Being Human (A Travelogue) Part 1

We left for camp in the afternoon, just in time for the rain to come down. Upon arrival we were greeted by two jays cawing and showing off as we set up our tent. The rain mellowed for the time being, but it would return later in a fury. The campfire made it through the worst of it, somehow, and gave us just enough time to cook up a couple of hot dogs before having to spend the rest of the night hiding out in the tent.

On talking about the trip and what we’d hoped for, I said that I only expected the unexpected, and hoped for a little luck. It became a sort of mantra, as the rest of the trip had we not been with this idea we could’ve easily been disappointed and then mired in our miserable nature, lacking an open mind to keep us going to the next unfolding of events.

We had planned a hike early the next morning to climb to the top of Norse Peak, a peak on the Cascade Range, on the east side of Mt. Rainier. A difficult hike that does not see much traffic and is said to give views of the Cascade Volcanic Arc including, Mt. Hood, in Oregon, Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, and even sometimes, Mt. St. Helens on clear days. Our directions however, were not as clear and included a trip down a road that we couldn’t find. After about an hour of searching we decided to give up, unwilling to travel much further from camp. We settled on a spot we had seen on our Amazon fire screensaver, Tipsoo Lake near the crest of the Chinook Pass. We knew it to be a scenic stop but were unsure if there would be a trail or not. So after looking over the area we found a trail head post for the Naches Peak loop trail.

peering over Tipsoo
watching the stillness
travelers mill about

In front of us an older couple of ladies, friends, chatting about the last time they made this hike, behind us an Asian family, who perhaps, like us, weren’t sure what they were getting into, but were willing nonetheless. As we meandered up a rolling hill, which the couple ahead of us had already crested and disappeared, we found a spur, a thin trail with a bit of overgrowth (which always calls our name) so we detoured to try to get lost from the business of the main. We had all day so why not. After just a few hundred feet we arrived at a fork, straight ahead was a downed tree over the path, so we headed down the even thinner path, with even more overgrowth. Only after a few hundred yards the trail came to an abrupt end. Startled by the end and looking only down at my feet I was hit with a shock of disappointment. But in the same moment I looked up and realized the end of the trail was the beginning of an unfettered alpine meadow.

At our feet
butterflies in grass
sipping morning dew

A few steps in to get a better look at the hillside canvas and we noticed dozens of butterflies in the grass. After closer inspection there were probably more, and about four or five different varieties. Lavender butterfly, cream butterfly, orange and black speckled, yellow butterfly, and they were dancing their dance at our feet, they were riding the breeze two hundred feet in the air against the backdrop of noble firs.

where is this dream place
—butterfly valley

A streak of grass had been flattened, perhaps by lucky fellow explorers, to a crag of rocks just up the hillside, so we meandered our way to it, to take out the binoculars and have a snack, to enjoy the breeze and the cool morning calm.

in your eyes
tears
at the inexplicable

who better but us
to be invited into
butterfly meadow

alpine breeze through
noble firs, oh look
a mountain hemlock!

We found a piece of the brittle rock to have been crushed and just underneath ants moving their larvae to safety. We lingered and laughed. We thought to make our way to another outcropping a couple hundred feet further up the hill where we ran into a few piles of scat here and there, suddenly an awareness of our awkward humanness bubbled up and it occurred to me that perhaps that grass had been flattened by another kind of traveler and so we decided that we should leave the pristine place as untouched by humans as we found it and decided to go back the exact way we came. Lucky to have been invited, unsure how many have come before.

clumsy humanness
forbids me to go further,
good luck mountain ants

We walked away with smiles and excitement. The trail was much emptier and before we knew it we came up to HWY 410, with a nice little footbridge overpass. For a while now we have talked about backpacking through the Pacific Crest Trail together. And that all of this hiking and camping could, in fact, be preparation, if we stuck with it, and if conditions are right later on in life. Maybe when I’m retired (which I won’t be), and he needs a break from the family (kids, I tell you, where they get these things…) And so knowing that the PCT is in our backyard we have searched out hikes that connect us with it, which is another reason for planning the Norse Peak hike. So after crossing the bridge we saw the sign that we had least been expecting, but had been so hoping to see.