Tag Archives: Olympic National Park

Hooked on Backpacking

The destination we missed

My dad was leading our family on a short one mile nature hike to Marymere Falls in Olympic National Park. The trail was near my childhood home of Port Angeles, Washington.   I was about seven years old and enjoyed racing ahead of my younger siblings.   I sometimes hid along the trail in an attempt to scare them.   It is no wonder therefore that in the confusion of children running up and down the trail, we missed a critical trail junction and plunged deeper into the forest of Barnes Creek.

We probably went an extra mile or so with no sign of Marymere Falls.  As a child I thought we were deep in the jungle, all alone.   Then around a corner came three individuals, carrying large bundles on their backs.   They told my dad that he had missed the junction and that we should probably turn around.   “The trail gets pretty rugged up ahead.”   In a moment, the three were gone.

A more recent backpacker

But their memory stayed with me.   I asked my dad what they were doing.  “Oh they were backpacking.  Did you see those large packs?   They carried all their own food and tents to stay in the mountains.”   Wow, I thought.   To camp out in the woods, far from roads and car campgrounds –that is a real adventure!

Ever since that hike, I wanted to go on a backpacking trip in the mountains.   Then in the spring of 1969, a high school  friend invited me on a trip to Lena Lake in the Olympics over Memorial Day week-end.  I immediately said yes.   Even though it rained the entire two mile hike to Lena and I was soaked to the bone, even though I had a borrowed pack that did not fit me, and even though I made a fool of myself trying to light a fire, I fell in love with backpacking.  I experienced a sense of place and belonging.   I was hooked.

Over the decades I have completed scores of overnight backpacks, each unique and rewarding.  Last year I blogged about completing a section of the Pacific Crest Trail in northern Washington state.   Tomorrow, I start another hike along a section in southern Washington.

Mt. Adams and Goat Rocks Wilderness are part of the trail this year.

Backpacking has become a kind of spiritual refuge for me, a time and method to be centered in God’s grace and love.  I am reminded of one on my favorite prayers from the Lutheran Book of Worship:

Lord God, you have called your servants
to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with good courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that your hand is leading us
and your love supporting us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I will be carrying good maps (and an extra pair of glasses – see here) so I don’t expect to become lost.  But if I do, I am confident that God will provide me with three strangers to guide and inspire me, just like he did years ago on the trail beyond Marymere Falls.

Where do you find your spiritual refuge?

Lord Jesus, guide us.

River Makes Glad

Water has such a fascination with many of us, especially waterfalls. I have hiked to many spectacular waterfalls in my life; one of my favorites is the Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park. It is not particularly large or high, but its setting in a dark green rain forest is impressive.

One of the reasons I admire it is that I have hiked various portions of the river. I have been up on the High Divide where the Sol Duc River starts as a large snow field on the divide between the Sol Duc and Hoh Rivers. Mt. Olympus dominates the horizon.

As a long child, I camped with my family near the river as it meandered through a large forested valley. The rocks and surrounding trees were mesmerizing.  I sat by the river for hours, watching the rocks turn and the tree branches swept downstream.

I have also camped near La Push, WA, where the Sol Duc River joins the Bogacheil River to form the Quillayute River, shortly before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. Huge drift wood logs are stacked along the beach, gifts of the river from the surrounding forest. The Sol Duc is less than 100 miles in length, but it has its own vital story that I continue to learn.

My fascination with the Sol Duc River reminds me of how wonderful it is to be a part of a congregation as its pastor. There are twists and turn, highs and lows, unique paths to every congregation. There are some occasional waterfalls, but mostly the ongoing flow of life. I am so thankful to be a part of Resurrection Lutheran Church as it flows with God’s Spirit.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. Psalm 46:4

Lord Jesus, let me flow with you among the people of God.

Ocean Hike

Ruby Beach

As a teenager I backpacked two portions of the wilderness beaches along the Pacific Ocean.   The beaches were part of the Olympic National Park in Washington state and were the only trails open during the winter season (the high mountain passes were snow-covered).

I use the word “trail” loosely, because most of the route was the beach itself. Hikers simply kept the ocean on  their right or left, depending on whether they were going north or south.  Campsites could be found on the beach itself or inside the neighboring forest.  There were no roads or towns, just forest, ocean and beach.

However beach hiking had its tricky sections.   Steep, rocky headlands would jut out into the ocean.  Theses headland had little or no beach so a hiker had a choice.   Wait for low tide and race around the headland or find a trail that led up and over the headland to the open beach beyond.   I carried a tide table with me when I hiked, so I could know when the low tide would be and plan accordingly.   If I arrived at a headland too early or too late, I had to wait or try to find the bypass trail.  (Sort of like trying to find a portage trail in the BWCA.) 

I often think our spiritual walk with Jesus is like hiking on the beach. There can be long sections were the path is very clear and beautiful, yet wild at the same time.  We simply need to remember to keep the ocean (Jesus) on our left or right.  But then we come to some rocky headland, some struggle or challenge, that blocks the path.   We learn to either stop and look at the tide table, (a sort of prayer time) waiting for the tide to recede.  Or we take our chances in finding the wilderness trail (never easy) that leads up and over.    We may even loses sight of the ocean (Jesus), for a time.    Yet the sound of crashing waves and smell of salt air reminds us that Jesus is close by.

What images of walking with Jesus do you carry in your life?