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.
Gorgeous pics, and a moving narrative. Thank you for sharing it.
Thank you so much for reading and writing. It’s a pretty special place.
Such beauty! The wild, your writing, photos and yes, even the cheeseburger.
Thank you so much 💛 These places make me want to spend sunrise to sunset exploring. You know, to really earn that cheeseburger ! Thanks for writing.
This is beautiful. Still a good bit of snow up there! I feel like I keep missing the sun dappled days, either due to potential jury duty (done now!) or child care. I will grab the next available! Thank you for your scouting work; and your lovely words. G
Yes, snow is hit and miss, but these early May days before the crowds are just priceless. I have another adventure planned next week. I think you’ll like this next one too ! Thanks for the kind words. These sacred places are good for the soul.
The power of nature was so evident in this post. Truly an eye opening journey! One which I hope to make some day. The Johnston Observatory was not yet built when I visited the lower parts of that area many years ago. Your art is a special glimpse of the beauty around you. The ‘Time for a cheeseburger’ picture cracked me up!
It is such a beautiful place. The fact that early in the season it seems so remote is a bonus ! Thanks for writing, Keitha. I hope you get there too !
Gorgeous, moving, photos and words. But I did have to laugh out loud at the cheeseburger. 🙂
Thank you for writing. There is actually a story about that cheeseburger (as well as being a personal favorite indulgence). I highly recommend HAND WASH COLD by Karen Maezen Miller. It will all make sense …
Thank you, Bonnie Rae, for your words, images, and for sharing yourself here. That video brought tears to my eyes; I can only imagine what it must’ve been like to be there IRL. What an experience!
When I was in the Peace Corps in 1973, I learned the Samoan language…
there is a word in the Samoan language, malaga, that means voyage or journey….
that is the word that often comes to me when I read your dispatches from the mountains… not merely your topographical adventures, but the breadth and width and of your emotional &/or spiritual treks.
THIS… is your malaga, Bon…*
I love this, Mare ! I also love the idea of “dispatches” and “spiritual treks”. You get me ❤ Thanks for being here.
Thanks so much, Deb. It means a lot to have you along in spirit on every adventure. It was a spectacular morning for sure ♡