Bits & pieces of this season.
The lake is frozen the whole way across on the north shore, deer carefully making their way across in an attempt to find a small pool to drink from. Camp is covered in snow & last week the moon rose so clearly it cast shadows across the shore. I’ve been outside as much as possible, skiing on Big Mtn and Blacktail & hiking around camp. It’s warming up a tiny bit this week, maybe we’ll get above freezing for a few hours.
Thankful for slower days, stillness, the calm of a gray day, the electric joy that comes with the sight of blue sky, sunsets over snowscapes & the clear face of the winter moon.
This autumn has been a whirlwind in the best and worst ways. I have been completely filled up with love through one of the most emotionally difficult months of our country’s recent history. I have had some incredibly encouraging conversations with dear friends and allies this month but still feel gutted by the knowledge that the president elect holds such deep oppressive values. I know we will keep fighting, together, but some days it feels difficult to have hope.
Remember that you are loved, important and worthy, today and always. Practice gratitude & be brave, babes.
If you’re John Muir you want trees to live among.
If you’re Emily, a garden will do.
Try to find the right place for yourself.
If you can’t find it, at least dream of it.
When one is alone and lonely, the body
gladly lingers in the wind or the rain,
or splashes into the cold river, or
pushes through the ice-crusted snow.
Anything that touches.
God, or the gods, are invisible, quite
understandable. But holiness is visible,
Some words will never leave God’s mouth,
no matter how hard you listen.
In all the works of Beethoven, you will
not find a single lie.
All important ideas must include the trees, the mountains, and the rivers.
To understand many things you must reach out
of your own condition.
For how many years did I wander slowly
through the forest. What wonder and
glory I would have missed had I ever been
in a hurry!
Beauty can both shout and whisper, and still
it explains nothing.
The point is, you’re you, and that’s for keeps.
Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way, Mary Oliver
This month has felt at once like a deep exhale and an emotional roller coaster. I am so thankful for all the friends I’ve hugged these past few weeks and for the entirely unique beauty of Montana in autumn but my heart hurts for our country as we navigate this difficult time. It’s worth repeating that our hope has to be in community, rather than on one leader. We must work for local change, be good neighbors & love those around us, as well as being engaged nations citizens. Please, I implore you: vote. Do your research and VOTE- for the president, for local leaders, for the ballot initiatives in your state. What a privilege we have- use it.
Lately I have been grateful for the moody days of autumn,
“Because we have forgotten our kinship with the land,” she continued, “our kinship with each other has become pale. We shy away from accountability and involvement. We choose to be occupied which is quite different from being engaged.” (from Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams)
photos taken at Glacier National Park, mid September
I’ve been back home for a few days, vacationing and visiting friends and my family. It’s been so nice to be away from work for a little while (even if I keep checking my email #guilty).
While the leaves are changing in Montana, the last of the wild flowers are still blooming here. We took a walk on the Antietam National Battlefield the other night and enjoyed the beautiful meadows they maintain there. I’ve walked over Antietam my whole life but never tire of the rolling hills and farm fields; it’s one of my favorite places to go when I’m home.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I will never tire of the first snow. Montana allows me to experience this sweet phenomenon much earlier than most places in America, early September, this year! I drove up to Glacier to do a hike at a lower elevation but had to head up the road to see and feel the first signs of winter all around.
These photos are not taken in black and white, but rather reflect the deeply moody nature of a fog covered mountain after snow. The flakes were tiny but gathering up quickly, the thermometer in my car reading 27* at the highest point in the road I could get to. I love the feeling of snow in the air- there is nothing as pure.
I’d like a solid six weeks of autumn first, but this snow is so sweet.
When I have a day off, I do my very best to wake early and hightail it to the mountains- Glacier, the Jewel, Whitefish Range, where ever seems appealing that day given weather and time. I value these days apart so much, especially when they feel few and far between. I have spent hundreds of hours out in the woods in Montana and have hiked hundreds of miles over these past two years which I consider such a gift of living here. Sometimes I hike with a crew or a partner, and love those hours of conversation or comfortable silence as we push our bodies up and over mountain tops, but sometimes I hike alone- just me, my bear spray & those big mountains.
Gale over at She-Explores recently put out a question to listeners of her podcast- do you enjoy hiking, camping and/or backpacking solo? At what age did you start hiking, camping, and/or backpacking solo? Did it feel natural or did it take you time to get used to it? What are the benefits of taking on solo challenges in the wild? What are the risks?
Today, I started out to hike to Granite Park Chalet after my hopes of hiking Swiftcurrent Lookout this week were dashed by snow. The first snow hit Glacier earlier this week and the peaks are coated in white, fading below treeline to the speckled yellow and red of early autumn. I started out at the Loop, with a light mist falling, cold, but not enough to bother me. I hiked up the switchbacks and watched in wonder as the clouds shifted, catching glimpses of the freshly capped peaks. After about 2 and 1/2 miles a couple stopped me on the trail, sharing that they had run into a bear and 2 cubs, on the trail about 1/4 mile from us. They noted that the bear wasn’t moving and that she wasn’t pleased with their attempts to get her to move on. I nodded, heard them say that there were other people in front of them, and headed forward; often, bears will move on quickly and the trail will clear. Shortly after, 3 other groups of hikers passed me the other way, all noting that the bears were staying put and that they felt it was best to turn around. That, coupled with the increasing snow and the fact that I’ve done this particular hike before, factored into my decision to turn around.
I don’t go to the mountains just to summit peaks or rack up mileage, I go because the woods are the place where I recenter.
The breeze lifting the leaves toward the sky- a warning of weather to come.
The way water makes it’s way through the smallest cracks in the rock- modeling perseverance and patience.
How vibrantly trees give up their leaves in autumn- a brilliant lesson in resiliency.
All of it teaching me, helping me remember what’s important in this life, renewing my spirit after long days of work and humbling me in perspective. Wilderness does not exist for us, but in spite of us. It is an immense gift to be able to experience it, a gift of which I will never tire.
Being alone in the woods doesn’t scare me. I am deeply aware of the inherent risks that come with walking alone through grizzly country or walking a ridge line solo, but I manage them with experience, like today, when turning around when it seemed the best practice. My parents taught me from an early age how to rely on myself, with the proper preparation and awareness of my surroundings. For me, being alone in the woods is empowering and soul centering.
However, I constantly experience secondhand concern about my hiking alone.
“Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Don’t end up like one of those stories you hear on the news…”
“I don’t understand why a pretty girl like you lives in the woods alone.”
& my favorite, slightly threatening comment-
“Does your father know you’re out here alone? What would he think?”
(for the record, my father taught me how to be alone in the woods)
I’ve heard these comments on summits and at trailheads, at my place of work (which also happens to be my home), in the middle of crowded chalets in casual conversation with other hikers. It is almost always men questioning me, while their hiking partners are quiet in the background. I understand that many of these comments are out of genuine concern, but I have never heard anyone question a man hiking alone in the same way. Unfortunately, our society spends a lot of time editing what women can and cannot do, alone or otherwise.
I appreciate the way that hikers and backpackers look out for one another, and I am always, always happy to chat with fellow hikers, but I am careful to question anyone’s motives- each of us has our own story, our own path leading us to this one. Warn me of the bear ahead, ask me how I’m doing, tell me good luck, but please, don’t assume that my solo womanhood is inherently dangerous.
Women can do anything. ANYTHING. This is a truth I have been taught my whole life, from my badass paramedic/ camp director mama, from my incredible, creative camp counselors, from my brilliant professors and supportive friends. I am so grateful to be surrounded by truth telling, compassionate, courageous and loving women and hope so much to inspire others to be the same. We are out there, millions of us, hiking alone and enjoying the woods or city streets or suburban parks. Thank you to all the women who go and have gone alone, for inspiring me.
If you want to be alone in the woods, do your research, understand the risks and get out there, regardless of gender. And if you don’t want to go solo, find a friend! I really encourage other women to try a hike alone, to allow yourself to be immersed in the quiet of the woods, to feel the power of your own body as you traverse across the land, to allow your instincts to keep you safe. I would love to hear other women’s experiences with hiking alone!
There is so much to see in this big world, and I don’t want to miss any of it.
Be brave, y’all; wild is within you.