Author Archives: Kathryn

Start of The Trail

First Section Survival Saga

image: The Start of the Trail

So I made it through the first 8 days in the wilderness by myself, hiked a total of 48 miles, had extremely challenging and exhilarating moments and managed to find a way to keep going and get out when I was running out of food. The plan for doing a little over 70 miles to Stevens Pass did not quite pan out as I expected. Though I thought I had done enough training to prepare myself for this journey physically, I found that the constant large elevation gains and then losses followed by more of the same were more challenging than I was ready for. My issues with shortness of breath showed up big time and led to extremely slow uphill sections which would then be followed by having to be careful going downhill to not hurt my knee or ankle issues. The first full day I only made it 4 miles though I had planned on 6. The second day 3.5 miles rather than the planned on 10. The third day 6 miles when I needed to do an average of 9. You begin to get the picture that making what I thought would be a relatively easy 70 miles in 8 days was not starting well.

I also underestimated how long it would take my body to get used to it and get stronger. I think I pictured it as it was in my 20’s, a few days and I’d be good. Actually I think I added a couple more for the age and weight factor but was sure it wouldn’t be too long. Each morning I would be so disappointed when just getting camp packed up exhausted me, much less getting out and moving on the trail. It may be that I was exhausted also from all the prep work of getting ready. Whatever all the factors, the reality was that I was moving forward daily but very slowly. At first I felt like a trail name of “Tortoise” would be appropriate but eventually even that felt too fast. Since I felt I was moving glacially slowly I’m going with the trail name of “Glacier”. I would speak to these through hikers doing 20,25,35 miles a day in order to do the whole PCT north to south to Mexico and they would think I was kidding about being that slow. They’d laugh and say “yes I wish I could go back to only doing 10-15 mile days” and I’d not disabuse them of that notion but think “If only”.

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All that being said each day had so much beauty to behold that I learned a lot about just being with what is and enjoying it rather than wishing it was otherwise. Often what I could enjoy was the gorgeous displays of wildflowers as I went step by step up a hill. Needing to concentrate on placing my feet carefully didn’t allow much gazing about as I walked. On a number of steep uphills I had to stop so often to catch my breath that those would be the moments that I could really look around and see the big vistas and that was glorious. I have come to really appreciate those slow uphills. Marching by would be all these fast hikers and there I would be taking in the beauty.

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Many dark times of discouragement and much patience needed to just make it through moment by moment. All the little learnings about setting up and taking down a camp, best ways to use all of my gear, how to deal with rain or too much sun, etc,etc. Questions of “why am I here” and “what was I thinking”, “how do I get out of this” all cruising around taking up space in my head as I walked. Trying as much as I could to turn off the story line but often not very successful at it. I so very much appreciated the fancy GPS device that allowed me to receive and send messages and so still feel connected. If anything I think I have made it through this first week with a embodied knowing of how loved and supported I am as so many of you took the time to contact me with your love and support. There is a place for modern technology even in the wilderness!!

On Day 5, Thursday I came up with a couple of alternate plans to hike out on Sunday as planned but in a different area. I contacted Betty and Jennifer, my Stevens Pass resupply team, with the possibilities. So grateful that they took the whole thing on, were willing to do whatever it took to support me. Betty went to REI to get a map so she could see what I was talking about, they allowed time in their schedules for doing it earlier or later if needed, even ended up borrowing Michael’s 4 wheel drive vehicle to drive the forest road in (Thank you Michael!) So out I came down the Cathedral Pass Trail yesterday. I was so very, very glad to see them waiting as I came out into the parking area of the trailhead. With no cell phone reception there for them what if we missed each other? It was a great moment to know that I can adapt, find a way to make it work and get back to civilization and my friends when the time is right. I have been here in the cabin that I rented weeks ago for this day of rest for almost 24 hours being pampered by my friends, I could get used to this! Fresh food, deep conversation, hot shower, even a hot tub to ease my aches this morning. Good day for it also as it has been pouring rain all day.

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Tomorrow I will head out again for a 10 day section heading past Glacier Peak towards Stehekin. I know now that I cannot do the full 107 miles from Hwy 2 to Stehekin as planned. We looked at another map and have found some forest roads again that they will drive me in on to a trailhead where within 5 miles (2200 feet uphill again, what’s new) I will be back on the PCT but have cut off 30 miles. So I will have 83 miles altogether to go in 10 days. I had started feeling better, stronger on day 7 and 8 so I do believe this will be realistic and doable. In all of the discomfort and difficulty over the days most of the time I knew that I wanted to continue on this pilgrimage, whatever it is meant to be. A friend of mine who has done the Camino Santiago in Spain twice sent me this quote from Philip Cousineau “The point of pilgrimage is to improve yourself by enduring and overcoming difficulties. In other words, if the journey you have chosen is indeed a pilgrimage, a soulful journey, it will be rigorous.” I think I’ve got that in spades!!

My friend Catherine has been sending me little pieces from Joyce Rupp, another pilgrim soul, that have I have meditated on and walked with and continue to take to heart.

“It is time for the pilgrim in me to travel in the dark, to learn to read the stars that shine in my soul. I will walk deeper into the dark of my night. I will wait for the stars, trust their guidance.”

I have felt this first week of journeying as walking in the dark. I am trusting that whatever it is that drew my soul to this journey will show up. I will learn to read the stars that shine in my soul. I truly am waiting for them and their guidance.

There is so much more that I could say and I will in the future but for now I need to start preparing my supplies for this next section.

Blessings to all of you on whatever journeys you are on. Kathryn

Almost There

In one of my earlier writings I spoke of learning that the journey is what is important not the getting to a “there” that we are aiming for.  Yet last week I found myself with a driving need to get to a “there”.  I was out in a wilderness area with my soulcraft sisters taking time to be in nature and allowing space to let my soul speak through the natural world of what it wishes to bring forth into the world.  As we arrived in the area we were to stay in I saw a small, prominent peak that drew my eye and heart.  I have always been drawn to the heights, love to get up there and see what there is to see from there.  Both of my vision quests I ended up with my site high up on a ridge or cliff.  So here I was with this peak calling to me to come yet knowing I probably couldn’t go there as I had injured my left ankle 10 days earlier and it was still feeling sore and weakened as well as feeling my body in a weaker state than it has been in many years.  It left me feeling vulnerable and bereft in some way that I couldn’t do what I had always done.

For the first three or four days there I listened to my ankle and stayed in the lowlands.  One day though we had more time to wander, my ankle had been feeling a bit better and I was feeling good physically.  So I decided to head up the peak slowly and carefully, stopping to check in with myself as I went to see how my body was feeling.  It was a slow journey but I carefully made my way up, picking my route so that I didn’t have to travel on scree that could be difficult for my ankle to handle.  I reached a place where there was only a final push up the steepest part to where the top was.  I could see that it would get more difficult and I would have to pick my route with great care.  I told myself to take a moment to check in and make sure my body felt up to it.  So I went over to a lovely rock outcropping that had a great view of the Golden Doe valley below and the cliffs to the south.  I stood there for a moment asking myself “is it necessary to go any further today, right now”?  I turned towards the peak top and all I could think was “I’m almost there, I can’t stop now, the top is right there.”  Without really checking in with my body I headed up the steep slope towards the top.  It didn’t take very long before I was feeling my ankle twinging often and my tiredness beginning to catch up with me.  All along the way I had told myself that if I ended up having to travel any distance through scree that would be unstable I needed to turn back.  I found myself at this point in scree, big rock scree that I told myself I could handle okay.  I traveled on, determined to not stop but to make it to the top, to make it “there”.  I must have gone 30 or 40 steps with no end of the scree in sight before a rock under my left foot moved in an unexpected way and I felt my ankle screech as it tried to stabilize me.  I finally woke up and realized that I needed to stop right there and go no further.  I sat down and spent a few minutes crying over a sense of limitation and inability to do what had always come easily.  After a bit though I realized that the tears were more about how hard I push myself sometimes to get someplace other than where I am without really taking enough time and space to let my soul and body tell me if it is necessary or not.  I had been learning over the previous months much about being gentle with myself yet here I was driving myself to go further for no reason that was truly necessary.

I stood up and slowly made my way back down to the lovely rock outcropping that I had stopped at earlier.  As I arrived there and truly looked at the spot, I found a lovely space that I could sit where I felt tucked in, held by the rock surrounding me as I looked out at the beauty around me.  Warm sun and a gentle breeze caressed me as I let myself sit and be where I was, letting all feelings of disappointment in not making it “there” blow away on the breeze.    I sank into a numinous state, feeling that right here is where the holy abides, here is where the Divine meets me.  Right here when I stop long enough to let the earth hold me, to let the sun gently warm me, to let the wind caress my skin, to let the beauty of the valley and cliffs around me enter my soul.  No need to go anywhere else only needing to allow here to speak to me.  In my mind I now call this my “almost there” place.  It is a place of great beauty, peace, aliveness and a sense of connection to all life.  I will hold it as a touchstone when I find myself driving again to get to a “there”.  Perhaps allowing myself a little more time and space to truly feel into whether getting there is necessary or if being “almost there” might possibly be where the mystery is waiting for me.

Whether drifting through life on a boat or climbing toward old age leading a horse, each day is a journey and the journey itself is home.

– Basho

Swallowed up by life

“Swallowed up by life”  While doing my morning reading and meditation this phrase spoke to me.  I sat with it in my heart as I enjoyed the silence and watched the sunrise.  Why it spoke to me I don’t know, I just know that my heart felt full as I let it settle into my being.  I weep as I sit here typing this, feeling the fullness of my desire to be absorbed, taken in by life.  The remainder of the reading said “Now He(She) who has prepared us for this very purpose is God who gave us the Spirit as a guarantee”.  “This very purpose”; to be enveloped, swallowed by life is our very purpose, it is what we are here for.  God(Life) prepares us for this purpose and gives a guarantee with the Spirit.  To me the Spirit is this sense of Presence that I have in these moments of grace.  These moments when I weep at the joy of knowing that I am a part of the whole of life, that I am being swallowed up by life.  I don’t really have the words for this.  That I am one with the colors of the sunrise, one with the mysterious mountains in the distant mist, one with the flowing sea that is singing to me as the tide comes in, one with the sea otter popping his head up as he travels to who knows where, one with my dear friend who calls with a question, one with the morning song birds.  There is so much beauty in each moment if only I can allow myself to be there, to let myself be enfolded completely by all of life around me.

For Presence
Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to follow its path.
Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.
May anxiety never linger about you.
May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.
Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.
Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

– John O’Donohue

 

Opening To A New Life

Six years ago I found myself in a place where I knew I needed to change my life.  I didn’t know what I needed to change it to, I didn’t know with whom and where I needed to go or even really what it all was about.  I only knew that I was suffocating in the life that I was leading, it felt too small and constricting, lacking in meaning, purpose and joy.  I knew if I stayed in it I would slowly become less and less the person that I was meant to be and that felt like a form of suicide.  So I set out on a journey of opening; listening and following my own inner voice and the voice of the Divine as I knew it.  My prayer as I set out was “Spirit of life open me”.

Last week I was reading some of my journal entries from the early years of this time period and was struck by how what I envisioned happening and where I thought I was going is so very different from where I am now.  And yet I am in a beautiful new place in life that is feeling so very right.  A place full of connection, meaning, purpose and joy as I move forward into serving the world in the way that I believe I am meant to serve.  Getting here was not easy in any way.  Along the way I had to leave my marriage of 24 years, deal with the grief and difficulty of a son with a drug addiction, learn to support myself financially and slowly but surely learn how to create the connections with others that I needed to feel supported emotionally and spiritually.  I moved twice, decided to change my work situation to part time so that I could explore new options, spent lots of time and money on different healing modalities, sought spiritual community and connection and learned new spiritual practices to ground myself within the web of life that we all are a part of.  Each step felt both difficult and wonderful as I opened to new experiences, people, thoughts, emotions, practices and places.

A quote I read by Rumi early in this process has been a guiding light for me:  “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”    I could feel that river moving in me, that joy, even as my life around me fell apart or was pulled apart by my own actions.  In my deepest pain and sorrow, in all of my fearful places and thoughts, there would be this undercurrent that was full of peace and joy because somehow I knew that I was doing all of this from my deepest self or soul.   So now six years later I find myself in a whole new life that fits me, that is me, that allows me to breathe.  I am still journeying, listening and opening.  I don’t believe that I am “there” or even that there is a “there” that I need to get to.  I do believe that I have learned to open to life, to open anew every day to what life holds.  To be open to the pain or the pleasure, to take each day as the gift that it is, however it is.   Even when I can’t be open, and there are often times that I can’t, to at least be aware that I am closing myself in some way.   I’ve learned that I only need to listen and to take each step as it opens.  I don’t need to know where the path is leading me, I just need to be on the path.  As the Buddhists say “The path is the goal”.    There is such joy in not having to control what is next but to live each moment as fully as possible for the moment that it is.  Such joy in trusting that all that I need, all that I have to give, all that is good in life is here right now in this moment and will be here in the next moment and the next.  The river is moving in me and I am moving in the river, how about you?

God takes our souls on journeys we know nothing of.  Why?  We don’t know, being as we are the passed-out reveler laid in a wagon and driven elsewhere.  What we love, what we want, is this being held in a presence, the being taken. This is the satisfaction, not learning why or how or where we are, or when we will arrive somewhere else.

– Bahauddin, Rumi’s Father