‘It’s North of Steven’s pass and South of Glacier peak, it has to be fun!’, my parents cajoled. Both places sounded cold, at the moment I was warm. I didn’t want to go. My sister and I schemed like a pair of old warlocks, we planned all sorts of ways to waylay or avoid our impending doom. Our parents were immovable. It was the middle of a perfectly lovely summer in Seattle, and they wanted to ruin it with a backpack.
Fast forward twenty four hours, we are sitting in a parking lot. This lot is not like those of the city. It is surrounded by ferns and trees and the pavement itself isn’t even pavement but gravelly dirt. Our backs have been loaded with some three hundred pounds of apparel, supposedly to be ready for any situation involving being lost and bears. Moral is low. We don’t want to go. The hike begins and the sweat starts dripping. Over little streams and muddy glades we trudge. At some point there is a climb. The sun begins to wane and the search for camp begins. Bedraggled, we limp into a site around 8:40, set up tents, brew some dried stew and surrender to hard ground and soft sleeping bags.
I blink, stir awake, and glance around. The tent holds a slight light glow and the air is crisp. My father stirs softly but remains asleep. Opening the zipper, I am greeted not by the overcast and gray of the previous day but by a vivid blue sky. It is absolutely quiet save for scattered few birds and the crunch of my feet in the dirt. Camped in a high pass and surrounded by vanishing slopes, I suddenly realize there is a view. Out there alone in the morning it occurs that all those piles of naturalists might not be crazy. The vista stretches for miles. The clouds which had obscured the previous day’s sight can be seen sitting below in the next valley like a sea of cotton. I sit on a grassy hill and soak in the trees, mountains, and air like a sponge.
My family groaned to life after another hour and the breakfast ritual began. Everyone was more or less quiet as we unzipped bags and ate old oatmeal. As the sun rose and brought a buzzing warmth to our chilled limbs, something happened. We started smiling. No one really said anything, but little by little the tired and frustrated frowns of the night before curled away. We spent the rest of the day strolling packless over miles and miles of perfect, undisturbed wilderness. That afternoon I felt like Armstrong glimpsing the whole earth for the first time. Taking digital photos until my thumbs grew sore and the screen flashed ‘memory full,’ I drank up the scenery. Two more days of rediscovering nature followed.
On the Sunday of our exit I was genuinely sad to pick up camp and head back to the warm, comfortable city. During one weekend in the wild I learned to understand beauty. It was worth all the planning and packing in the world.
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