Writing this blog, I realize what a geological snob I am. I have lived in Minnesota for over 40 years (including my first year of life) and yet it still seems too flat to me. I know rolling terrain exists, that hills and ravines are scattered throughout the state. The thousands of lakes and tens of thousands of pond add wondrous geography to our map. Still I yearn for mountains and the wonder they ignite in my soul.
I had seen Mt. Adams in southern Washington from a distance, but had never hiked near it. Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, and Mt. St. Helens tend to get the trail guide publicity. However being 12, 281 feet high, it is the second highest peak in the state. The Pacific Crest Trail approaches Mt. Adams from the southwest and then skirts around the peak at about the 6000 foot level, right along timberline. Unlike my hike around Glacier Peak the year before (where I had to climb up and over several ridges) the trail remain at a fairly steady elevation.
The one disappointment was the big burn area that I hiked through for more than six miles. A forest fire two years ago destroyed several square miles of forest. Intellectually I understand that such fires are necessary for the long-term health of the ecosystem. Still I felt grief and lost that the beautiful subalpine forest (which takes decades to re-grow) would not be replenished in my life-time. The good news was that new green life was already taking a foothold on the landscape.
On my third night I camped near Sheep Lake.
As the sun slowly sank behind some clouds, the alpine glow on Mt. Adams held me transfixed. Even as the temperature dropped, I soaked in the splendor. As the glow faded, I watched the stars come out.
The next morning I packed up and continued around the peak. Mid-morning I moved off the trail and up a small hill where I could dry my tent, wet from the morning frost. As I meditated on the beauty around me, I watched two hikers pass by. One looked to a long-distant hiker with his long beard, skinny pack and frame. He asked his companion, “Do you know the name of this mountain here?” I was shocked that he could hike hundreds of miles and not know the name of most prominent feature for dozens of miles. Not that the name is critical for appreciation of beauty. Still some through-hikers seemed so obsessed with their daily mileage goals, that they were oblivious to the wonder around them.
Later that morning, after crossing Killen Creek, the PCT took a turn to the norht and I started back down into the forest. It was a bittersweet moment as I left the beauty of the high alpine meadows. There are trails that circumnavigates Mt. Adams and I may be adding them to my future hikes. Even though it is not the highest mountain in Washington, it is still one of the most magical.
Where have you experienced wonder?
Lord Jesus, thank you for the capacity for wonder and awe.