Back in April, I had BIG plans to go back home to the Mojave Desert and see the places I didn’t see back when I lived there. Mojave National Preserve. Sand to Snow National Monument. Desert Trails National Monument. I wanted to spend a day drinking beer by the pool, hallucinating at a Palm Springs hotel, and seeing DESERT ORACLE live by a campfire.
During this time, when my trip was coming up, COVID-19 was swirling around the globe. Life was confusing. The news was off-putting. Airports are dangerous. It’s safe to fly. The National Parks may close down. There are no hotels open. Everything was uncertain. Rather than fly out there, rent a car, and find out I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, I canceled my flight and laid in bed with a broken heart.
Last year, I signed up for a permit to hike the Wonderland Trail at Mt. Rainier. I was fortunate enough to win a permit, but the permits were for the end of June. After a little more research, I realized that (1) the entire place is covered in snow; (2) the road to the starting the trailhead would be closed; and (3) I have no idea how to navigate in the snow. I canceled that as well, went to the Grand Tetons, hiked the Teton Crest Trail, a place that’s heaven if there are mosquitoes in heaven, and day hiked around Yellowstone.
With extra vacation time—Henry David Thoreau was right about how the broke person leaving now will get there first—I put in for Wonderland Trail permits again, this time for later in the summer. Two weeks later, I was rewarded with exactly what I wanted. Nine days. Ninety miles. The middle of August. Two weeks off from working for The Man.
I went to work. I started running every other day. Pushing heavy things with my legs at the local rec center. Splitting myself open, dripping all over everything, and pumping the derangement from isolation out of me.
A month ago, I got back from Washington and turned those plans I had in front of the computer into reality. I landed and drove out to Mt. Rainier to cache my food. I then drove back across Seattle to the Olympic peninsula. There, I walked along the coast, timed the tides, slept with an entire coastline to myself, crawled over barbaric rocks, stared out into feudal castles of land, and napped on the beach without sunscreen.
Afterwards, I spent a night at a Ramada in Seattle and waited for my shuttle to drive me out to the trailhead. Then it was nine days of walking. I woke up every day with nothing to do but walk fifteen miles and make my way around that giant, stupid mountain. On this walk, I had six sublime days and three beautiful days. It was remarkable to see that member of that Northwest chain of volcanoes from every vantage point possible. Bristling fields of wildflowers, granite blocks laying in short tundra grass, bowls of land cut by ancient receding glaciers, alpine lakes reflecting rock and sky, fast moving rivers gray with glacial silt, finding quiet in those deep, dark forests and bathing in slats of bronze light seeping through sun seeking branches, sleeping twelve hours a day, reading book after book after book, and affirming that back country camping is my favorite thing in the world after nine days of doing exactly that.
I’ve now been home for two weeks. I can’t sleep indoors. The sheets are suffocating. The computer is infuriating. Sucking down caffeine and immediately going back to living my post-modern ways, I guess this is the good life I signed up for, even though I miss the moon, birds, bears, flowers, mountains, and the screaming water.
Anyways, that’s all I got for tonight. This is your space to talk about anything and everything: how much you hate the Texas Rangers, the Stanley Cup Playoffs, whether the Rockets will blow it against the Thunder, how hot
CHAD Kahale Warring is, what the Texans will do in 2020, or your favorite movie from the 1970s.
Enjoy your Saturday night, everyone.