The Value of Slowing Down in the Wild

A story of coasting along with the calm fall season.

Like the sun burns on my face and arms, the summer pace burnt my appetite for any more long weekends. A sense of guilt plagued me if I ever dared to spend a lengthy sunny Saturday relaxing on the couch. And as the summer moved on, the satisfaction of accomplishing planned climbs and hikes was taken over by a furious rush to pack in more miles, vertical feet, and successful summits before the weather turned. Slowing down during a weekend just didn't seem to be an option. 


I was glad the rains had come a week before, glad because the worn out feeling weighed me down like the fall leaves that were being shed so quickly by tired trees. Finally, I could sink back and savor the adventures of the past few months. Then the phone buzzed. A few friends had watched the weather and found out that it would be a beautifully sunny weekend on the east side of the Cascades. And so the offer was on the table, an eighteen mile thru-hike of the Enchantments. That was not the relaxing laid-back weekend I envisioned, but I knew I could not let this one last hike slip by. Yet, this is where the story diverges from the typical summer weekend blitz.


Gathered at the trail head in the early morning we all knew the mileage and time it would take to thru-hike the Enchantments. The daylight would be shorter but we didn't decide on a pace to set or that we should make it back to the cars before the restaurants closed, there was something more important on this hike. Fall in the mountains is so fleeting and brief that to be on a trail in such a place is a privilege that can only be enjoyed by slowing down. Personal records, peak bagging along the trail, or making it back at a decent hour just seem out of place during this season.

Once we were high up amongst the white and gray speckled granite we drifted between the vividly golden yellow larches and remaining patches of snow, the landscape and contrasting colors all mirrored in the quiet turquoise lakes. The air was cool but still, the mountains seeming to be in anticipation of winter. Lounging next to the water, we sun bathed one last time under the sleepy arc of the sun as it glided over the peaks. The faint rippling of a creek was the only noise that stirred the silence. As we moved on, our gentle pace helped to recall how rare an occurrence such a autumn hike can be and slowing down with the fading season brought the delightful feeling we were searching for.

Published: September 28, 2016

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Marc Fryt

Seattle

Into way too many outdoor sports to be really good at just one of them.