A few weeks ago I found myself in the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. High desert country. My hiking legs tend to gravitate towards bodies of water, but I was eager to break out of winter hibernation and trudging through feet of snow in the Cascades wasn’t an option. We drove east optimistically, excited to explore new territory on a sun-kissed weekend.
Shortly into the hike we came to understand why the area received its designated name. Sagebrush and juniper trees for miles, eery stillness except for the occasional airplane passing overhead, dry sand as far as the eye could see. Land not fit for lush growth.
Climbing a giant rock outcrop near our campsite we could see the sun cast its final glow on the Three Sisters. The evening was spent writing and reading via the beam of our headlights. I fell asleep reading Mary Oliver’s Winter Hours, falling in love with her words all over again.
It was a weekend of quiet hiking, story telling and pushing our limits. And left us hobbling out of Bend’s Deschutes Brewery dust covered and sore to the bone. Mission accomplished.
I wanted one last big jaunt before darkness crept in, before days in the office grew longer, and before that good ol’ Oregon rain inevitably graced us with her presence. Banff National Park in Alberta, B.C. was the perfect end to summer. And although we’re in the throes of winter and the new year is just a couple of days away, I’m still reminiscing about the drive through the Canadian Rockies, the golden Aspens, late night skinny dipping in an emerald glacial lake and the best damn hike I’ve been on all year.
The 9 miles out and back on the Plain of Six Glaciers trail was stunning every second of the way. From the beginning of the hike along the shores of Banff’s famous Lake Louise, to the glacial streams running along the trail, to the charming teahouse we stopped at to gobble up soup and sandwiches before making our way up the last mile of the trail, every bit of it was overwhelmingly beautiful and the experience is one I’ll look back fondly upon for years to come.
Being amongst mountains is where I often find myself most contemplative. Whether it’s pushing myself further up the trail, further into the unknown or stopping to quietly examine the ground I’m walking on, or the trees I pass, I always come away with a greater sense of self-awareness and a renewed appreciation for wild places.
Looking forward to backpacking, camping and more day hikes in 2013. Stay tuned for adventures to come.