“He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below
He saw everything as far as you can see” – John Denver

It is rare, in my life lately, to have a vacation or break away.  There have been a lot of curve balls in the past year.  I started saving some cash little by little last fall so I could take Sr. Management (my wife) on a great anniversary trip (something we haven’t been able to do for years) high in the mountains.  That trip, was this past weekend.

We got to spend time in the woods just the two of us.  The wind in the trees sounded like constant soft ocean waves and the smell of pine and summer mountain flowers was cathartic to be sure.  We also ate some really great food with eggs, potatoes, and…bacon.  Hard to beat a trip like that right!?

We traveled to Winthrop, WA for this trip.  Winthrop is a strange western motif tourist town and aside from the coffee, we didn’t spend much time there.  Instead we sought the adventure of some great hiking.  Since our young kids weren’t with us, we chose a hard hike to complete.  Their little legs have to travel many times more than ours and that can hinder a longer hike -if you have young children you know what this experience is like.  So without them we decided to hike Goat’s peak.

Goat’s peak is about 7,000 feet high in the Cascade mountains.  It usually has snow on it but for a few weeks in the summer.  It is also a pretty short and steep climb of 2600 feet (from where we parked and started hiking) in about 2.5 miles to the summit.  It was great.  I love mountain flowers and rocks and this hike had it all.  Rocks with fossils in them, tons of mountain flowers, and great views of the many valleys around the mountain nearly the entire hike.  The challenge of the hike excited me and I felt good (although a bit winded from 6000 feet and upward).  To even reach the false summit was rewarding.  The views got even more spectacular.  The wind was blowing strong, we were above the vegetation line, it was 20 degrees cooler than the valley and came with a great sense of accomplishment.  And that was just the false summit.

We hiked down the saddle between the false summit and the actual summit, found a log to sit on, and ate our lunches.  I also got bit by fire ants.  Then we loaded up our things and made the steep but short final push for the top.  At the top, there is an abandoned fire lookout that has a 360 degree view that goes for hundreds of miles.  I can only imagine what the lookouts would see there at night in the sky.  It must be breath taking.

We explored a bit, talked a bit, and thought a bit.  This is why I like camping, mountains, and nature. Standing on a mountain puts things in perspective.  The irritating relative who is mocking or critical over something really dumb but it still gets to you.  Or they think are more successful and use that as an excuse to behave poorly!  ha ha.   The friend who cares more about money than their family or other relationships, all of the thousand things that it takes to run a business, all of the limits and expectations that we put on ourselves are put into perspective when standing on a mountain peak.  Yes, those things all need to be managed and dealt with but they are such small problems and the drama surrounding them is usually disproportionately big.  It’s simple really.  What really matters is clearer on a mountain peak.  All of life’s problems are “down there” somewhere below your feet on that mountain peak.  They are easier to examine and dissect from that distance.  It is easier to pave your own path through life from that place.  It may follow what society expects of the average person (work a 9am – 5pm, spawn 2.5 children, have a 401k) or it could be living in a sprinter van full time traveling from place to place and having plenty to live on with a few thousand dollars a month of internet based income.  Whatever it is, it is clearer on the mountain peak.

As the sun set, we decided to depart.  The trail has some sketchy sliding rock areas and we wanted to be below them before it was dark.  That night, we sat in the woods again and talked, listened to the wind in the trees, and drank ginger ale.  A good day with new and renewed mountain-top perspective.

Scientists in the 1800s discovered something interesting when a city put in parks.  They found that productivity at work increased, happiness increased, relationship issues decreased, and generally people reviewed their government in a better light.  Could it be that bathing in nature can help us in more than physical ways?  It certainly is the case.

My goal for you this week, dear reader.  Go outside and soak it up for a while.  It could be sitting in a park, walking, running, hiking, fishing, tramping, or however you do it.  It will do you good.  Don’t be afraid to face your thoughts, problems, and situation.  They must be dealt with.  However, going outside may help you solve problems, love difficult people, and generally feel better about life.  This is my goal for you.

Here are more reasons I like camping:  http://www.overlandtrailer.com/why-camping-inspires-me/

Until next time!

Mark

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