Written & Photographed by Barbara Joan
I had the great fortune of growing up outside. Thanks to my dad's love for and appreciation of the mountains, my earliest and fondest childhood memories involve summers spent foraging for native berries and morel mushrooms, camping under the stars in the Umatilla National Forest, and swimming in remote wilderness rivers. I made houses from sword fern fronds, learned to recognize where the dolly varden were hiding, and took naps in the shade of old growth forests.
Last fall, the depression I experienced in my 20s surprised me by reviving itself the same way I've seen beetles return from the dead when they believe danger has passed. I didn't see it coming and wasn't prepared to manage the familiar feelings and uninvited distorted thinking that invaded my world like noxious weeds. I knew I needed to go outside again and so began my quest to find the beauty in my local public lands and, in the process, remember the beauty in me.
This was a view I found in the first days of August, 2016. Starting in the early afternoon, my husband, my three-year-old and I hiked past Mount Rainier's Frozen Lake to Second Burroughs Mountain. We lingered at the crest for some time in an effort to identify the many wildflower blooms and backcountry birds that fluttered about. We've completed many hikes in and around Mount Rainier, but this was our first time in the alpine tundra and there was so much determination, resilience and hope to take in. What at first glance seemed like a barren wasteland was actually replete with life and I was mesmerized. The parallel to my own internal journey was clear.
I took this photo on our way back down the mountain. Instead of returning as we'd come, we opted for the slightly longer route down the Sunrise Rim Trail. In the early evening glow of the setting sun I heard my son say, "Wow! Mommy! Look at this view!"
I stopped and turned and looked back behind me at this big, glorious, patient mountain. "Son," I said. "Can you believe you own a part of this view?"
He looked at me curiously. "I do?"
"You do. And so does daddy and so do I."
And without a pause, his eyes large and bright and smiling, he said, "We're RICH!"
And we are, aren't we?
Barbara takes and posts pictures of public lands to inspire others to go outside and experience our blessed inheritance and advocate for its protection and preservation. You can see more of her images on her Twitter feed: @publiclandlvr.
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