Discovery

From 365 Tao: Daily Meditations: 

#72 Discovery

Seize the mountain spirits,

Make them divulge their secrets.

Only with strength is there discovery.

The scriptures say the mountains contain the answers. Generations of seekers have gone into the wilderness and have encountered spirits both benevolent and terrible. Though the possibility of great discovery is mixed with the threat of misadventure, we must all go into the mountains to seek these answers. Last Import - 144

We should understand that these mountains represent the unknown aspects of our own minds. Meditation is a process of discovery, of slowly exploring how you function as a human being. Through walking in the vastness of this land, you can resolve the problems of your psyche and seek the treasures buried in your soul. Like actual mountain exploration, this process is not without danger. Failure means falling into insanity and obsession. Success is to find treasures without comparison anywhere in the world.Early morning sun on Mt. Maude showed promise of clearing skies.

People ask, “Is meditation necessary?” If you want to explore the innermost parts of your mind and ascertain who you really are, there is no more ideal method. Mere introspection is not deep enough, and psychological counseling will not necessarily bring you face to face with all parts of yourself. Only the depth and solitude of meditation can help you learn everything. Discoveries are there. We need only enter the mind to find them.cropped-p1030814.jpg-Deng Ming-Dao

Where the Lakes Have No Name

As with any art, once you learn fundamentals then you can fully improvise.

Wilderness travel has been my obsession and practice for nearly 20 years. There’s really nothing that has offered the freedom, reward, and awe as exploring the steep and wild gardens of the alpine. So saturated have I been, at times, that I’ve completed long loops while in REM state; holding unreal maps and reaching places that have left me aching to find upon waking.

One such place that has recurred, I will clumsily describe as a dark blue body of almost oily water surrounded by sheer granite walls. As stark as stark can be. No vegetation, just pre-mordial liquid and stone.

I know of a few alpine lakes that would fit this bill, but they are above 7,000 feet in elevation where trees just don’t grow. But, none have quite matched the feeling.

Last summer, while pouring over maps, I stumbled upon three intriguingly nameless blue ovals all neatly aligned. Wha??? NO NAMES? Isn’t everywhere nowadays labeled, categorized, and charted to the minute and degree? No name, no trail, no trip reports found even on the most intrepid of sites. Hmm…could be just what the doctor ordered!unnamed lakes pic

After printing a more detailed map where cliffs actually show up due to sharp top0 lines, it looked pretty plausible to make it there without event. (Uneventful hikes don’t end up in expensive helicopter rides).

So, with a favorable forecast and a couple of four legged companions, off I went.

There’s a trail to settle into for a while, but soon enough, the route I was to find with each step took off in another direction. Up, through, over and between; reading and responding to the landscape. At times wondering about what was over that next rise, fearing whether this was such a good idea after all…then, I’d come across a “spot” and know there’s nowhere else on the planet I’d rather be. For example –>il36

I ended up on a ridge and was able to spy the lakes for the first time. Glittering jewelry and hydrating sustainance all at once. Only trouble was how to get down to these charms. Following water is SOMETIMES a good idea as it seeks the lowest route. Of course, there are these things called waterfalls. As these places are where stuff naturally likes to fall, I find it best to avoid them. unnamed2

The best routes are forged by game. Deer, sheep, goats, cats, bear, etc. Deer and goat tend to leave the deepest gouges in the surface and so are easiest to track. Animal intelligence/instinct tends to follow the path of least resistance. Saw these on the hike:Unnamed Lakes 7:3-7:4:15 - 10

Finally, after not so much a fall as a controlled-slide-with-sudden-handplant, I made it to the first, largest lake. It was blue of course, but an unusually dark shade of blue. And totally surrounded by light to dark gray rock. No trees. No vegetation whatsoever. And it only sits at 4,000 something something feet. Here’s the kicker, in my mind: there was one sheer wall at the edge of the water toward the outlet. Do, do, do, do, Do, do, do, do.Unnamed Lakes32

unnamed4

Kinda spooky.

The next lower lakes began to show signs of life at the shores as they likely melt out sooner. Still, zero trees throughout this chain of lakes. unnamed1Unnamed Lakes 7:3-7:4:15 - 44

I was not able to completely relax, however, as the loop-hike meant still more explorations in order to connect once again back to the trail. One steep and grassy sidehill proved to be the toughest stretch. Here (on a later trip) Gwen makes it look easy.Unnamed Lakes 7:3-7:4:15 - 61And the warm weather meant snow patches and swims were welcome reliefs for myself and the pups.Unnamed Lakes03All in all, a successful creation. Or, RE-creation. And possibly, a dream-come-true! I hope these beauties remain unnamed for the rest of time.

Never NOT been frozen at Ice Lakes.

Once a year Gwen and I get out for an extended trip. This year it worked out to only be the long weekend over labor day; easily the single most popular weekend for backpackers and campers alike.il1The forecast was for showers the first day, some wind, 40 degree nights, and clearing by the third day. Not bad really if you have moderate protection and breaks in the storms. Continue reading

Truly a “mountain” bike…at Cutthroat Pass

I learned to ride singletrack on the sweeping bluffs of NE Iowa. While the network of trails around Decorah, IA were varied, fast, and full of solitude, they rarely offered views thanks to a dense deciduous cover. And until now, foothills in this mountainous West have been where my 2001 mtn bike has primarily traveled. P1070803P1070797

For the past 7 weeks, Ive been interning at a Physical Therapy clinic where panoramic views of the Cascades and poster-size maps of nearby mtn bike trails hang on treatment room walls. My kind of place! The therapists spend their downtime reliving their last adventure or scheming their next one via Google Maps.  Continue reading

“ReWilding” on Hannegan Peak

Having just listened to a couple of interviews of Daniel Vitalis about how to bring some wildness back into our overly domesticated lives, I was primed for a little adventure. In the mountains, that generally means either going someplace new, someplace old in a different season, or choosing a new route to an old destination.

I formulated the latter yesterday and in transcending the healthy discomfort of the unknown, was handsomely rewarded with WILDlife, world-class views, and the type of satisfaction one only finds from DIY (Do It Yourself)!P1020949Goats at left snowfield: Continue reading

Flatlanders in the mountains

This weekend we have family visiting from Iowa who obligingly packed their hiking boots…P1020548Iowa is known more for its depth than its height. Historically, there have been several feet of dark loamy topsoil covering much of the state. Unfortunately, this important resource is dwindling frighteningly fast through our subsidizing of the Big Ag juggernaut with its GPS-driven monster tractors and petroleum-fueled pharming practices.  Continue reading

Ptarmigan Ridge; impromptu reconnaissance

A crystal clear blue sky presented itself yesterday, begging a vantage from some high point. Forgoing my original plan of an easy lakeside stroll, I headed up to the nearest and highest trailhead around – Artist’s Point. This remarkable spot is typically plowed open by early summer, though some years it remains completely buried. P1020496For many folks, this is a destination in and of itself and understandably so. You clearly don’t have to go far to enjoy spectacular views. Summer sledding on consolidated sun-cupped snow is just not my thing, however. Perhaps it is an inherent lack of cushioning to my tailbone. Continue reading

Twisp, WA; home of the Lorax?

I’ve always thought the town of Twisp, WA sounded like it belongs inside a Dr. Seuss book. And truly, the idyllic mountain town always seems like a fantasy-land whenever I visit. Having spent very little time there, my distant vantage probably polishes the tangible charm to a spectacularly bright sheen. panoThe Methow valley is sun drenched, yet green, thanks to its proximity to the Cascade Crest (where: West = wet & East = dry) and a steady supply of snow melt from the high peaks. Surely this area has ranked atop lists of best places to retire for eons. I love to head East from our spongey density to this more sparsely forested landscape. Continue reading