We’ve been taking our young people hiking one day each month as part of our hiking club. This week, we visited Summit Lake in Mount Rainier National Park. Escaping the city has rested the souls of both youth and staff. The opportunity to get away for a day and briefly tune out the stresses of daily life has created space for the kinds of shared experiences that lead to positive relationships.
We arrived at the trailhead and had a brief group meeting to distribute our lunches, get everyone water, and go over some safety tips. Case Manager Brian showed us (pictured below) what to do should we come across any bears.
Once we started up the trail, we twisted and turned up switchbacks as conversations of many types developed, as they tend to do on hikes. Hiking seems to be one of the easiest ways to get to know another person. I suppose barriers break down when you sweat and gasp for air and use the restroom in the wilderness together.
In between sometimes embarrassingly heavy breaths, my group chatted about where we were all from and where we’d like to travel in the US (Colorado was the landslide victor; credit to its outdoorsy, chill vibe).
Though Seattle hasn’t put on its summer face yet, the trail was polka-dotted with wildflowers and left us ooh-ing and aah-ing through sloped meadows.
Spirits remained high as the hike was relatively novice-level, and we arrived at the lake in about an hour. The lake is full of glacial deposits, giving it the characteristically crystal clear blue tint of glacial lakes. We set up a mini camp by the lake and used a Jet Boil to cook some dehydrated camping meals. One young man even thought to bring his hammock, so a few people relaxed to the max, despite the chilliness of the wind coming off the lake.
Brian asks a question before we begin each hike and revisits it once we’ve reached our destination to hear everyone’s answers. This month’s was, “What’s the difference between wilderness and civilization?” Answers ranged from wilderness is beautiful and wild and unmarked by humans to there are no rules out in the wilderness.
Before we left the lake to hike down, Brian brought our attention to thin places, the Celtic notion that there exist places on earth where the spiritual and natural are three feet apart – that is to say, nearer one another than usual – and the group held a minute of complete silence to listen to this thin place speak.
Sharing such a long moment of silence within a group of nearly 15 people was sobering. The wind whispered lowly in the trees as it made its way down to the lake; the clouds played charades over the water, changing to another before you could make out one shape. The silence rested heavily on us, and the moment felt like peace.
It was a great day hike for all of us, full of lively conversations, laughs, and serious moments. Thanks for making days like this possible through your support.