aging in place, family caregiver, Self-care

Flip Flops to Aeroacrophobia

It would have been hard to top my hike to Skyline Divide at Mt. Baker on the first full day of my recent camping adventure, but I wasn’t looking for a good, better, best chronology. Life just doesn’t work that way. I was on holiday experiencing life away from the ordinary. And, in fact, what I wanted on the second day was to take a shorter hike and spend a large chunk of time at my campsite by the river: in the hammock, in the sun, by the fire. Reading and working on my writing project and relaxing were my agenda.


I chose Artist Point for day two; hard to go wrong with a place name like that. It’s at the end of the Mt. Baker Highway (highway being a deceptive description—it was paved and two-lane, in an area rife with one-lane gravel Forest Service roads; if that was the criteria, it met it), just beyond the ski area. My first stop was Heather Meadows and its trails off the ski area’s parking lot. I was a little disgruntled to find work with heavy equipment happening; the noise followed me down the Bagley Lakes trail. It is a short and easy trail, and eventually the noise of the stream covered the noise of the bulldozer. Two sweet glacier-melt lakes and a creek with islands of wildflowers in its center flank the trail built for families with small children. It was a weekday though, and I only saw two families, from a distance.


The bridge across the stream was fairy tale-like; a little too cute, but like I said, the trail was built for “toddlers and flip-flop wearers,” not intrepid wilderness hikers with trekking poles, such as myself.


From the bridge, I turned onto the Chain Lakes trail. I knew I wasn’t doing the entire 9-mile loop of “strenuous” hiking; but I wanted to go part way. Right away, it was no longer a trail for children. Well, maybe it was. They would have scampered right across the rock face I suppose. I have a bit of aeroacrophobia (a fear of open high places), and I considered turning back. But I talked myself out of it. “You can’t turn back every time the going gets rough,” I chided myself. What did Eleanor Roosevelt say? “Do one thing every day that scares you”? (Yes, that’s the trail in the photo below. I know, tame; I will not be doing any rock climbing. Ever.)


From there on the trail was basically a boulder field on a mountainside. There were huckleberries! And a beautiful view of Mt. Shuskan and the Bagley Lakes when I got higher.


I didn’t get to Chain Lakes, but it’s on my list for next time. I turned around after watching the people who had passed me on the trail continuing up where it looked like there could not possibly be a trail.


I returned to my car—and the bulldozer—via the trail on the other side of the stream, more interesting than the child-friendly side.


I drove on to Artist point at the end of the road (with a bout of road aeroacrophobia) to another trail and views of Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuskan. I had decided against Table Mountain after reading the description in several publications (“…parts are steep and somewhat [read very] exposed. If the route looks unnerving, turn around…”) and chose another section of the Chain Lakes trail. I hadn’t gone far when I saw the trail stretched across the side of a steep slope. I wasn’t fearful of it, but I could see it was very long and the view, I surmised, wouldn’t be much different than what I could see from where I was. By the time I got to the other side, I would be ready to turn back. Also, there was a family with two young children in front of me (who were making me very nervous), and a couple with two dogs behind me. This was not a trail built for leap frog or for turning around in the middle. Going on felt claustrophobic.


I returned to the car, and drove back past Mt. Shuskan doubled in Picture Lake, and home to my campsite.


The afternoon and evening stretched ahead with no obligations. I did read and write and took a nap in the hammock in the sun. Then built a fire, poured a glass of wine, and read some more. Paradise.


7 thoughts on “Flip Flops to Aeroacrophobia”

  1. The photos are fantastic as usual and you are so brave to go off alone like that. You like your own company, but thanks for sharing with the rest of us.


  2. I was so happy to read about your holiday away from real life that I was smiling on the inside throughout my reading of this post. Your idea of paradise is much the same as my own. Just yesterday, I wrote a friend and said I was working on some of my writing (actually proofing/editing my e-book, which I’d been procrastinating about) and he said, “Really? On a day like today?!” And I thought, yes, it’s perfect to be enjoying myself in the sun on the deck, occasionally looking up to see the quail and squirrel, hearing the poplars rustling in the background, while I am engrossed in my project. And I think a nap in the middle of the day is the ultimate luxury. So you had it all! And the pictures you took were spectacular! What beautiful surroundings to be enjoying your solitude.


  3. Sounded heavenly as I read it. Some part of most (maybe all) of us wants to be alone in a beautiful setting ready for either adventure or just hanging out and just being. Loved reading it and loved the photos.


  4. I thoroughly enjoyed your narrative but the photos are fantastic! Beauty at almost every turn. Thanks so much for sharing them, helping us share your whole experience.


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