“To believe yourself brave is to be brave; it is the only essential thing.” – Mark Twain, Joan of Arc
Sometimes, I feel the undying urge to stoically 1000-yard stare into the distance. I’ve learned that this is a sign to go into The Wilderness.
Because if you don’t stare awestruck at nature, you end up staring at the back of your skull—into the abyss and whatnot.
Insane, misguided wilderness adventures are sort of my specialty. I excel in: Late starts. Night hiking. Specious navigational skills. Getting way, way lost. Strange encounters with wild animals. Going solo everywhere because…I fucking can…and my plan is…very last minute.
This September, the 1000-yard stare urge was breathing down my neck, and so was the end of backpacking season. The where did your summer go again?#$%! I took off every Friday that month, and sojourned alone into the wilderness every long weekend.
Did I completely nail every single one of the idiotic things I excel at? I’m a perfectionist, I guess. Always crossing off those lists. I hiked miles of brutal switchbacks in the dark. I got completely mixed up, directionally. So late in the season, I was actually entirely alone, some places.
In the Seven Devils, after ascending 2,000 brutal, tedious feet, repeating to my Capricorn self as a mantra to just…keep…going: “I am a goat. I am a goat. I am a goat.” I turned the corner to encounter a family of three majestic mountain goats on the trail. Just steps away. *Surprised Pikachu faces* The dad—one horn broken off so that he looked like a unicorn—dashed off (typical male). The mom looked at me with those coal black side eyes—and walked right up to me. I could have reached out to touch her shockingly white, gauzy fur. She looked so magical. A figment from a meditation image I had earlier this year of my spirit animal. “I am a goat,” I whispered to her, holding my breath as she breathed me in, her nostrils flaring. Nodding in anthropomorphized approval, she turned to walk down the trail, the thin black line of her lips turned up like a wry smile. Now, I stood between her and her little tiny baby goat. (Holy $%#!?) Braving up, the baby goat repeated the actions of his mother, toddling over to me, but startling and running quickly to his mom when I softly stated: “I am a goat.”
Then there was the last trip on a weekend forecasting rain statewide. I combed over maps that entire week looking for the least weather-affected place. I landed in The Pioneers, at the second highest lake in Idaho. Goat Lake. The first few days were perfection. Then, on my final night, the only person around for miles, just minutes after this picture was taken, the wind blew in. And never stopped. This wind was a terrifying wind, issuing forth sounds to make your blood run cold. The rush and moans and wails of g-forces gathering all through the cliffs around you—gearing up to rain its fury down. The anticipation of doom in the sound was the most blood-curdling part. Even worse than my tent blown flat into my face the entire night, the stakes barely holding on. I‘ve slogged through a lot of self-inflicted shockingly stupid in my life, so I can usually say, “I’ve been through worse,” when really going through it. So when I couldn’t say that this time, I was truly alarmed. It was real test of mind, and meditation, to keep myself calm, to focus on what mattered, to eventually fall to sleep that night. Then to wake up in three inches of snow. Wondering if I could even see the trail. Wondering how I would make it back home.
unlabeled vintage gold accordion lampshade shirt, ? (I got this a very long time ago; it’s seen some wild times) | black Helly Hansen thermal leggings – gift from parents | cream & black polkadot silk scarf (a backpacking essential IMHO) – $1.99, Idaho Youth Ranch | Maasai red, white & blue beaded bracelet – $2000 Kenyan shillings (about $20)
Cheep it into the wild.