From the San Francisco Chronicle: Winner of the Outdoor Writers Association of America - Wilderness Writing Category sponsored by The Wilderness Society.
POWER OF PLACE
Wilderness areas offer cleansing treks that are the perfect antidote to the routine of everyday life
Thursday, July 24, 2008
(07-23) 20:30 PDT -- Regardless of why we venture into the wild, we all are in search of the same thing: what I call the power of place.
There are thousands of miles in wilderness, but they all lead to one truth: It makes you feel clean inside. It transcends everything, and stays with you for years.
It starts at dawn, often with the sweet calls of songbirds that sound like a mountain symphony. You emerge halfway from your sleeping bag and see the swirls of rising trout on a pristine lake. The smell of pine duff is in the air. Suddenly, unlike your life at home, you become aware of all your senses, as if every pore has opened to your surroundings.
You are a visitor in a wild land, but while you are out there, you share in the wild places and creatures that surround you.
Some people trick themselves into an ambitious trip with a goal. It can be the chance to cast for trout that have not seen a hook, hike to a view that seems to extend to forever, climb a famous peak, find trophy-class deer and other animals that know nothing of roads, or to challenge your body across many miles of wildlands.
But in the process, time in the wilderness can transform how you feel. Accomplishments become meaningless. Many pledge to stop wasting time on the extraneous, and to keep their bodies in good condition.
California has 137 federally designated wilderness areas. These are places where you share in the power of place, and then leave. The adjacent capsules list four of the best treks for two days to a week, for newcomers or experienced mountaineers, with the chance to expand the trips for weeks.
There's a saying that every step on a wilderness hike seems to call with a thousand voices. But as the days progress, especially on expeditions, the voices eventually become muted to one. The most complex thoughts become clear.
All the outside noise, conflict and stimulus has been quieted.
That single voice you hear - that's the real you.