I’ve been waiting for this day to come just about as much as I waited for my wedding day, except this day didn’t actually have a date, and none of us knew whether it would ever happen again. The day I’m talking about is the day I would once again be reunited with my beautiful Columbia river gorge and get to hike my favorite spots. That day actually came, a year and 5 months after it had been closed down, indefinitely due to a fire that burned over 27,000 acres.
I’ve always found my way with nature to be some of my best and most memorable times, especially on my solo hikes. There’s just something so freeing about walking those trails and getting to feel all your feelings and emotions and experience nature and all the beauty around you. What struck out to me about yesterday’s hike thought was different kind of feelings and emotions. Ones of disbelief, grief and anger. Every time I’ve gone on this particular hike, (which has definitely been at least 25-30 times) I’ve felt nothing but fresh air, happiness, joy, beauty and all sorts of other good feelings, like the angels were around me (this hike is called Angels Rest). This time though was different. The higher up I got on the trail the more I saw all the pain and devastation our beautiful gorge had endured, and all because of a careless and selfish teenager that decided to throw smoke bombs into a canyon in the middle of the driest summer! The higher I went up, the more my heart hurt. The beautiful evergreen forest, and gorgeous tall pines were nothing but black charred stumps. It was like walking through a tree graveyard. Just typing this makes me tear up thinking about it.
I’ve always found myself very connected to living things, but especially so animals and nature. And yesterday that connection felt so much deeper. I felt that pain the forest and all the animals that didn’t have a chance to escape those fires felt. I got up to the main view point and cried, and just sat there for an hour afterwards thinking about how selfish we can be as humans. We only have one earth and we treat it so poorly. We have no consideration for plant life, and animal life, throwing out garbage and littering, going to the bathroom on trails, and even worse, setting fires when they aren’t allowed. What scares me most is to think about how we’re going to leave this earth for the next generations to come. If you’ve been paying attention to the news even a little, I’m sure you’ve seen what’s been happening to our national parks around the western states. With the government shut down, the parks have stayed open with no workers to man them, meaning selfish people have gone to the parks, have left their garbage everywhere, alleviated themselves in random areas because bathrooms were closed, and in the case of Joshua tree National Park, people cut down Joshua trees that withstood the dessert for hundreds and hundreds of years. If that doesn’t make your heart ache, I don’t know what will.
We have a chance to live on this beautiful earth, if we cared an ounce about it as much as we care about our own selves, imagine how beautiful we’d have it, and how much we would be able to enjoy this wonderful creation we’re able to see everyday. If you’re like me and love being outdoors and enjoying this earth and all it has to offer, please be kind and take care of it. Pick up your garbage and don’t litter. Don’t alleviate yourself in non-designated places, don’t drive of onto the beaten path just because you feel like you can, don’t set fires when there are fire bans, and don’t go to parks when there are government shut downs. Think about the next generation and what you’re leaving behind.