Lincoln Stoller, PhD, 2018. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) www.mindstrengthbalance.com
Love is the subject. Love is hugely misunderstood, but closely related to harmony and balance, and grows from those things. Love is the topic of this audio file, as reflected in the balance of the forest. I’ve created an audio file to bring to you some of the ideas and associations that came to me during this walk. I’ve titled it “Walking.”
As preparation for exploring the mountains of Vancouver Island – mountains that are large and remote – I took a local trip to test myself. I decided to camp overnight in the Sooke Mountains, Victoria’s closest range.
The trailhead is 35 minutes from my door. As it is mid-summer, the peaks are dry, as are all of the streams and many of the rivers. To avoid having to carry all my water, I aimed to walk six miles (10 km) up 1,400′ to camp at Shields Lake.
My route took me onto unmarked trails. I’m a great map and compass navigator, but times have changed with the advent of GPS. Being suspicious of technology, and knowing there’s little room for error in the wilderness, I brought two GPSs, along with a printed map and compass for backup.
Garmin eTrex 30, Google smartphone, map and compass.
It was all valley walking during the late afternoon trip to the lake. I prefer to walk alone. I passed no one, in spite of this being a main trail just outside of the island’s largest city, and a holiday weekend.
Snapping sounds in the otherwise quiet woods drew my attention to the creek bed below, where I saw a bruin eating salal berries on a gravel bank. But the sounds were coming from high up in a tree, from which a second bear was descending. As the river was mostly dry, these bears were hanging around the pools. From additional sounds, I judged there was a third, so I moved on.
I found two bicyclists camping at the lake, and they knew of another party nearby. Just as the trails were unmarked, the camp sites were undeveloped and, while the map showed four sites, none could be seen from any other. I threw down my sleeping bag on a peninsula with the lake to myself.
Shields Lake at sunset.
A quiet revolution in camping gear is the camping stove, which has taken a decidedly non-technological turn. My ultra-light, one-pound, butane canister stove has been replaced with a two-ounce alcohol stove the size of a silver dollar that has no moving parts. Technology may be a marvel, but something so much simpler and better is even more marvelous.
The next day’s trails over Monument Mountain tested the promise of the GPS, and it failed. The problem wasn’t the GPS per se; it was that every map was different. One GPS map put me at an intersection turning left, the printed map indicated a different intersection turning right, and the other GPS showed no trail intersection at all. Other times, all three methods agreed and directed me to turn onto a trail that simply was not there!
You can get lost with a GPS. The problem isn’t that you don’t know where you are, but rather that you don’t know where you should be. This rarely occurs using a map and compass, in which case you know where you are only after you come to the intersection you’re looking for. With the GPS you discover your confusion much sooner, and you don’t have to retrace a half-hour’s travel looking for a landmark. Still, it’s a strange feeling knowing exactly where you are but not which way to go.
After being denied my planned trail over the summit because the trail didn’t exist, and then being denied an alternate trail because that didn’t exist either, I found a track not shown on any map that went in the direction I wanted. Somewhere across the mountain slope, maybe 1,500′ away, was the route I was trying to join. The track I’d picked was extremely poor, and it did not take a natural line at all. It was a dead end, the reason for which is evident in the photo: it led to a pot farm!
By this time I was almost halfway to where I expected to find a real trail, and I decided to bushwhack the rest of the way.
Going cross-country in the mountains is a dangerous affair, as numerous close calls of my own can attest. Maps do not show small cliffs, and going over any of them would be a disaster. However, I only needed to stay level, and the traverse seemed to have broad terraces. I knew the trail I was aiming for existed, because I’d read a trail report from last year. I was bound to hit it.
I found the trail, which I expected to be a reasonably graded bike trail through moderate terrain. It turned out to be rated a double black diamond, the hardest grade, that plunged over 5′ steps.
The bike trail in the picture on the left goes straight over a drop that cannot be avoided; my pack shows the scale. The ridge down Monument Mountain dropped steeply 500′ with dozens of such steps. Another new technology: mountain bike shock absorbers. These, in the hands of lunatic bikers, has enabled these cliff-jumping trails.
Monument Mountain’s summit overlooks the clouded Straits of Juan de Fuca with the snow-capped Washington Olympics to the South.
Looking south from the summit of Monument Mountain.
I’d come from the East Coast in search of mountains, and I’m starting with the smaller ones. I was back to my car 22 hours after I’d started, sore after walking for 11 of these hours. With a few minor adjustments – I’m happy to say – I’m ready for a longer trip.
An Audio Presentation
I’ve created an audio file to bring to you some of the ideas and associations that came to me during this walk. I’ve titled it “Walking.”
It may surprise you that love is the subject. I think love is hugely misunderstood, but closely related to harmony and balance, and grows from those things. Love is the topic of this audio file, as reflected in the balance of the forest.