Seeking Solace in Nature

IMG_1585In the aftermath of the Las Vegas shootings last week (on top of everything else going on in this country) I needed a big hug from nature.

Off I went with 3 other women friends to walk in the Opal Creek Wilderness Area.  This place has been a refuge for me for years.  It is tucked up in the Cascade Mountains about 30 miles due east of Salem, Oregon.

This is one of the largest old growth forests left in the United States and the largest in the Western Cascade Mountains in a watershed virtually untouched by loggers saw.  As a result, stunning Opal Creek runs sparkling clear through its rocky course through this forest wonderland of giant Douglas fir, W. Hemlock, & W. Red Cedar.

IMG_1601The Shiny Rock Mining company operated in the midst of this forest in the 1930s from the “town” of Jawbone Flat. In its heyday, about 50 souls lived & worked there.  The relics of the town still remain.

By the 1980s, timber companies were eager to log the area.  Friends of Opal Creek, an activist organization dedicated to preserving the watershed to a wilderness area, was formed.  I joined up.  For the next few years, I made many 4-hour roundtrip drives to lead educational hikes to the public along with other docents in an effort to expose and educate the public about why we should preserve this gem of an area.

The strategy worked.  Eventually, with public pressure, Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon IMG_1608pushed legislation through Congress in 1996 before he retired forming the Opal Creek Wilderness Area.  The Shiny Rock Mining Company deeded over their holdings to the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center whose mission it is to educate children and others on the value of old growth forests.

Today it is a sanctuary for many including myself and a myriad of flora and fauna.  Walking through this forest cathedral, the four of us absorbed the healing power of nature and our souls were washed clean, at least for a while, from the cascades of Opal Creek.

It was good to know, there is still beauty in this world.

IMG_1615

There is Still beauty in this World

Seek it in the wild forests

IMG_1574Where the only news you will hear

Are the songs of birds

And the shatter of chipmunks

 

Let the music of cascading waters

Soothe your soul

As you tread  in a green world

Lined with lush moss, rocks, and ferns

A winding trail beneath your feet

 

IMG_1617 (1)When you look up through

The cathedral of conifer branches

And the stained glass window of the vine maples in their sunset hues

Know that nature will endure

Beyond the world of man

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Walking Heritage, The Camino de Santiago

cmaino mapFor centuries Catholic pilgrims from all over Europe & beyond set out to walk often hundreds of miles to the shrine of the apostle, St. James whose remains were said to rest in the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela in Santiago, in northwestern Spain. Though many routes crisscrossed Europe, the most well-traveled route stretches 500 miles from St. Jean Pied de Port in France over the Pyrenees through Basque country and then onto Galicia.camino albergue

The scallop shell, often found on the shores in Galicia, has long been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. Pilgrims wear them on their packs & they are on all the way markers for the trail.

In modern times the trail has been popular with hikers and bikers all over the world for a variety of reasons, Some travel just for recreation, others during a transitional time in their lives & many for spiritual reasons.  It is still popular today among Catholics.  In 1987 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Along the way, pilgrims stay in “albergues,” similar to youth hostels.  At each albergue you get your pilgrim passport stamped.

camino startIn 2013 I walked 250 miles of the Camino with my long time friend, Deb,marking my 60th birthday.  We skipped the middle part since we only had 2 1/2 weeks.  It was a pivotal experience in my life. We started in France with many other pilgrims beginning the long trek from the charming medieval village of  St. Jean de Port crossing the Pyrenees the next day.

Some of the many memorials along the way.  Deb is leaving a special stone in the Pyrenees in memory of her father.

camino pass
The pass above Pamplona

Scenes along the Camino….

The End of the Journey- for most, the Cathedral de Santiago, for me – Museo by the Sea (in new shoes.)
Heritage