Exploration calls me and I answer.
Usually, the opportunity is clear and the conditions are hospitable — like a fresh breezy day last Spring at Deception Pass. And my quest to see, experience, and connect with the world comes together like a patchwork quilt with sometimes clear blue fabric. Other times, the sky is a darker color, and the call to adventure is harder to heed.
What happens when “the call” comes and the conditions are less than perfect to answer? I’m still drawn to follow my instincts because the curiosity that emerges is too great. The spirit to explore can feel like a tractor beam pulling me toward a mission that might seem crazy, but I’ve learned to trust that spirit will never take me to places that are dangerous to my mind, body, or spirit.
A few weeks ago while traveling with my family around the spectacular Olympic Peninsula, I worked hard to show them some of my favorites, which included a stay at Lake Quinault Lodge for a majority of the weekend.
Our final epic day started with an 8AM freezing dip in the lake. Next was a stop at the Tree of Life along the sweeping coastline, followed by a quick excursion down a frolicking path to the pebbles of Ruby Beach. The star attraction, the Hoh Rainforest, provided “oohhs” and “aahhs” amongst lime-green moss dripping from every branch of maple, cedar and fir.
We arrived at our accommodation in Forks amongst pouring rain that seemed all too stereotypical of the land that inspires vampire stories. Even teams Jacob and Edward would be inside sipping cocoa while watching the wind blast droplets of rain sideways down the barren highway.
The day did not feel complete. At 4PM, we still had some daylight left and Forks wasn’t going to provide enough, or anything, to inspire this hardened crew. I wanted to remain in my DRY, cozy cabin — fir trim framing in a roaring gas fireplace.
On paper, the trek out to see Hole-In-The-Wall, an attraction at the end of Rialto Beach, looked like a great idea. In reality, it seemed like a lot of work on a rainy day. When Will asked if there was something else planned for the remainder of our afternoon, I heard the call. After explaining the unique opportunity to the crew, we donned all we had that would repel water. In no time we were racing toward the ocean in a sturdy truck.
Andrew and Clare headed out faster, automatically focused on achieving the target, while Will and Karen took up the back of the party. I found myself in between the two pairs, admiring the patchwork of driftwood, but not like you see at other beaches. These were massive trees that projected from the woodlands as if a giant had thrown them from afar.
We were already saturated with water by the time a small creek blocked our march and Andrew watched with an eagle’s eye as Will forged the swift flow of freshwater that seemed eager to meet the salty ocean. He had waders on but the rest of us wouldn’t fare as well with our penetrable garb. We turned to the pile of strewn logs that formed a wily bridge and executed a plan to contort ourselves for a successful crossing.
Upon hitting the ground again on the other side, we seemed to hike with more urgency, as if the black sand were 1000 degrees. Rain blew against our backs while the angry surf crashed toward us. The feeling of water squishing between my toes in normally waterproof hiking boots felt very playful to me, but I knew time was ticking before the fun would turn to misery.
Still, this chaotic weather provided beauty not available when the sun is shining and dozens more visitors are traversing the beach. Wet logs were ablaze with vibrant oranges and browns, illuminated by the glistening water, and rocks caught the foam from receding waves.
The anticipation grew as we closed in on the hole that was indeed in the wall. Except the tide was too high for us to walk through and around the interesting feature, carved into a quintessential rock stack protruding from the landscape into the sea. The only way was up, and we ascended a muddy trail to the vista overlooking both sides of the narrow cliff. The wind was ferocious and felt strong enough to blow us away into the salty air.
This was a scenario similar to mountain climbing. Getting to the top is optional but climbing back down mandatory. A quiet reflection surrounded us on the march returning to the parking lot, tolerating the wetness long enough to make the 1.5-mile jaunt back to the rig. Karen’s gait screamed out “get ’er done” as we scurried back across the log mass bridging us to the finish line.
The wind blew into our faces in a cold exfoliation that chipped at our blushed skin. Each step felt more and more like wading through quicksand, as if the beach yearned to keep me just a few moments longer.
But in all this odyssey, I felt a peace that comes with accomplishing something difficult. My heart was open as my mind was relegated to concentrate on the sloshing steps in the slippery shifting pebbles. The exercising of mind, body and spirit was exhilarating — especially as I made contact with the blacktop of the desolate parking lot.
There is little to romance about this experience. It was a blustery afternoon to take a three-mile walk on the beach, while drenched in wetness too saturated to dry out by the next morning.
But always when called, we have the opportunity to answer.