No amount of preparation or dreaming could have adequately prepared us for what one day on the Pacific Crest Trail revealed. Mother Nature is a quiet, patient, brilliant teacher, and we could all benefit from more time in her presence listening and ingraining her wisdom.
A little nervous and a lot excited, we waved goodbye to my friend's husband at the trailhead, smiled and, pretending we were not thinking of all the wild animals milling around in the same mountains, headed down the trail. We were not more than 400 meters along when presented with an obstacle: grass taller than us and covered in morning dew laid lazily in the fog, completely unwilling to lift a leaf to help us find the trail it covered. The only way forward was to basically swim through it, so we broke out our best breaststroke. Mid-swim, my friend let out a gasp as a deer darted across the trail just before us. And as simple as that, our day hike of the PCT began with us drenched - and smiling.
We had planned the hike for about two months, taking our time agreeing on a distance, picking just the right section of trail, and deciding what was really needed for our backpacks. Being two decades apart in age, and in differing stages of life, we likely had different motivations for wanting to do the hike, as well as concerns about what could go wrong, but it was clear we both were seeking to absorb as much of Nature's good tidings and healing energy as possible. We were two tired grown women, devoted wives, loving mothers, and friends looking for the solace and comfort only a mother's arms can provide - especially if that maternal essence is Mother Nature herself.
With nothing to do but laugh about starting a 40-something degree hike in wet pants plastered to us, we pulled up our bootstraps and kept walking. Lucky for us, eyes are not needed for shivering, so we focused our energies on the view. It was not hard to find. The intricacies of Nature's yin and yang does something to the human spirit that no medication, television show, or drug can even touch.
The cliff to our right leading to a deep valley was only a pause before the massive mountains behind it reestablished their presence. The trees around us changed size, shape, and species effortlessly, all blowing slightly in the breeze and covering the sounds of cars and cares while we plotted increasingly deeper into their protective cover. The dirt trail was occasionally interrupted by fallen boulders from a rockslide that, as we scrambled over and around them, we learned had been converted to homes for marmots that scrambled to their roofs to stare back at our faces in mirrored awe and watch us eventually - reluctantly - turn and move forward.
Every bend of the path and every crest of a hill revealed yet another image come to life that, had we not been experiencing it, we would not have believed was real. One particular hillcrest stopped us both in our tracks, absolutely spellbound. A moment of rare silence between us was broken by a breath sucked in and a whispered, "Wow," in unison.
Before us, a meadow of long side swept grass, dotted with pink, white, yellow, and red wildflowers and an occasional tree standing strong yet gentle, seemed to float in a thin layer of fog, creating a phantasmagorical scene that my friend earnestly described as her exact vision of heaven. Not being religious myself, I still empathize with her feeling, knowing I would never forget this vision and likely return to it many times in my life for comfort and assurance that humans have not yet crushed Nature's spirit.
In the second half of our day, a tree wider than our four arms together could encompass, had fallen across the path, helpless to let us by. Emboldened by the hike thus far, I volunteered to go first, taking a few skips forward and jumping with every confidence that I would land atop the rounded goal. Instead, I splatted into the side of the fallen trunk much like a bug on a windshield. Messily, I clawed and scrambled to the top, taking a moment to brush off some of the dirt and laugh at my misjudgment, understanding the life metaphor Mother Nature had just afforded me.
The final miles were all downhill, as full of beauty and life as they were void of obvious obstacles. The sun had been out for hours by then, the temperature was comfortable, and we were starting to see increasing signs of civilization. No matter how much we slowed down to drag it out, our day journey was coming to an end.
We found on that trail a sense of rejuvenation, peace, and hope for all the worries we carry daily. Mother Nature did what any mother would do for her children who came to her in need; she enveloped us in her arms, shone sun and hope on our faces, and reminded us that we can - and do - make a difference by caring as much as we do about people and feelings instead of "things." And, like any children would do for their mother, we implore you to remember her, experience her, let her love you, and return her love in any way you can.