment.
Mt Adams, off in the distance, has what appears to be a halo of light on the peak. I have come here on faith once again. At 3,000 ft I pass several herds of elk, criss-crossing the road. At 4,000 ft I am above the bank of fog that lingers in the valley below.
I walk Coldwater trail watching the protective family of geese and goslings. The trillium are thinned out and some have emerged pink as they approach the end of their short spring bloom. But other trees and plants are coming alive in this season of growth.
At Johnston Ridge I climb the ramps to the upper-reaches. There are views of Little Sister (Mt St Helens) Mt Adams , Coldwater Peak and the Mount Margaret backcountry. I study the dial at the top, identifying all the surrounding peaks. Back down, I assess the trail to Harry’s Ridge. I can see it is covered in snow and the trailhead at the back of the parking lot has a three foot wall of snow to climb to even reach the trail. Parts of the trail are clear, but there is too much snow to head back that way alone. At the moment, I have yet to see another soul.
(Of all the places I regularly hike, this place feels most remote. If the I-90 corridor gives me pause for the throngs of people, it is the complete opposite here. Here, I truly feel like a visitor in the isolated wilderness)
I check the Boundary Trail as well. It too, is snow covered at times, although my guess would be it is mostly clear. I walk out far enough to find a lovely sit-spot and I sit down to write. My God, it is so quiet here. I spend 20 minutes in blissful meditation, hearing only the birds and the whistle of wind.
There is a lot on my mind today. This feels like the perfect place for perspective and reflection. I won’t get too philosophical here. What I am sitting with is mine alone, but I will share this one thing.
This feels like grace.
An unearned blessing.
Maybe these gifts of place are actually glimpses of “a next we cannot know”. You can’t really be in the presence of something this extraordinary and not be changed.
I’ve been feeling a deep sadness and I am grateful for those who have engaged my heart and led me to a place of better understanding. There is really nothing for me to “do”.
There is only something to “be”.
One with it all.
I sit for 20 more minutes, this time watching the clouds swirl above the crater. I watch a plume of ash rise from the crisp edges of mountain against the pale blue sky.
There’s a halo.
And a stiff wind against my cheek.
The picture is changing right before my eyes. And suddenly I know what time it is.
Time for a cheeseburger.