All New to Me
By Keith Meyers
This was all new to me.
I had been invited to go with several friends and a new member of our community on a day hike to a little lake up in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. Nothing really “new” about that, I had been hiking plenty in the woods.
But, always in the past, my hikes had been means to an end, trying to get somewhere. It was work getting there, setting up camp, getting wood and shelter. Hurry, hurry. Almost always “somewhere” was a lake or stream with fish. This hike was different. This lake didn’t have any fish. I wasn’t sure why we were going there. Boy, did I have a lot to learn.
When we got our of the rig, the October morning was crisp and clear, but felt downright cold after the long summer. Almost immediately we crossed a small stream that required some fancy footwork. While three of our party made it across with slightly damp shoes, the forth member apparently found the water inviting, and took a brief swim. We won’t say who.
Soon the trail faded away along with the everyday worries of the world, and after a few hours we found ourselves sprawled on a hillside of bear grass, gear spread around us, a small lake below. The sun warmed our bodies, coffee and conversation warmed our souls, and the more elder members of our little tribe settled down for what looked like a long winter’s nap. I must say, it was an inviting thought, but the lake and a snowfield tucked up against the mountain begged exploring. Down I went.
The closer I got to the lake, the more the snowfield called to me. What was I seeing? A cave in the snow, perhaps big enough for a school bus, had been created as the water came down the mountainside. Up I went.
Inside, I stayed very quiet, not sure if a loud noise would bring problems I didn’t want to think about. How many years had this snow been here, hiding in the shadows of the mountain? Sitting in the cave, looking down its length at the lake below and the sunshine on the hillside across the lake was magical. But cold. The sunshine, coffee and friends looked pretty good. Winter was coming and I would get plenty of cold then.
The hike out was uneventful — except for one member, the same member — of our group who found a log across a creek too slippery. Again, nothing was hurt but pride. Again, we won’t say who.
If you have never napped in the sunshine in the bear grass on a cool fall day, you don’t know what you’re missing. I sure didn’t, up till then. Maybe it’s because my legs have got a few miles on them now, or maybe it’s because my soul needs the nourishment, but now my trips into the mountains almost always include some time doing nothing. Often in bear grass. Often — actually always — with coffee. Or under an old cedar tree, with it’s branches sheltering me from the rain that is too often following me around. On a ridge top, watching, sometimes for hours, the nothingness and the everything that surrounds me. The nothingness cleanses my soul, the everything fills me with its beauty and grace, and I hike back down.
We are so blessed.
When he is not in the woods or on the stage, Keith owns and operates the Magic Wrench here in Libby.