>Ninety Miles Around Tahoma – Sept 5

August 29, 2010 at 3:08 pm (Uncategorized)

>This is the account of my solo backpack trip around Mt. Rainier Sept 1-12, 1990. I will be posting one journal entry each day.


Summerland meadow – hand-painted BW photograph


September 5. Ryan’s first day of kindergarten.

I walk a mile to the Fryingpan Creek trail and mosey through old growth forest. Neatly shattered cones pockmark the trail, like the Wicked Witch melted and shingled. The fragments are the color of new wood, and I am mystified until I see a heavy cone the size of a small bomb. I believe it to be either Pacific silver fir or grand fir. I pry out a seed and bite it. A sweet, orangey flavor permeates my mouth and trickles down my throat with a turpentine aftertaste. Not a bad breath mint, actually.

After awhile I am in the meadow below Summerland. False hellebore are dead; everywhere in the park they are dying. In spring they are graceful broad-leaved groupings, robed fairies; now they are yellow and full of holes. But for some plants summer still reigns; bees and butterflies attest to that. Pearly everlastings are a bitch in heat to bees. Asters and lupine are drying up; other things have long gone to seed or berry. I like hitting seed vases of avalanche lilies; missiles fly out with aplomb. Lupines rattle like snakes when my ski pole brushes them.

I lunch in a glade before the final switchback to Summerland and notice a doe and fawn resting across the trail. We have a staring contest; she wins.

The camps at Summerland are the best on the Wonderland Trail, and I do not feel compelled to go cross-country. I am, typically, the last in camp. But they leave me the best spot: the most wide-open place, the sunniest, warmest, with the best view of Tahoma. How can I be so consistently lucky?

Here is something new: an experimental solar latrine with canvas walls and a trowel, with instructions for a scoop of peat after each dump. Admirable.

The meadows are wide open here. Little Tahoma, a prominent sub-peak visible from Seattle but not Tacoma, dominates the views. I hike, sans pack, to Panhandle Gap. Gentians abound, purple and yellow monkeyflower decorate streambanks. Higher up it is all moraine stubble, and it is a challenge to find the rock cairns marking the trail. Katydids do a mid-air dance, wings making a pattern of clicks, presumably to find a mate. I walk around the glacier of Meany Crest and the meltpools below it.

The sun is warm and nourishing. I am part of all creation, yet respectful of the forces that turn a wonderland into a fierce battle for survival. I know beyond doubt that I am fortunate. I have the best weather imaginable. I am strong now, feeling my woman power, knowing I can trust what I feel and what I know in that way beyond knowing. I feel it in my whole body, and in my hands. Healing power through my hands. I am healing myself.

I reach the Gap, elevation 6750, and gaze into new country. Mount Adams is partially obscured by clouds, and the panorama is wide open, green, sunny. I read Matthew Fox, about the 21 characteristics of a mystic. “Mysticism takes us into the darkness of pain and doubt,” he writes. “Some allow the darkness to penetrate them and others resist and deny it.” I think of someone I know, whose own “dark night of the soul” put her three times in mental hospitals for suicide attempts. She resisted treatment, failed to embrace the pain, and came out of it unchanged. She did not learn her lessons; she does not love. It is a good lesson for me.

I head back to camp. A herd of mountain goats crosses my path; five babies at least. Before I am back I count 26 goats in all. The moon rises just past sunset, and again I am in the gaze of Tahoma as I sleep.

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