Immersed in the wild, trekking part of the Pacific Crest Trail

Living on wilderness time for 300 miles.


After about a week in the wilderness, I forget that there is a world other than this. There is only what happens out here every day: the 5:25 am sweep of Cherry Pie’s headlamp under his tarp, the shoving of everything we carry into our backpacks, the first step onto the trail. This is my life now.

Mostly, we walk. We walk for all the hours that add up to a 21-mile day, up the passes and back down again, along the traverses and past the alpine lakes, each mile stretching into another. And because it is the North Cascades in late August, it sometimes rains, and we bundle up in soggy jackets and endure, until it stops. Then we spread out all of our gear to dry over talus boulders, a hiker yard sale, we call it.

For two years in a row I have hiked nearly 300 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, last year through the Sierras, this year from Snoqualmie Pass to Canada. After a few days, nothing matters but the miles we have to go to reliable water, whether we packed enough food in our resupply boxes, and if we can find a flat spot to pitch our tents. We are living on wilderness time, perhaps the only way that I have found to be completely and utterly present.

While we may speculate about the miles ahead, the more pressing concerns are right now, in the moment. This is the greatest gift of wilderness, allowing me to abandon future worrying and past regrets, and live in the immediate.

Though my hiking partner, Scout, and I camp with him for days, we never know Cherry Pie’s real-world name until our last day, and he doesn’t know ours. We exchange only our trail names, monikers bestowed on us by circumstance and behavioral quirks. Other hikers we meet identify themselves as Diesel, Bambi and Lorax.

We are a traveling tribe, bound together only by this slender ribbon of trail. None of us would meet in real life, but here we are kin. What we have accomplished at work, in our other lives — none of this counts. We size each other up instead by our daily mileage and the weight of our packs.

Anything could be happening outside our mountain range, the nation gearing up for another war, floods, fire, tragedies many times removed from us. Wilderness allows me to slip into another kind of place, ageless and timeless. We walk like others have before us, set up our tents, filter water from unnamed creeks.

We move through the deep rain forest vegetation like a river, and watching other hikers makes me fiercely hopeful. In my real life as a wilderness planner I have become discouraged by the plunge in funding for recreation and the apathy I see around me. Here I take a deep breath and feel less alone. These are my people. This is my tribe.

Ragged clouds tease the mountain peaks, the sign of another storm. We cross over Fire Creek Pass at 6,000 feet and begin our slow descent to Milk Creek. Where will we sleep tonight? We have no idea.

The maps tell us only part of the story. They don’t tell us that we will encounter 10 Sierra Club tents set up in the only flat spot for miles, forcing us to sleep on a trail bridge for the night.  They don’t point out that we will find our best camp spot ever by climbing an unprepossessing hill and coming face to face with massive Glacier Peak in the distance. These are things that we find out.

This discovering, possible in wilderness, is something we have learned to forget in the real world, where information is only a Google away.

Despite the rain, the lingering soreness in my feet, the weeks without a shower, I am not quite ready to be done. There is no buffer between our time on the trail and the next day’s Greyhound to Vancouver. We linger for a time in the last clump of trees, but eventually we just have to do it, take our last steps out to the road.

I both want this and I don’t. I love the wilderness time as much as I want to see my husband and our dogs and our cabin in the woods. I want to blend the two worlds I inhabit even though I know they will forever remain separate.

The best I can do, I realize, is to take a kernel of wilderness time with me: the patience, the awareness, and the acceptance that wilderness gives me. On a day awash in meetings, deadlines and screaming headlines, I vow to remember what wilderness has taught me.

At the bus station, Cherry Pie bounds out after a quick hug. Scout drives off into the Idaho canyons. I shoulder my backpack for the last time and walk into the place I sometimes call home.

Mary Emerick is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of NewTowncarShare News. She writes in Joseph, Oregon.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of NewTowncarShare News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • The West Region Wildfire Council ( is a regional wildfire organization that promotes wildfire adaptation, preparedness and mitigation education across Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray...
  • The Wallowa County Chieftain, has an opening for a reporter. Experience with and understanding of editorial photography also required. Journalism degree or equivalent, an understanding...
  • Seeking an energetic Organizer/Outreach Coordinator to help us conserve Arizona's public lands and shape the policies that affect them.
  • 15 hours on it, 3 years warranty, 22,5 HP, $1600 Sale price. Contact: [email protected]
  • Join us in helping to match charitable interests and passions to the needs of The Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy seeks a fast learner with...
  • The Yellowstone River Field Institute is an intensive week-long field course for multimedia storytellers, working journalists, and students of journalism, offered by the Montana-based Freeflow...
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • Baltimore Green Space (BGS) is Baltimore's environmental land trust. We promote vibrant neighborhoods and a healthy environment through land preservation, research, and community advocacy. We...
  • Northwest Natural Resource Group seeks forester based in Seattle or Olympia area to manage our ecological forestry harvest program. Full description at
  • Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking an experienced Policy Analyst or Senior Analyst to develop and advocate for policies and mechanisms that promote the development...
  • from a beautiful log home. 20-acre private parcel in the sunny Okanogan of WA. Visit: Inquiries: [email protected]
  • Western Resource Advocates is looking for a VP of Programs and Strategy to bring a strategic focus to the development of multi-faceted advocacy plans that...
  • Hiring Part/Full time for Summer Season - entry level & experienced positions. Year round employment for optimal candidates. Pay DOE.
  • Located on top of Sugarloaf Mtn. 5 mi W of downtown Colorado Springs, CO. $80,000.
  • The Draper Natural History Museum (DNHM) at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, WY, invites applications for Curator of Natural Science. Seeking...
  • in Southwest Colorado. $60K plus costs.
  • Seeking full-time experienced farmer on 52-acre organic farm Union, OR. [email protected]
  • Metal roofing & siding, thru-fastened & seam profiles. Stronger, more attractive and longer lasting than any other panel on the market. 970-275-4070.
  • We are looking for an experienced campaigner to lead our work challenging the oil and fracked gas industry, specifically focused on fighting fossil fuel expansion...
  • Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...

Этот нужный веб портал с информацией про уборка офиса после ремонта