Thursday, March 31, 2011

Point Reyes National Seashore, Palomarin Backpack Loop

point reyes ocean lakes

Our first day in the south of Point Reyes was all climbing and hiking through thick forest on Bolinas Ridge. On the second we took in the sun on the open coastal trails and an unseasonably warm winter afternoon. We followed the Coast Trail through wildcat camp to Alamere Falls and past the many Ocean Lakes dotting the area finally arriving where we began.

Summary


Difficulty - Moderate
Length - 17.5mi
Crowds - Busy
Fees - Free
Best Season(s) - Summer, Spring, Winter, Fall
Get Directions

Day 2:

Alamere Falls & The Ocean Lakes

Jump to Day 1: Bolinas Ridge to Glen Camp

An obnoxious group near us kept me awake until 1am, somehow beylah managed to sleep through their yelling in the middle of the night but I awoke the next day groggy. Fortunately I had decided to experiment by dragging my heavy moka pot up the trail so I could have fresh espresso in the morning. (Side Note: At 3lbs for the stove top espresso maker, the decision was a good one. I probably couldn't afford the weight on a multi-day sierra trek but for a moderate trip in Point Reyes the weight was well worth it.)

forget-me-not
Frost on early blooming Forget-me-Nots.

backpacking
Beylah hiking down the trail first thing in the morning.

After coffee and breakfast we headed out with the morning fog still lifting. We hiked towards Wildcat Camp, another backpack camp along the coast. The trail did a short climb back up to the trail junction then continuing through the thick forest it slowly started crawling down the ridge. The rising morning sun lit the backs of the trees as it climbed its way up to its afternoon position giving the whole forest a golden glow.

The trail opened up and subsequently began to descend rapidly as we approached Wildcat camp. Through the fog we could see down into the bottom of the basin where the camp was, located in a small field.

Point Reyes Pines
Morning light filtering through the pines.

Wildcat Camp
Wildcat camp and ocean breakers through the fog.

Forest Canopy
Old Mans Beard draped off branches blowing in the fog.

By the time the trail finally leveled off in the camp our toes were thoroughly jammed into the front of our boots. We dumped our packs at the edge of the beach in a shady spot near the creek that ran through camp.

Wildcat Beach
Seagull flying over breakers on Wildcat Beach.

We lightly walked across the beach hiking roughly a mile up to Alamere Falls through the sand. The falls can also be reached from the top via the coast trail but we wanted to see it from the bottom where the water splashes down into the sand. Several groups hiked past us as we worked our way up the beach but by the time we reached the falls we had it just about to ourselves. With a massive group coming up behind us though (probably 50 people) we cleared out after snapping a few photos and enjoying the scenery for only about 10 minutes.

alamere falls and creek
Alamere Falls

alamere falls


wildcat beach
Beylah holding up a heart shaped rock.

Hiking through the sand took its toll on us. The sun was glaring down on us as well and we were overheating in our thermal base layers on the 70 degree January afternoon. We wolfed down a package of smoked salmon (which was delicious!) and a bag of trail mix while guzzling water.

After the exhausting Alamere detour we shoulded our packs and started up the coast trail. The trail climbed up a small hill and we forked off onto the Ocean Lakes trail gaining a few hundred feet to a small overlook which offered the best view we’ve found in Point Reyes. We relaxed for a few minutes before snaking our way down the hill again. We passed the first lake crawling over the ungulating terrain.

ocean lakes trail overlook
The view up the coast from the Ocean Lakes Trail overlook.

Mile after mile passed as we worked our way up the coast. We passed lake after lake and although they were all very interesting the tall grasses around most of them blocked any great views from the bank.

I was hiking faster than Beylah and was 20 seconds or so ahead of her when a Coyote suddenly popped out of the bushes about 20 feet from where I was paused. Both of us stopped dead in our tracks. We made eye contact for a second or two as we both processed the situation then before I had formulated my response he took off up the trail. Bey turned the corner a few seconds later once the trail was clear.

We kept moving on over the basically level terrain as we approached the last junction passing several small more small lakes. These last few, although the smallest were my favorites. Perhaps it was the afternoon light and the long shadows but the last lake in particular had an enchanting quality to it. We sat for a few minutes, resting our now pretty weary legs and basking sun.

Ocean Lakes
Twin Pines near the last of the lakes.

Ocean lakes 2
Beylah waiting patiently by the last lake while I take photos.

We continued on down the last leg of the hike, back over the terrain we began the hike on the previous day. We stopped to enjoy some of the first wildflowers of the season, the occasional poppy and iris dotted the trail.

palomarin
Looking back over the landscape on the final mile of trail.

Finally we cruised through the eucalyptus grove and heard the honk of a car horn in the parking lot. It was a relief to get off the now crowded trail and back to the car. Beylah lead us as we stretched after the hike loosning up our calves, shoulders, and sore backs. A couple hours later and we were back home, refreshed and excited for the work week ahead.

Jump to Day 1: Bolinas Ridge to Glen Camp

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Point Reyes National Seashore, Palomarin Backpack Loop

point reyes ocean lakes

Point Reyes has many faces; the wind swept Tomales Point, the foggy forests of Mt. Wittenburg, and the steep rock and strata around Arch Rock, even the rolling hills of the Olema Valley. It’s hard to say which is best, but in the discussion will always be the rugged south mountains and lakes between Wildcat Camp and Palomarin. The low, dry brush (even in the winter) in this Mediterranean landscape exposes awesome views of the coastline.


Summary


Difficulty - Moderate
Length - 17.5mi
Crowds - Busy
Fees - Free
Best Season(s) - Summer, Spring, Winter, Fall
Get Directions

Day 1:

Bolinas Ridge to Glen Camp

Jump to Day 2: Alamere Falls & The Ocean Lakes

We got a late start to the day after a breakfast of eggs and toast we loaded up the car and headed out to the Bear Valley Visitors Center to collect our permits. We encountered the usual SF traffic on 19th Ave and had to detour for gas in Point Reyes Station delaying us further. By the time we picked up our permit at Bear Valley and drove down the dirt road to the Palomarin trail head it was nearly 1pm.

After unloading the car we quickly shouldered our packs and we were off up the trail through some impressive eucalyptus groves. The trail weaved in and out of some drainage gullys before arriving at Abalone Point about a mile down the trail where we first made adjustments to our packs and surveyed the landscape while reviewing the map and deciding our course for the day.

douglas iris
A Douglas Iris blooming in February on the Coast Trail.

After slowly making our way up small rocky rise in the trail the we made a right on the Lake Ranch Trail and began rapidly climbing Bolinas Ridge. The first half mile was open and exposed and on a remarkably warm winter afternoon we worked up a little sweat until the trail ducked under the trees and we had a chance to cool off. I watched the altimeter on my watch go up and up until it had indicated we had climbed almost 1000ft at which point we finally felt the trail kick back at the top of the ridge and start to swing left.

Pond
Small Pond off the Lake Ranch Trail.

Once the majority of the climbing was out of the way we picked up our pace and powered our way along the ridge stopping periodically for water breaks and photos at small ponds and marshes and to capture the beautiful light pouring in through the trees. Just past the half-way point we switched trails and picked up the Ridge Trail.

Forest Canopy
Looking up at the forest canopy from the Ridge Trail.

A nice breeze ran consistently off the coast and through the forest keeping us cool but not cold. As the day wore on, and our legs started to get tired. As we approached Firtop, the high point of the ridge, the trail ducked down and veered away. The sun became obscured as we followed the trail into a small gully filled with the sound of an unseen babbling brook.


Old Mans Beard hanging off a pine tree on the Ridge Trail.

Navigating the maze of trails around Glen Camp can sometimes be frustrating we first hooked up with the Greenpicker trail keeping to the left. After which we hung a right on the Glen Loop (not to be confused with the Glen Trail) and descended the last few hundred feet into camp on our tired legs, seriously out of practice after a long winter away from much hiking.

We found 2-3 groups already with their sites established around us and we waved to them as we hunted up the hill for our site. At the top of the campground sat our site, number 5. We were surprised at how much energy we had after lugging heavy packs over almost 9 miles and at least 1,000ft.


Beylah unlacing her boots at the tent after a long day on the trail.

With the tent set up we wolfed down our dinner and found ourselves tucked into our sleeping bags as the sun set. We played games for a couple hours in the tent then read for awhile before falling asleep.

Our next day had most of the features of the hike that I was excited about, Alamere falls, the ocean lakes, the open coastal views.

Jump to Day 2: Alamere Falls & The Ocean Lakes

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Morning: C.Y.A.

In an effort to get out and try some new snow sports I decided to catch a class Last Month on Winter Backcountry Travel at our local REI in Mountain View. We had no idea we were in for a 3 hour lecture which strictly focused on the ways in which we would die if we headed more than 10 feet away from our car. Beylah emerged from the class feeling like snow equals death. Even I felt my enthusiasm to try new things waining.

climbing the chute mt whitney
A climber, not having any fun on Mt. Whitney.

It's funny that our instructor who had many years of accumulated knowledge from SAR (Search and Rescue) Teams to a winter trans-sierra expedition would be so negative about the wild. He greeted us and seemed friendly upon arrival and seemed like a positive person, yet his lecture was amazingly negative.

The meat of our course was avalanche awareness (which needs to be learned in the field anyway, not a classroom) and became what essentially I could have gotten out of reading “Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills” for 3 or 4 hours on the couch, only I wouldn't need to be wearing pants (I did wear pants to the class, I'm not happy about it either).

climbing mt whitney There was no enthusiasm at all. Maybe it’s because with SAR he’s rescued too many stupid people, I don’t know. But for a man who clearly loved the outdoors all he shared with us were stories of frozen bodies he’d found and we got the distinct impression that winter in the mountains is neither beautiful nor pleasant, but cold, unforgiving, and a maelstrom of danger.

CYA, or “cover your ass”, was the mind-set our instructor had. It's a disease many suffer from. It's understanable, nobody wants to be on the hook for the demise of anoher human being but if the result is all the fun and excitement being sucked out of a topic it hardly seems worth it.

I don’t want to give the impression that I think we should ignore the potential perils of avalanches, white-outs, and winter storms. Instead think of those as challenges or obstacles on the road to the exploration of the wild. Mention those challenges in equal parts the reward of being the only group for a hundred miles, or going days without hearing another voice, car engine, or sign of civilization.

There is much to share, and much to love about the wild. Snow does not equal death, and if all we try to do is cover our asses when describing what we do, we fail. Miserably.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Found Friday: March 25th, 2011

It's been awhile hasn't it? While rain beats the Bay Area to a pulp it's a good time to catch up. We've got some inspiration, some news, as well as the usual trip reports and gear review roundup.

Inspiration

23 Feet Trailer from Allie Bombach on Vimeo.

P.S. You can donate to the project.

Mid Wintahhhh 2011 from Andrew Whiteford on Vimeo.

News & Events

Trip Reports

Gear

Misc.

Want your Video or Blog featured here? Shoot me an email at chris@backcountrybliss.net

Thursday, March 24, 2011

El Corte de Madera, Tafoni Trail


El Corte de Madera is a hub for mountain bikers, it’s wet, thickly wooded, and has plenty of steep terrain. For hikers this can be a nuisance because El Corte Madera happens to be a gorgeous little park with old growth redwoods, and even a rare Tafoni rock formation. The trick for hikers if you’re not interested in being buzzed by mountain bikers is to visit on a rainy day.

Summary


Difficulty - Easy/Moderate
Length - 5.2 Miles
Crowds - Busy
Fees - Free
Best Season(s) - Summer, Spring, Winter, Fall
Getting There:
- From 280 take Sand Hill Road West to Woodside
- Turn Right on to Portola Road
- Make a crazy Left turn on to Hwy 84/La Honda Rd (it’s almost a complete u-turn).
- Turn right on to Skyline Blvd.
- Pull off into the first small dirty parking lot for the park.

Beylah and I actually did this hike twice within the last three months. Our first trip was pleasant because we had the park to ourselves, this may have had something to do with the fact that it was pouring buckets of rain on us. The rain was coming in sideways through the trees at times and was falling so hard that visibility was an issue (note: my REI Taku jacket held up very well against the rain, thanks REI! light hiking pants, not so much) We might not have had to repeat the hike though had I at least remembered to bring a memory card along with my camera. As I stopped to take the first photo of the trip I first noticed the blinking “NO CF CARD” message inside my viewfinder and let out a “Arrrraghhh!!” loud enough to frighten Beylah. I got over that quickly enough though.

I made not sure to repeat my mistake on the second visit and we were fortunate enough to get some nice weather on our reprise of the hike. The finer weather unfortunately brought out the crowds of Mountain Bikers though who zipped by us all day. We had a late start so I made sure to hurry us along on this trip a bit. From the parking lot we kept right taking the Methuselah trail down into a small ravine with a cute little babbling brook surrounded by redwood groves.

El Corte de Madera
Young Redwoods near the trailhead.


Thin thunked, straight redwoods indicate second growth after the virgin forest was cut down.

The trail rises back up from that point climbing back up 200 feet through a mixed forest until it reaches the Manzanita trail. We turned right on the Manzanita trail heading over a short stretch of wide open trail, perhaps only a few hundred feet before reaching the Fir trail. The hike leveled off for the next mile or so as we proceeded along the fir trail towards the Vista Point.

The Vista Point really anything special, you can see out to the ocean and catch some small glimpses of the rolling green coastal hills. The hill is heavily wooded though so the views are only through small windows in the trees, not sweeping panoramas. It is worth the short detour though and is a good spot to have some water and a snack.

El Corte de Madera Vista Point
View of the Pacific Ocean from the Vista Point.

After leaving the Vista Point we rejoined the Fir trail continuing along in the same direction we were going until reaching the junction with the Resolution Trail. The trail descends quickly dropping 400 feet in about a mile. Mountain Bikers raced past us on the single track trail. We took our time though crossing this more rugged, rocky, and open part of the park.


Moss growing on an Oak Tree.

After another trail junction we kept right and joined the El Corte de Madera Creek Trail the trail more or less evens out hugging the contours of a large ravine studded with old redwoods. This is my favorite spot on the trail surpassing any of the highlights marked on the map. The ground is constantly littered with scraps of redwood bark, cones, and needles turning it an orange-red to match the giant trees which grow in solitude here as a pure redwood grove. The height of these old trees makes this part of the forest dark and lush. A creek runs right through the grove on it’s way down hill.


A quiet redwood grove tucked in a creek bed.

Once through the grove we began climbing again up after making a right on to the Tafoni Trail. Several Mountain Bikers past us, calling back to a second group trailing behind them “Hikers!” with such disdain, almost as if it was a slur. A few more tomato colored cyclists past us as they huffed and puffed uphill with us.

A short side trail leads to the sandstone formation which is the highlight of this hike. The very distinctive honeycomb texture the Tafoni formation has is found in few other places in the world. Most typically though near oceans where salt weathering can break down the rock (Salt Point State Park up in northern California is another example of it). It’s fun to imagine what the first person who encountered this rock might have thought of it. It’s not hard to imagine such a thing being divinely inspired.


Tafoni formations only exist in a few places in the world.


The Honeycomb shape is most likley from salt erosion when the Santa Cruz mountains were once under the ocean.

While absorbing the rock we wolfed down a bag of trail mix despite intending to leave some, apparently our hike had worked up our appetite. At this point though the forest was getting noticeably darker as sunset approached. With nearly two miles to go we hurried away from the Sandstone and rejoined the main trail for a very short stretch before rejoining the Fir trail.


The Tafoni Trail.

This time we headed straight through the junction away from the Vista Point on the Fir Trail then turned right joined the Manzanita trail again for only a few hundred feet before hooking Left down the Methusalah trail. We descended up the same slope we climbed before before reaching the redwood ravine near the start of the trail around sunset. As darkness crept into the forest we climbed up the last leg, on the final uphill push uphill we caught the noise of Skyline Blvd again and soon enough we could see the cars in the parking lot. We kicked off our boots, cozied up in some fleece and hustled back home after a rewarding dayhike.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pick of the Pack: Hard Shells

The Goal of a Hard Shell? Keep the Outdoors, Out. Designed to be layered over warmer insulating layers like down and fleece the hard shell should shed rain, wind, and snow like a champ while staying light and small and breathable. The most versitile jacket in the pack, the Patagonia Rain Shadow, got my pick for its economy and utility. There are many jackets to fit many needs, and many budgets though.

Hard Shells 1

  1. Cloudveil RPK $320 Designed to be equally at home on the lift, the commute, the trail, and on an ascent.
  2. The North Face Serac $399 Flexiable, Breathable, Light, Invincible, It's everything you're looking for and costs a small fortune as well.
  3. Outdoor Research Paladin $250 Designed to be packable, breathable, lightweight, and durable through season after season of abuse. It's missing nothing, except maybe pockets. The Paladin nearly had my pick but my previous experience with Pertex left me feeling it didn't hold up to sustained epic downpours like eVent and Gore-Tex.

Hard Shells 2

  1. Rab Momentum $289 Top flight weatherproofing, well placed and design utility pockets, a comfortable hood, and flexible design, all under a pound. Many jackets claim to do it all. The Momentum does it.
  2. Triple Aught Spectre $399 Is there such a thing as too many pockets? I'm not sure but with seven (including one double entry pocket in the back) the Spectre is designed to push the limits with its military-inspired design. Even the steep $399 price point seems at home in a military budget.
  3. Arc'Teryx Beta AR $450 There are hard shells, and then there are Arc'Teryx hard shells. The Beta AR is the king of hard shells and at $450 it costs almost as much as my car (yes, I paid $500 for my car, it sucks) perfectly designed for the backcountry adventurer (who also has lots of money).

Hard Shells 3

  1. Patagonia Rain Shadow $179 (MY PICK) At an entry level price the Rain Shadow packs a strong punch for its class. Its both light and small enough to jam into the bottom of a pack on any hike and durable enough for alpine climbing. A perfect match for the outdoor enthusiast looking to take on bigger bolder terrain.
  2. Cloudveil Koven $300 The Koven is a solid value buy for a fully featured alpinist shell. Some breathability concerns but otherwise fully featured and slick looking shell should get you by in any environment. The Women's design looks especially nice.
  3. Marmot PreCip $99 When a sudden spring storm rolls in you'll be glad you packed the Precip which stuffs down to nothing. Its superior breathability makes it ideal for warmer climates. There is a reason why the PreCip is one of the most popular jackets on the market.

Photo Credits: OR Paladin (Backpacking Light), Rab Momentum (Buachaille.com), Triple Aught Spectre (TripleAughtDesigns.com), Patagonia Rain Shadow (PointLomaOutfitting.com), Cloudveil RPK (amazon.com), Marmot Precip (blog-smarter.com), TNF Serac (Jonathan Griffith, flickr.com),

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mission Peak Trail, Ohlone College Trailhead

peak trail

Mission Peak is a classic Bay Area hike. This hike is a nice alternative to the more common route via Stanford Road which is perhaps the single most crowded trail in the Bay. By contrast though the Ohlone College entrance is quiet and the path to the summit is a more evenly paced ascent with great views of the rolling east bay hills. Like its crowded counterpart most of the hike is very exposed and summer can be blistering so winter and spring ascents are preferable.

Summary


Difficulty - Moderate
Length - 7.5 Miles
Crowds - Busy
Fees - $2 Parking Pass
Best Season(s) - Winter, Spring
Getting There:
- From Skyline Blvd. take CA-84 towards La Honda
- Turn Right on Anza Pine Rd (into Ohlone College)
- Turn Left into Lot M

From the M Parking lot the Peak Trail heads initially steeply uphill past a small horse pasture. My favorite time to hike this area is always winter because the temperatures are cool and the wide open green hills are welcoming. A thick haze mired the trailhead but we identified it as an inversion layer and once we broke through we had brisk weather and

Peak Trail

As the trail winds its way up hill for the first half mile it passes several junctions, all of which offer forgetable detours (visit these on the way back if at all). As the trail slips into a small pass the steep vivid green grassy hills draw in. Cows have taken a liking to this area, especially because of its proximity to a nearby lake.

We found a hiker watching one particularly large cow sitting on the ground on the far side of the lake. The hiker believed the cow to be giving birth. After we stood over it for awhile, the cow got up, revealing not only was it just really really fat (even for a cow) and not pregnant, but a bull. It trotted away, presumably feeling rather self-conscious.

Lake by the trail approaching Mission Peak

We rather awkwardly matched pace with the other hiker for awhile as we entered a nice forested part of the trail. The oak forest was damp and I’m sure would have been a welcome relief on a hot summer day. The forest cover is brief though as the trail quickly spits out to a small meadow. The trail began climbing quickly and becomes very open. Views to the east opened up for us exposing Mt. Diablo and the bald Diablo Range. This terrain is what I think of as east bay hiking, wide open green grasses on steep slopes with scattered lonley oaks and raptors circling overhead.

Oak Tree
Lone Oak on the Peak Trail.

Diablo Range Hikers
A Family of Hikers heading up the Peak Trail.

After a steady climb for about a mile the trail began to kick back a bit as we approached the crest of a ridge. Finally the summit of Mission Peak came into view, though it was still a good distance away and required much more climbing (roughly another 800ft). Around here the Peak Trail merges with the main trail from the other park entrance on Stanford Ave. We kept left at the first junction, then right at the second following more instinct than signage. Our decisions helped us avoid the crowds and though the route we took is a bit longer it does not climb quite as quickly.

Mission Peak
The summit of Mission Peak approaching the trail junction.

For the final quarter mile we rejoined the crowds again on a single path to the top that was rocky but opened up views on almost every direction. To the east we could see all the way to the Sierra Nevada, to the west the Santa Cruz mountains and the entire Bay Area most of which was under a thinning fog from the inversion layer. We could see the baylands reflecting back up through the clouds and the faint outline of close buildings. As we scrambled over the rocks, finally the summit marker came into view.

inversion layer
Looking down into the inversion layer from near the summit.

The distinctive marker points the direction of many land marks, some close, some distant and many have scratched their names into the post. The summit is nearly always crowded, and today was no exception. We scarfed down our lunch, took a few photos and got on our way after a short while.

Mission Peak Summit Marker
The Mission Peak Summit Marker.

We elected to follow the main path down where most groups go, it is rockier but more direct. At some point we veered out on a small use path which cut right across the rocky west face. The small use trail was quiet and offered the best views. The very rocky terrain and steep drop off meant we had to be very careful moving down the trail but the challenge of scrambling down combined with the better views made this choice a winner.

Mission Peak West Face
Descending the west face of Mission Peak.

We rejoined the main trail shortly below its junction and climbed back up a short stretch before rejoining the Peak Trail on its descent back down the mountain the way we came. As we made our way down the open trail and entered the forest we watched the moon rise over the mountains to the east and the shadows started getting longer. We passed the lake where we found the bull before and made our way and found a momma and baby cow who passed us on the trail.

Lake Cows
Cows by the lake on the return trip.

Several more baby cows passed us on the trail and to our horror we found a grown man with his family getting ready to throw a rock at one of them. When they saw us coming behind them they started walking away with rock in hand. As we passed them I shot the man a glance to let him know how repulsive his behavior was. Soon enough though we were back down at the parking lot, back below the fog getting ready to head home.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Morning: Walking Meditations

Nature is not a place to visit.
It is home."

- Gary Snyder

Sometimes I feel guilty because of how much focus I place on gear, and techniques. Hiking for me at it's core is not about these things and I would suggest even the most frenzied gear junkie would agree.

The quote above is something I happened to be thinking about on a local trail recently. I was pondering it just as I started back up from my destination and rain rolled in from the west over the mountains. I tucked my camera away, flipped up the collar of my jacket and headed back for the car through steadily building rain.

I always have my camera out when I hike and I shoot like crazy. My mind is constantly framing subjects, dissecting light and composition. Photography is such a part of my hiking expierence that it can become distracting and take away from the reason I'm there - to simply enjoy being in nature.

The rain forced my hand on this day though, I needed to keep my camera dry. Once I had stuffed my camera away it allowed my mind to be set free of the burden of thinking ahead and simply be in the moment, no matter how soaked I happened to be in that moment.

Too often I end up focusing too much on "what am I going to write about this" and "what photos do I need to take to capture this". Too often I miss my favorite part about hiking, to let my mind be at ease and simply enjoy the moment I am in. To take time and enjoy a walking meditation.

The Zen Buddhists have a name for this, it's Kinhin. It is not the kind of meditation where you sit with your feet folded in your lap (this is Zendo) or concentrate on a thought (which is not Zen meditation). In the true practice of Kinhin you would synchronize your breathing with your step and move slowly and deliberately.

In the spirit of Kinhin hiking is a time not just to let go of stress but to let go of everything and simply be on the trail. Maybe that sounds cheesy but I think many of us do this subconsciously. We mostly all feel the release of a pressure that is on us, and a certain kind of inexpressible peace when we ramble down the trail. There is something about being in nature that facilitates this, that lets us simply enjoy the moment in a way that we seldom do in other parts of life.

So my new goal for the next few hikes (at least) is not to think about what I'm going to write or take photos of, but simply to enjoy the experience and let that inspire everything else. I'm going to put away the camera more and think less. I'm just going to let myself be.