As much as I tend to hike later than most backpackers, I still like to be in camp around sunset. Today that simply wasn’t possible; the last five or six miles of the day circled Twin Lakes, where, with a road and houses nearby, camping was neither wise nor socially acceptable.
I’m not about to complain, though, tired as I may be. Walking so late allowed me to look back at the lake as evening fell. I watched the setting sun transform the lakes’ surface to liquid gold and highlight each of the surrounding mountains’ undulating ridges in turn. As I crossed the dam, the underbellies of the clouds overhead were dyed pink and purple. It was magical!
I feel like I have used the word “magical” to describe a lot of things on the trail. A cottonwood grove in an arid canyon was magical. The way the eclipse, unseen behind clouds, turned the world suddenly cold was magical. Opening my tentfly to find myself staring at uncountable stars and the brilliant Milky Way was magical.
For this addition to my vernacular, I blame Pine Nut.
More than any other adult I know, Pine Nut is capable of keeping in mind both observable facts and subjective feelings. While spending four years studying science taught me to pursue objective answers above all else — that there is wonder in knowing exactly why something is so — Pine Nut taught me the beauty of getting caught up in the moment, of letting feelings share in my response to the world.
I think solo time in the wilderness is the perfect application of this both/and perspective. Here, where the sublime makes a daily appearance, it’s easy to let go and experience the magic.