// things i’m gonna ignore: the fact that milestones usually happen every 100s, me missing what should have been raka’s second milestone at 300 because i do mine every 150 (because i can), and taliyah being ahead by ~30 on what should have been her first milestone. oops.
// but holy chucklenuts you guys. i’ve only been here for like, a month and a half ?? but i already know that coming back to the league rp community, despite all its faults, is the best decision i’ve made to close off 2k16. so here’s a bit of an appreciation to show everyone who’s stuck with me so far, with special mention to a couple of amazing individuals i’ve come to know.
// pretty sure i missed zillions of people i should have tagged, but i’m afraid i’m only human!! if you think you should be on either list but aren’t there, it’s not because i think you’re bad, or don’t like you. i’m just a horribly forgetful person! i swear, i love every single one of you <33
I am paying attention this morning. I am entering the Goat Rocks, which I have been told over and over again is one of the most staggeringly beautiful sections of trail, so I am paying attention. But before I even get to the rocks, before I leave the heavy forest in which I camped, I am rewarded. My footfalls rouse the attentions of four elk–a pair each of bulls and cows–and they crash away through the underbrush, flattening saplings with their bulk.
I wonder if hunters find it difficult to cut elk sign.
Annie Dillard once wrote that “beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” I feel very much the same this morning. For a fleeting second, I got to bear witness to something much older, simpler, and more majestic than myself. That it happened too quickly to catch with my camera is part of what made it so lovely.
Heart steadily filling, I hike on. Every spider in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest seems to have woven its web at face height–this is my lot as an early riser. To break the spiderwebs for every hiker who follows me down this trail.
My right heel is complaining. It’s going to be one of those days, I guess. But one of the crazy things about being out here is how certain views, certain features of landscape, can make everything feel so perfect as to whitewash pain and hunger and exhaustion. To wit:
I come around a bend and meet two hikers, a couple at retirement age, heading south.
“You must be a thru-hiker."
"What gave me away?"
He smiles at that. He is probably too kind to say, "the smell,” or “the salt caked all over your shirt."
"If you’re a thru-hiker, then you’re just the man I was looking for.”
By way of explanation, he drops his pack and rummages around in it, pulling forth a small apple.
“Does this interest you?"
Does it ever. Fresh fruit, heavy and spoil-prone as it is, is a luxury that most hikers by necessity avoid altogether. (Berries being the exception, as they don’t have to be packed–they just appear.)
I wish them well and hike on. Soon after I meet another southbound weekend hiker, of similar age, who stares in disbelief when I tell him I plan to go 28 miles total today, all the way through the Goat Rocks in one go. We chat for a few minutes before we part, and after a few steps up trail he turns back to me.
"Hey,” he says, with a pointed look at my headphones. “Don’t forget to look up once in a while."
I do some mental math and figure that he’s too old to be Ferris Bueller, but I take the advice to heart.
I wend my way up Cispus Pass, a saddle that crosses into Yakama reservation territory. Mount Adams looks stunning behind me, and again I am struck with that reference point phenomenon–I cannot believe I was on the other side of that mountain yesterday. For hours I can see Adams looming behind me, black and white and stern, austere and beautiful. It makes a lovely contrast with the red soil, the greenery, the rainbow of wildflowers that stretch out before me.
I walk the rim of the Cispus Basin and take a break at a waterfall rushing down next to the trail. There’s a sapphire pool at its bottom and a tiny rainbow stretched across it. A fine mist sprays me as I sit, and I cannot think of a better way to beat the heat of a cloudless late summer day.