A couple weeks ago I finished the last of my grad school pre-reqs (at least, the last for now) and the week after that I got to go to the Enchantments with Sara and Mark, two friends I met in 2015 when we were all Flaming Pikas learning to climb mountains. The Enchantments were stunningly beautiful and we had a great adventure and I hiked the hardest hiking I have ever hiked and loved every minute (photos soon). Two days after we got back, some kid shot off some fireworks on Eagle Creek Trail and the Gorge went up in flames. A week and a half later, the fire is still burning, the highway is still closed, towns are still evacuated. I wrote: “Everything beautiful is so fragile. I don’t understand how one small, stupid action can have such power. I am so angry and so sad.”
In early August, my mom and I did a long day hike near Mount Saint Helens with a group from the Mount Saint Helens Institute. Landscapes recover from destruction—at least, they always have before. People keep saying that to me, or posting it on Facebook. Fire is part of the natural cycle of the forest, etc. That is true, but fireworks are not. I signed up for email lists for all the trailwork groups I could find and I felt a little better. I want to be a part of what I love, not just a consumer of wild places. The Gorge, unlike St. Helens, has not been devastated entirely, it sounds like. I look forward to visiting it many times for the rest of my life—the trails I’ve hiked a half dozen times already and the ones I haven’t visited yet. I am devastated and I am horrified by the fires burning everywhere in the northwest, by climate change, by how powerless I feel. Mais il faut cultiver notre jardin…
Mount Saint Helens erupted five years before I was born. 37 years later, the landscape is varied and full of life. 37 years is not much for a mountain, but it’s a long time for me. “Devastation” is a human word with a human connotation, and humans fear loss much more strongly than we anticipate gain and beauty and transformation.
Photos from the hike last month: