Nature Is Never Closed: David Ravitz
As straightforward as it may seem, the meaning behind “Nature Is Never Closed” can be interpreted in many ways. For some, it may be that the outdoors are always physically or geographically accessible to them, others may see it as no human has the right to say that another person cannot enter Nature since it is our collective open Earth.
To me, this means that there is always potential to have a significant connection with Nature, no matter where you are. Whether it be seeing the trees on the side of a busy road, raking the leaves in the backyard or just noticing a unique bird as it flies by, we can always gain a sense of unity with our environment. This creates the feeling that when we are able to fully dive into the majesty of the outdoors, we become flooded with excitement, connectedness and gratitude. Over quarantine I was fortunate enough to have this experience a number of times, but there was one instance that stands out in particular. That experience was a solo hiking trip into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Southern Washington State.
I began the journey departing from the small town of Mosier, OR, nestled in the Columbia River Gorge in the shadows of Coyote Wall. With no goal of where I would end up that day, my sole purpose was just moving onward to Mt. Adams. Some may stop and say, “well that’s just downright irresponsible”, and they may have a great point; going into the remote wilderness by yourself with little cell phone service. Thankfully for downloadable trail maps, an AWD vehicle and a full tank of gas, I was able to trek my way up the meandering mountain dirt road. Simultaneously dodging the 8” deep potholes from the spring rains and the summer runoff, while cutting through the fog of the still early Fall morning. This all made for an exciting ride, eventually making my way to the parking lot and Killen Creek trailhead.
Starting the hike I was feeling somewhat anxious, trying to shake off the stresses of a heightened work project, COVID worry and at the time, a turbulent personal life. Nothing was really unique or special about my circumstance though, most people were going through something similar if not worse than I was. I just had to remind myself to be present, be grateful for my health and where I was in such a beautiful environment.
Along the path of the lush temperate cedar-pine forest were different types of fungi, like the storied Amanita muscaria. Once I was well on the hike, it was quite easy to turn the mind to focus on the surrounding beauty. This was a nice 2 mile hike with about a 1000 ft of elevation gain, giving plenty of time to work up a solid sweat.
With labored breath I made my way out of the forest and into an alpine-field clearing, shaped by millions of years of glacial and volcanic erosion, with a spectacular North-Easterly view of Mt. Adams and large pyroclastic boulders strewn about. After taking some time to admire the mountain with the surprise blue-bird day, I took a walk around the clearing to do a bit more exploring.
Walking a few yards ahead, I came across a trail that was perpendicular to Killen Creek, heading North to South. Looking a little more closely at my downloaded trail map, it turned out to be a section of the Pacific Crest Trail! This was very exciting for me considering it has been a dream of mine to do a large section of the PCT over a period of multiple weeks. Though this was not that bucket-list trip, I was still able to hike a mile or so on this world-renowned path. Shuffling back to the opening on half-melted ice and snow, I took a rest to eat lunch and meditate. With a last glance of the illuminated Mt. Adams, my eyes shut and my mind focused on my breathing. Meditation was a large contributor to my sanity during quarantine and I couldn’t help but think of how lucky I was to be in this place surrounded by the peaceful, all-encompassing nature. Reminding me of how insignificant a lot of our modern day stressors are, taking a step back to get the full picture. Opening my eyes I felt a rush of extreme happiness come over me. Took a deep breath out and smiled from ear to ear. This was the reset that I needed.
After packing up my things, taking one more long look at the mountain, I began my descent back down the mountain towards the trailhead. As I turn around I notice what I think is a cloud feature perfectly framed between the foreground pines. It took a second glance to realize that I was actually looking at Mt. Hood, dawned with a cloud cap covering. I had no idea that I would be able to see Wy’East from this far away; across Gifford Pinchot National Forest, over the Columbia River Gorge and finally the Cascade Range foothills. Again, this hike provided an opportunity to stop and stare at this immaculate landscape. With an incredible view going down as well, each step back to the parking lot was filled with immense gratitude.
Making my way down the mountain I passed a few small groups of people trying to take advantage of this natural area, escaping the noise of the modern world. With a nod to each group, I realized that we had more in common than just the masks we all had on. That no matter where we had been or what we had gone through in the last 6 months, we could always take a moment to appreciate the present and connect with nature.