Thursday, April 8, 2021

Better than Fiction

  

Life long reader here. Convinced that most people who "don't like" to read just haven't found the right book/s for them yet. One of my greatest joys is the art of selecting a specific book for someone. Really, my love language is gifting books. 

I'm a lover of all genres, but of course not all books are made equal. In fiction especially, it's all too common for a book to start strong and captivating then fritter into something less than cohesive or enthralling. A story that loses its grip and becomes a thing I want to rush through in order to get to the end.

Because I HAVE to get to the end. I've always been this way with literature, despite the fact that I've walked away from sooo many false starts and half done's in all other areas of life. It's strange, but I feel indebted to the author somehow. I imagine the tremendous sadness of a novel discarded and forgotten. Pushing through is sometimes rewarded with a twist at the end or a spectacular finish, but not always. 

 

Unlike my reading habits, I want my life to be interesting until the bitter end. I want it to be unusual, wild, free, and captivating in all its bleak and best moments. I can't settle for anything less. This life simply can't be rated a 3/5 on Goodreads. I need the absolute consistent freedom to change my mind and my course at any time- even if all it goes is delay some inevitable destiny.

"Joy is not made to be a crumb."  

-Mary Oliver

Unlike a work of fiction, I don't imagine a grandiose or even succinct ending. Just a finite string of interconnected moments and discoveries, a story that begins and ends in an infinite middle rather than some standardized arc with loose ends tied up in an unrealistic bow. I want my life to read and feel like poetry rather than narrative. 

"Even more than bread we now need poetry, in a time when it seems that it is not needed at all." 

-Leon Staff

 

In this strange and uncomfortable era of COVID I've dived deep into apocalyptic literature. I've always been interested in sci-fi themes, but somehow reading about the end of life as we know it has become comforting in both a comparative and preparatory way. 

A few of my absolute favorites:

Station Eleven by Emily St. Mandel 

Severance by Ling Ma

Everything Matters by Ron L Currie Jr.

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Desert Notebooks: A Roadmap for the End of Time by Ben Ehrenreich


*Photos from Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada*

Friday, April 2, 2021

Fresh Eyes

 

Post vacation blues are real but there's a funny antithesis to them as well- a reacquainting with the norm. When you've been gone awhile and return home, familiar things are ripe with temporary novelty. Your car feels different when you first get in, especially if you've been driving another. Suddenly you appreciate the lighting of your home, how 7am feels different than it did in another place. Your space, and in ways your life, persist without your presence and feel oddly new upon return. 

Yet these feelings are as fleeting as vacation. Somehow we default back to chugging along mostly unconscious of the bounty of "normal." Novelty is so frustratingly fickle and fragile and yet its opposing force of complacency is the silent killer of all good things, somehow managing to conquer our psyches again and again.

We shouldn't need bad things to happen to rattle us into gratitude and exultation for what we have. Finding wonder in our lives without being provoked by physical or existential threat can be oddly difficult. It's a gift to be able to look at our lives and surroundings with fresh eyes. This is so true of our relationships as well. Complacency is often at the root of separation between people who mistakenly think they know all there is to know of one another.

I was lucky enough to relish in that particular feeling of returning home this week after a trip to Nevada to see my Dad. It had been a very long year since our last reunion at the onset of the pandemic. I missed him terribly and really wouldn't have flown for any reason other than to see him. I didn't get nearly enough time with my Dad growing up, but now he's one of my best friends and the person I most love to spend time with outdoors. 

It's especially nourishing for me to spend time with him as my relationship with my Mom remains so incredibly difficult and distant. The strain of the schism between us has not gotten easier. This is an emotional time of year in general as we approach the anniversary of Lauren's death. She is a constant presence in my mind and I grieve the absence of her wit and love fiercely. 

I'm grateful for the forces of nature and community to push the pieces of my heart together so they don't crumble. Thank you, Spring, for the blooms and accompanying hope for newness in a cycle as old as time.

Well, friends. I feel a bit sheepish returning to this blog after such a long absence, but I have many more photos to share from Nevada, and as always thoughts that need processing. See you soon I hope. With fresh eyes.

Sometimes I need

only to stand

where I am 

to be blessed

-Mary Oliver



*All photos from the two days we spent in Valley of Fire State Park. A dream of a place painted with a pastel palette by the Universe itself*








On treasures in plain sight

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Light Touch

We've ushered in a year doomed to feel anti-climatic after the constant besiegement of 2020. The clock struck midnight and many of us found it difficult not to project Cinderella-esque dreams onto a new year and fresh start. That blazing, irrational hope for a lightning strike moment where life ends and begins anew in tandem.

Instead, the Groundhogs Day continues in many ways. Same problems, same joys. Same institutional discord. Same roller coaster ride I can't seem to dismount when it comes to maternal conflict. Money comes in! and so do constant expenses. I make a plan! The plans are hijacked by Covid. Life is life is life. 

I've been thinking a great deal about how to move through the grit without being worn down to a smaller version of who I once was. How the geology of my being is at times beaten brittle and barren by the gusts of external forces and cyclical weathering. 

Many of the challenges and losses we experience leave us feeling robbed of a part of ourselves. As if we begin whole and are slowly stripped down over time. This just doesn't seem right, though. In many ways we are born and exist more as a container, where parts aren't added and subtracted as we trudge forth but instead exist simultaneously, infinitely.

 “To feel the pain of now and not look away. To act not with the hope of moving forward, always forward, but to see the wisdom of stepping sideways." 

-Terry Tempest Williams

While ruminating on staying soft in hard times, I've thought about the wisdom of earthquake proofing in modern architecture. Buildings are retrofitted with shock absorbers and joints are reinforced to tolerate being bent and swayed by cataclysmic disaster. The taller a structure, the more flexible. Perhaps you've seen videos of earthen ground rolling like waves or Tokyo skyscrapers swaying during an earthquake. Thoughtfully constructed buildings are built in preparation for the worst; ready to withstand as much seismic activity as possible. 

What lessons, overly literal or not, can be drawn from this insight? Flexibility seems to be a key ingredient. Standing tall allows for less energy to be spent in prevention of collapse, since the force is dispersed across a larger area. Rolling with and through a threat secures a better outcome than a stiff and unbending defense. This idea seems reinforced by the popular advice that you're better off in a car accident you don't see coming than one you do, since bracing for impact can cause more tension and injury than not. 

I have found great comfort in the adoption of a new mantra in this quote by St. Francis of Assisi: "Wear the world like a loose garment, which touches us in a few places and there lightly.” I encourage you to really think about this line. We often make the subconscious choice to cling to the baggage we carry, or even the weight of the world, as a badge of honor or an excuse. Though we are weathered by the things that happen to us, how we wear and withstand that pain is ultimately a choice. We can experience anger and frustration authentically by sitting with them, but if we hold that heaviness too long in our hearts it becomes embedded in our identity. 

Wear the world like a loose garment, never constricting into a smaller version of your sacred self. Don't hold your breath or squeeze your way into something that doesn't fit. Allow life to hang loosely and delicately rather than acting as a porous sponge, soaking up the water weight of every inconvenient and unfair experience. Aim to embody a light touch rather than a firm grip. Dig into any ease and comfort you find and be there wholly, completely while you can. 

 

Above all, I want to be soft. To grow more supple with time, not hard shelled. I want to flow, not contract; to be spacious rather than constricted. Allowing the sadness of an imperfect world and life to exist more as silk against my skin than wool.

"We're on a planet that somehow knows how to rotate on its axis and follow a defined path while it hurtles through space! Our hearts beat! We can see!...We live in a limitless Universe overflowing with miracles! The fact that we aren't stumbling around in an inconsolable state of sobbing awe is appalling." 

-Jen Sincero

 ***

Photos from a three day adventure to the Oregon Coast just before New Years. I read about the Tahkenitch Dunes trail in Backpacker magazine and had to check it out. An absolutely incomparable trail, both for its peculiar mixture of forest, dunes, and coastline, and for the excitement of spotting black bear tracks in the sand.

Tahkenitch Dunes

From Siuslaw Forest to zero coverage. A balmy 52 degree December day in Oregon

Where the dunes meet the forest

So many Sitka Spruce

Black bears love coastal views


Friday, December 11, 2020

Roads Diverged

 
 
I love when life connects dots of wisdom for you as if directed by a secret source. Deepak calls this 'the organizing ability of pure consciousness.' I think of it in layman's terms as the domino effect. Exposure to one idea or work of art leads to another and yet another; a rabbit hole of interconnected insight and inspiration.

The Optimal Living Daily podcast has been a tremendous source of organizing consciousness for me as of late. It's a short (and I mean short-ten minutes or less) podcast with a new episode every day of the year, and it's become a part of my daily quarantine routine. Recently the host read an excerpt from Adventures in Opting Out by Cait Flanders, which reminded me that my dear friend Hazel had tagged me in a post about the book. I enjoyed the reading, in which she referenced a piece of work by the wildly (get it?) popular author Cheryl Strayed.

Though Cheryl is most famous for her book Wild, she also wrote a popular advice column for years called Dear Sugar. The particular question and answer referenced by Cait in her own book is about the ghosts of our sister lives. You can read that here. A reader writes in with the question "For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to “just know,” how is a person to decide if he or she wants to have a child?"

He goes on to explain all the ways in which he could be happy either way. Already so relatable for those of us who have never felt a strong pull towards parenthood, but could still see ourselves in the family Christmas photo all the same. What Cheryl says in response though, not only about this decision but all decisions, is what really struck me. She acknowledges that none of us really know what we're doing, or how to chose perfectly as roads diverge. There will always be a loss, a grievance of "the other" in every major life decision. There is the thing we choose, and there are the many other possibilities that scatter into the ether once a choice is made.

"There will likely be no clarity, at least at the outset; there will only be the choice you make and the sure knowledge that either one will contain some loss....

I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore." 

-Cheryl Strayed

Oooof. These words, and her answer in its entirety, offer much to think about. Being decisive and sure AND following through with total abandon has never been my defining strength. Decisiveness isn't listed on my resume as a top ten skill in my repertoire. Rather, I've struggled with the choice paradox for years- the idea that too many options can actually manufacture paralysis.

I admit it: I'm in love with the ghost ships of my life. It's hard not to fantasize and imagine what the other roads could have brought, had circumstances or timing been different. But as Cheryl says, those sister lives aren't actually mine. They might have been, but now are not. I have to wonder too, if it's the sister lives I long for, or the always-out-of-reach siren call of certainty itself. As if one of those other choices could have been the one to bless me with the joy of being sure.

Back to Cait, and her book Adventures in Opting Out. Despite its title, it's a not a book about the annual opt out holiday pioneered by REI to replace the rampant consumerism of Black Friday. Instead, she shares stories of the many ways in which she has opted out of standard social norms-be it marriage, home buying, child rearing, or drinking. It's a great, quick read in which she writes "You may not be able to figure out what your values are until you're living out of alignment with them." Some choices won't expose themselves as missteps until we've made them, and that can be awfully hard to accept. If trial and error is the only way you know how to operate, then this elimination diet approach to life is old news. It doesn't mean you always find it easy to contend with the failures and changes and sister lives it entails, though.

Over the past couple weeks I've thought a lot about Cheryl's advice and the threads of similarity across these writings. Also of the many choices and commitments I've struggled with, especially in this difficult year where forward thinking feels more theoretical and unsubstantiated than ever. To passionately pursue something with reckless abandon and no concern of outcome-or escape-has felt at times simply impossible for me (brain: JULIET! What about x, y, z, money $$, rent, failure, blah blah blah).

That's the Catch 22 though: most success (even just satisfaction with a choice) requires irrational, zealous commitment despite the fact that there is zero promise of a desired outcome. We don't get to make choices based on promised derivatives or decisive results. That's exactly why there will always be some loss to the big decisions of our life.

A few days ago the O.L.D podcast hit me with another domino. A blog by T.K. Coleman was shared, where he wrote "What happens to our need for certainty when we begin to question the myths we’ve inherited about all the dragons and demons who will supposedly destroy us if we don’t have the answers? The more I unlearn, the more I begin to suspect the following: We do not need certainty. We need liberation from the unsubstantiated assumption that uncertainty is some kind of threat against which we need to arm ourselves." 

~LIBERATION FROM THE UNSUBSTANTIATED ASSUMPTION THAT UNCERTAINTY IS SOME KIND OF THREAT AGAINST WHICH WE NEED TO ARM OURSELVES.~

Excuse me while I commit this phrase to memory and tattoo it on my brain. Yet another reminder that tracing our anxieties and fears back to our root beliefs and assumptions is incredibly important work. Perhaps all the effort expended in trying to be sure about something (anything) would be better spent finding authentic ways to make peace with uncertainty instead. 

Photo by Alex Burtch


Now that I read these words over they certainly feel like a companion piece to Divinity for the Faithless, where I wrote "Further, what if you miss the train to your destiny by only a moment, or make one wrong turn? How do you make peace with the paths not taken and near misses that feel like failures to launch? The distinction between an intuition to pause and fear holding you back can be hard to discern."

My goals for 2021 are two: to move through choices and relationships with both an abundance of curiosity and a healthy amount of detachment from specific outcomes. Will keep you posted, friends.

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth" 
-Robert Frost
 
 *Photos from recent hikes to Lena Lake and Green Lake at Mt. Rainier*

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Energetic Signature of Fall

I have always adored and anticipated the energetic signature of Fall. How the heat and ferocity of Summer collapse into the pace of Autumn; a word that evokes the primordial Om, as if the drum beat of time slows in September to match my breath drawing in and out.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine Fall is associated with the Lung meridian. Our lungs pull in air and qi from the outside world and distribute them throughout our physical form. The lungs are a major player in the creation of vitality, including our ability to breathe through what happens to us and around us, a superpower that cannot be overestimated during this era. Qi (our life force) enters through the lungs and descends, grounding us both in our bodies and into the Earth. While Summer is external, extroverted, and playful, Autumn is inherently internal, deep, and introspective.

Fall is rich in texture; crunchy leaves, multi dimensional clouds, soft sweaters, warm hues of orange and red. The meander towards Winter's aloof darkness is unequivocally my favorite time to be alive. Larches put on their vibrant last stand, yelling yellow before their needles drop, trees strip bear their foliage, and these transitions-small deaths-are somehow universally beautiful.  

The delicate crispness of the air makes life feel full of potent possibility. Every year I think of the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote: "Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the Fall." There is nothing like hiking in September and October. Climbing up through dense atmospheric layers, wind sometimes howling like a wild animal, adding then subtracting clothes every mile, all while the color wheel of nature changes in front of your eyes.

Even I, in all my anti-establishment persuasions, LOVE an overpriced pumpkin spice (oat milk) latte. I got a little turnt at Trader Joes last week- already one of my favorite places to be- shopping in my flannel and beanie, throwing pumpkin curry simmer sauce and pumpkin spiced cinnamon rolls into my cart. Dia de los muertos skull themed succulent holder? Sure. Yes. Absolutely. 

Even though I haven't dressed up for Halloween since I was 22 and a bar party my crew was attending demanded costumes for entry (me: mad scientist), something about Fall puts me in an amicable and willing mood, softer and sweeter than the rest of the year, ready to play along with the basic traditions that proliferate in cuffing season.

If you live in Washington state, these are my personal favorite Fall hikes:

1. Blue Lake, North Cascades (nearby Maple to Heather Pass Loop is also gorgeous but even more crowded)

 2. Goat Lake, Mountain Loop Highway


3. Lake Valhalla and Mt. McCausland, Central Cascades


4. Naches Peak Loop, Mt. Rainier *Doable for all!*

I've seen incredible trip reports from Lake Ingalls and Yellow Aster Butte for larch marches and color displays. Note: you will not be alone on any of these trails. Everyone wants to bear witness (and take photos for IG). Like I said, universally beautiful!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Ineffable

 

 

Pining for the past is the clearest indication that things are awry in my heart. Yearning for what was, former relationships and intimacies once real but long gone, is an unmistakable sign that I'm caught up in my karmic loop of samsara. That ever-turning wheel of aimless repetition and habituation can hold you hostage for a lifetime if you let it.

It's a funny facade of familiarity, that ache for the devil I know verses the one I don't. In an effort to break free of this deceptive impulse to revisit the past I decided to put myself out there and seek new evils, so to speak. Which in this era of lock down equates to ~internet dating!~ I've fought long and hard against the tide of side swipe-dating, but the plague of quarantine loneliness and the fantasy of having someone to ride out the apocalypse with dissolved my repulsion-for a short while at least :)

Pretty quickly I matched with R, who seemingly checked every box of what I want in a partner. I was instantly impressed. But after more than a week's worth of continual conversation and our first meetup, my instincts were already screaming that despite the obvious positives we weren't a fit. Wanting to do things differently and be less impulsive, I urged myself to stay open to being wrong. I knew by the end of the first full day we spent hanging out-our third meetup- that my heart would never be in it.

The idea of matching with a near-neighbor who happens to be handsome, witty, and attentive is thrilling, and feeds the blood thirsty hunger for modern convenience. It has seemingly worked out well for many in this era of techno-romance. But it was also surprisingly satisfying to realize that even after my longest stretch of solitude, at times haunted by ghosts of the past, my intuition remains as strong as ever. I am no less selective in pursuing my need for soulful connection.

 

I truly believe it's worthwhile to hold out for greatness. It's not just that I'm a romantic at heart. I've experienced the wonder of love at first sight and the synchronicity of running into a lost love connection many moons later who I ended up dating. Butterfly landing on you through an open window type serendipitous. When it comes to matters of the heart, I'm singularly satiated by the miraculous and I welcome its unpredictable apparitions!

Divine connection is utterly ineffable- the "spark"- a confluence of chemistry, soul recognition, and attraction moving in tandem at the speed of light. It inspires heart ripening, love staining joy. Though ineffable can mean taboo, it also means indescribable, nameless, indefinable. And so much of life feels like this at its core: inexplicably grasping for something you can't quite define but that you're sure you will know when you find it...
 
 
Someone can appear great on paper, or screen, or be a cherished friend and confidante. But quite rarely does that connote the ineffable. Logic simply doesn't cut it when it comes to love. And though the act of seeking can produce partnership, I've only found serendipity and surprise capable of delivering.

I don't need placeholders for Big Love. I know there is a(nother) symbiotic and timely connection waiting for me in the universe. I feel it in my gut, that knowing place . Magic exists, is accessible to believers and doubters alike, and is always worth our devotion.
 
 
By no means am I saying that Big Love always equates to a big boom. Often, what burns hot at the beginning flames out quickly. A Big Love can build slowly but surely over time without rushing or demanding. After all, if the divinity of soul recognition is present there should be no chance of missing out if you don't pursue hard enough or fast enough. There will always be an unnameable quality to the connection though; a hint of the supernatural and a fervent sense of familiar intimacy. 

"Love opens the door of ancient recognition." 
-John O'Donohue

I'm not advocating for anyone else to hold out for miracles, or to willingly walk through life alone. It can be excruciatingly tough. We have the right to chose the kind of partnership that is best for us at the time of life we're in. We seek connection to experience healing, whether that be through the necessary confrontation of our individual issues/traumas, or through cultivating an ability to speak our minds and honor our indisputable needs.
 
I didn't get to this point passively, and I have no delusions about prince charming or 'perfection' in human form. I simply know what I've had and what's possible, and I've cultivated an amazing ability to not settle. Aside from those magical experiences, I've also had all the mediocre passion and unrequited love I need in this lifetime. I would wholeheartedly rather be single than settle for less than ineffable. 
 
 

"Remember to slam the door behind you"- This title of a blog I read recently, is excellent advice when it comes to seeking audacious resonance in your relationships (and really, every other aspect of life). Settling can deaden us to the truth that there is wonder and awe worth waiting for. Gracefully bowing out can be even better than slamming- just make sure you close those doors as surely as you do softly. Keeping them cracked will cause a choice paradox which can really fuck with your ability to make definitive decisions. I've been there. 


I don't talk about my love life much on here, mostly because there are always more pertinent matters at hand. Despite my shift in focus over time, and further-despite the ongoing collapse of the western empire and fingers crossed, the police state- I still believe that love is the prima materia, the origin of infinite potential and the greatest of super powers

Pushing through the absurdity of 2020 has given me so much compassion for all my fellow singles out there. I write this with you in mind. Big Love will come and you'll recognize it as a sacred gift bestowed upon your life. It will be of service on your path of ascension towards your highest self. Until then, please cherish and spoil yourself. Never,ever give up on the great for the good.

~*Photos from my solo trip to Iceland because I flew there exactly four years ago today, and it's one of the dopest things I've ever done for myself*~
 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Solo Camping at Takhlakh Lake

Takhlakh Lake is probably my favorite campground in all of Washington. That honor used to belong to Bumping Lake, which is now used for military air drills. File under worst surprise ever when I arrived last Summer to my special place just in time to witness two fighter jets appear and drop mere feet above the lake for target practice, breaking the sound barrier. *Immediate panic attack*

Making it to Takhlakh was much easier this time than the last, as the forest road from Cispus has been (mostly) repaved and Google now lists the correct directions. There's usually only a small, sweet gap between this kind of progress and overcrowding, so I'm ecstatic to have made it this Summer before Takhlakh (inevitably?) goes the way of the Enchantments or even Bumping Lake.

I could pen furious diatribes about the militarization of wild spaces or the harm that geo-tagging and overcrowding have caused outdoor recreation, but we'll table those topics in favor of something positive and light. It's okay to be playful and bright sometimes in the midst of a dark and trying world.

I had such an amazing time solo camping at Takhlakh and I absolutely intend to make this a regular practice. Though I was in a campground rather than some far-flung, empty BLM land, I had plenty of space away from others. The sites here are much larger than most, with ample tree coverage and impressive privacy. Despite my last minute booking, I was able to snag a site at the end of one of two loops, so I only had one neighbor (unless you count the hoards of mischievous chipmunks).

Tent reads
 
A stellar gift from Pops

Takhlakh Lake is nearly unparalleled when it comes to mountain views. The lake and adjacent campground sit at nearly 4,500 feet elevation and less than 8 miles northwest of Mt. Adams. Its proximity to the second highest mountain in the state gives it a very short recreation season, with both late and early snowfall.

The natives knew Adams as Pahto or Klickitat. Depending on the tribal language and spelling, this meant "beyond, high up, very high, standing up, or high sloping mountain." Today, the Eastern side of the mountain is Yakama Nation territory, while the rest sits within the borders of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Lewis and Clark thought that Adams was "perhaps the highest pinnacle in America" when they came across it during their exploration. (Wikipedia) 

The various tribes of the Columbia Plateau and East Cascades have individual creation stories and  legends regarding Mt. Adams and its volcanic neighbors, including Wy'east (Mt. Hood), Loowit (Mt. St. Helens), and Tahoma (Rainier). Some involve love triangles between the mountain ranges. Others offer explanation for the broken, flat top of Pahto. Pahto does indeed have quite the unique summit; the post-eruptive cooling has settled into a flat, mile long snow field that can be walked across fairly easily.

Sunset

Venus at dusk



Watching the sun set and beyond, posted in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Perseid meteor shower, I got to chatting with the only other human who seemed willing to spend hours in the dark. He was also my campsite neighbor, a retired mountaineer who happens to live in Olympia. He told me that he summited Adams 2.75 times in his life- the third attempt was thwarted by an incoming electric storm. He caught wind of the threat when the metal ice axe on his back began emitting a high pitch BUZZZZZ from the immense static electricity.

We passed the time with intermittent bouts of trail talk between comfortable silence. We compared our love for lookout towers and the beatnik writers who inhabited them. Chatting about Kerouac, he asked if I had ever been to Hart's Pass in the North Cascades. It's the highest point in Washington accessible to vehicles, and looks like an absolute heart (hart? ha) attack waiting to happen. He did promise that the campground at the end of the road was one of the most beautiful and remote of his lifetime.

Sunrise
 

On Friday, I spent the morning reading by the fire before heading out to hike one of the only trails in this remote area- Takh Takh meadows and lava flow route. 


High Noon

 

Of all the stratovolcanos of the Cascades, Mt. Adams has produced the second largest amount of eruptive material behind only Mt. Shasta. The trail departs from Takhlakh Lake into a forested area that opens up to a meadow, which was probably impressive earlier in wildflower season. From there the lava flow route emerges, with huge boulders of volcanic rock piled in every direction as well as a handful of lava tubes. Despite being in a rather remote area with only one gravel road nearby, the trail was well developed and maintained. I made my way to the top of a cluster of boulders for a gorgeous 360 degree view of the surrounding peaks. 

On my way back down, I hit the crux of my solo camping journey when I encountered a rattlesnake. The inherent, ancestral recognition of that rattle was unmistakable and I immediately jumped back. Instantly my knees were weak! It was my first time being up-close to one and it was incredibly thrilling. Here in Washington, rattlesnakes are the only native venomous snake we have to worry about.

Aside from the rattlesnake sighting, I also came home with an insane spider bite that swelled massively with broken blood vessels all around. No idea what got me out there, but it won't stop me from setting out on another solo camping adventure. As it is, I see gnarly spiders on a regular basis here in my bungalow in the trees. I do my best to chalk up these fear inducing interactions to spiritual warrior training.

@fungalparty

@fungalparty

Entering the Takh Takh lava flow zone

Ascending the ancient lava rock



Tahoma and Goat Rocks peaks in the distance

Atop the lava flow
 

Amazing & informative podcast episodes on:

VOLANOES!

MOSS!