This past Saturday Taylor and I went with our friends innowen and Kender to Mt. Hood, where they showed us a couple of trails we hadn’t yet been introduced to. While one was still remarkably covered in about 5-6 feet of snow(!), the other was mostly clear, at least up the first half mile or so. If people and places can have relationships, then I think I seriously have a crush on Mt. Hood. There was some reciprocal interest, though that mountain strikes me as rather aloof at first encounter. S/he’d like me to get to know hir better, physically (rough terrain, more remote) and spiritually, before I try anything even remotely shamanic there. Which is fine by me; while I won’t go out there as often since it’s a decent drive out, an hour and change, I do want to spend more time getting to know Mt. Hood, who may end up being a good place to go when I want to get away from people and into more secluded areas.
The trip to Mt. Hood got me craving a solo hike, something that I’d been feeling a subtle pull towards for the past few weeks, ever since Taylor and I went out to the Multnomah/Wahkeena trails for the first time since last November. Now that’s a place that I have formed a good relationship with; we’ve adopted each other, as it were. Today was a great day for a visit–perfect weather, and though there were more people than I would have expected on a week day, once I hiked past Multnomah Falls themselves, it was pretty quiet traffic-wise. I saw all sorts of critters–ravens, shiny black millipedes with yellow spots down the sides, tons of butterflies, robins, and a hummingbird, among others. The plants are going crazy, too–it’s green as can be, and everything’s rebounding from winter just fine, other than a patch of conifers that seem to have been hit by some sort of disease.
I spent a good deal of the hike in an ongoing, mostly nonverbal conversation with the Land there at Multnomah/Wahkeena. While they feel like two separate places–I can tell a decided shift in energy on the trail connecting the two–they’re very close, so I usually just refer to them as one. I also spoke a good bit with the Water as s/he sang and danced down the mountainside; s/he gave me a blessing, telling me to cool myself off by splashing myself with cold icemelt on this warm day.
At first, I found myself getting cranky with the tourists there, especially since I’d been expecting fewer people. However, I remember the lessons I learned the last time I was there, with Taylor and worked on accepting that everyone else had as much right as I did to be there, and that they weren’t automatically going to go uprooting plants and stomping on bugs.
Then three things happened, all within the space of a mile:
–A group of four people, a few years younger than I, were coming down the trail above me on a set of switchbacks. One of them threw a rock down the mountainside and nearly hit me by accident, because they hadn’t seen me. They apologized when we met. Instead of getting angry, I just told them “Yeah, it’s a really bad idea to throw rocks here, because it’s really hard to see people on the trail”. They seemed to have learned their lesson pretty well, so I went on in good spirits, trusting that they wouldn’t do anything else foolish.
–Another guy, about the same age, had been following me for a ways. I let him pass me, and was a bit annoyed by him, particularly his shirt which said “Don’t like my attitude? Then stop talking to me”. (I tend to think that the trend in “cute and fashionable rudeness”, typified by such things as Happy Bunny and the aforementioned t-shirt is not something we really need to be encouraging in this culture. But maybe I’m just an old fogie or something–most of the people I see sporting such things are in their teens to early twenties, and I’m *gasp* pushing thirty…but I digress.) Not too much later, he came back down the trail as I was heading further on, and very politely asked me if I’d seen the party he’d been separated from. I told him everyone I’d seen matching their description had been going the way he was going, and asked him if he had their cell phone numbers. He didn’t, so I told him his best plan of action would be to head all the way back down to the parking lot and wait at the car. He thanked me, and also incidentally apologized for mistaking me for male, as I was wearing relatively gender-neutral clothing with my hair pulled back and my hat on, and I am not the most curvy XX-chromosome person in the world. I assured him that it was in no way an insult, and continued on my merry way.
–Maybe five minutes later, I rounded a bend and greeted a couple of middle-aged folks who were enjoying the day. They stopped me and asked if I had any food. Just their luck, I happened to have a couple of extra granola bars I wasn’t going to need. I tried to just give them to them, but they insisted on paying me, and the man pressed five ones into my hand despite my protestations. Normally I’d think $2.50 was pretty damned steep for a granola bar, but having been in a similar, very hungry situation, in their place I’d have been that grateful, too! I checked to make sure they knew where they were going, and that they had enough water, and we parted ways with a smile.
I didn’t really think about the first incident in any meaningful way. However, when the second one happened, I started to make the connection between my lessons of tolerance from that Land, and what had been happening. The third incident was just the clue-by-four whapping me in the head. so I asked the Land what was up. S/he told me that s/he wanted me to help her help the people. We’d already established that s/he didn’t mind people being there, and made it hir task to educate them as much as possible about the need to preserve wild places like hir. S/he told me that I wasn’t particularly special, and that she talked to everybody there–I just happened to be one of the folks who noticed it on a conscious level. However, as our relationship has deepened, there’s been a greater need for me to make more of a commitment to hir, and s/he finally was able to get through to me what s/he needs me to do.
Today was an object lesson in some of the basics of what I can do for Multnomah/Wahkeena–pick up trash along the trail as usual, bring along some extra food and water, give people directions, offer a cell phone in case of need, bring a first aid kit, etc. In addition, I think I’m going to go ahead and go through first aid and CPR training as I’ve been meaning to for a while. And I picked up some volunteering information for the Multnomah Falls trail system in general; they need some help with general maintenance as well as information, so I may add that into my volunteering (along with my unofficial guide/guardian/etc. work that has been initiated today).
To finish up my hike, I went down the western part of loop around Wahkeena, my favorite part of that trail. And I got a few more affirmations that I was on the right path, figuratively and literally! First, at the crossroads where the connecting trail meets the Wahkeena loop, where I always sit and take a break, the Animal Father poked me and told me that next time I came alone, he wanted me to hike up to the place further up the mountain where I’d met him back last fall and where I’d heard him speaking through the owl’s hoot last time I visited with Taylor, and that he wanted me to bring my drum.
Then the very next people I met as I came down the mountain had a very friendly German shepherd, my favorite kind of dog, who came right up and said “Hi!” with a big slurp across my face (I don’t mind dog “kisses” at all–cleaner mouths than people, and I can always go and wash my face afterwards). After that I gave a few more people directions, and also showed another couple of folks where a Stellar’s Jay was hopping through the tree branches.
So overall it was a really inspiring day. I feel like I’ve made a major step forward in my shamanic path, since one thing I’ve known I’ve needed to do is care for the Land and maintain a good relationship with hir. I feel like I’ve been given a certain amount of responsibility that I’ve never been given before by the spirits, and I want to honor and respect that. I know there’s room for me to be, well, me, with all my mistakes and so forth, but I’m very much honored by what happened today.
Yay! That sounds like a really positive breakthrough, and a really refreshing experience as well. 🙂
I always like walking the bushland on weekends, even though it means there’s always more people around. Even though Koondoola has one of the highest crime rates in a suburb in Western Australia, everyone there seems decent. We stick together.
One of my favourite warnings involved a HUGE scary looking guy with a scary looking dog stopping and saying ‘there is a HUGE dugite down there, pretty active, maybe take a different fork in the road,’ and then we started talking about goannas and snakes for about 10 minutes.
The granola bar thing is really touching, and very sweet that they insisted on paying. 🙂
It sounds like you’re definitely easing into this as you should. All things happen in their right time.
Ravenari–It was a great experience on numerous levels.
I think, other than the occasional hyper-sensationalized stories of hikers being attacked/killed/etc., most folks you find out on the trails are perfectly normal, adjusted people (as in not psychos and sociopaths). It’s probably especially true once you get further out. For one thing, more experienced hikers are A) going to be in better shape and B) are more likely to be able to kick your ass. For another, if I were someone looking for victims, a remote area far away from people wouldn’t be where I’d go–a predator of any sort would most likely go where there are lots of people, but also lots of hiding places, and you can get that in a city as well as in the woods. Maybe even easier in the city, where you’re not worrying about snakes and other critters. Granted, I’m not a psychopath looking for victims to eat, so this is all sort of conjecture 😛
I had to look up what a dugite was. What the hell is it with you people down there and your venomous critters? *L* And that one doesn’t even look scary–at least our poisonous snakes here either have scary looking heads that are distinctive in shape, or are really brightly colored. No wonder nobody invades Australia! All you’d have to do is tell the invaders that whatever they wanted was right behind that bush or under those rocks, right over there!
I’m still boggled over the granola bars. I’m glad I was able to help, but I kinda wish I’d had more than two. I hope they were enough to get them down the mountain. Maybe I’ll start packing Power Bars or something more substantial.
Erynn–Yeah, after worrying for too long whether I was doing things the way I was supposed to, this was a nice reminder not to worry so damned much.
Good on you! Sounds like it was quite the experience, and that’s quite a connection you built up.
In re helping others: I do recommend specifically taking a wilderness first aid course, rather than “generic first aid,” if you have the time or money, and plan on spending any significant length of time out there. It’s possibly overkill for your purposes, but it gave me a lot of confidence to go through some concentrated formal training before hitting the Pacific Crest Trail two years ago. A typical class runs a weekend and costs $100-$200. Plus you become certified, at least to be the person in charge until someone more experienced arrives. 🙂
CPR alone is typically free or nearly so (contact your local fire station), and takes just an hour or two. It’s a great place to start while you’re figuring out how much time and effort you want to invest in training.
Baxil–Thanks for the tips 🙂 Definitely sounds like I have some good options open to me.
The dugite was a really big one too, there are a few huge adults in Koondoola, the other day it was lying right across the entrance ( 😦 ), which meant that I couldn’t get in at all – I took it as a sign actually. But geez that one was BIG. It was like ‘don’t come in today, the spirits are busy. Bugger off!’ No one went bushwalking that day in Koondoola. Lol.
Dugites don’t bother me so much, they’re not super aggressive and mostly if you see them sunning themselves, you just walk slowly in the opposite direction. Tiger snakes wig me out – even if they do have somewhat distinctive colouring, they are characteristically aggressive.
Both still kill people though. Unlike redbacks and stuff which haven’t had reported deaths for some time.
ANYWAY, believe it or not, most of the animals I see in the bushland are of the completely non-venomous variety. *grin* Swear.
Interestingly, I’m wanting to do CPR/first aid certification this summer as well. And now I also want to do some nature walking as well.
I’m so glad you went and saw Mt. Hood! Truly amazing place. If you get a chance you should check out Oxbox Park; it’s incredibly alive and mindblowing as well.
Also, the Red Cross chapter here has really great combo classes on CPR and First Aid.
I liked what you said about realizing that you’re not exactly special, and that the spirits can talk to whomever happens to be listening and conscious. And despite our own agenda, the spirits often have something totally different in mind, so we need to listen carefully and not let those personal agenda get in the way. It’s great that you were able to see how you could help those people in some way or learn something from those interactions. I’m starting to pick up similar lessons when I least expect it.