A Few of My Favorite Things

People keep asking me “What was your favorite part of your journey?”  And I’m finding it such a difficult question to answer.  I can’t pinpoint a single experience or view or location as the favorite…but I can identify a few of my favorite things.  (Bear with me here; this is a long one…!)

Campground
Early on in my journey, I freaked out a little about the search for dispersed camping sites.  I didn’t have any experience at all just going into a forest and finding a spot…and the task right away proved much more nuanced and daunting that I ever imagined.  I’d made advanced reservations at a campground my first night in the Redwoods then figured I’d just wing it from there.  But “winging” it resulted in my first panicked break-down on the side of a road just 48 hours into my trip.  So, I made the decision to ease into dispersed camping and stay at some campgrounds along the way.  And all I can say about campgrounds in general is that they are hit or miss.  Seriously.  Some are quiet and quaint and forested and lovely; while others are everything but.  I found Mill Creek Resort on the Hipcamp website, and it was all the things good campgrounds are made of – great facilities, secluded sites, wooded surroundings, running water (faucets, toilets, creek, and laundry!), and fantastic people.  The owners are a young couple who live on-site and go above and beyond making the guest experience extraordinary.  And since the grounds are located in a tiny mountain community, locals wander in for breakfast and milkshakes and add to the uniqueness and character of the experience.  This is the first place I wanted to settle in for a bit..and someday, I’ll return.

Boondock experience
Once I settled into the “dispersed” camping routine, I feel like I nailed it, discovering some great spots!  My first foray into national forest camping was significant because it involved facing major fears (of potential animal encounters, of seclusion in a forested space, of physical vulnerability…), and I’ll always remember my site off a logging road in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, with a breathtaking view of Shasta’s snowy peak from one window and a reassuring view of Gma’s almost-moon from the other, glowing in on me most of the night.  This is where I first dug a hole for…you know.  And the next morning, I washed my face and brushed my teeth in a creek nearby, feeling like a true wild child for the first time on my journey.  It was liberating, and I felt a freedom having faced my fears and survived my first night boondocking in the wild west. 😉

National Park
My parents were less than thrilled about my trip, but for Christmas they gifted me a national parks book and an America the Beautiful annual parks pass, and this was the most lovely gift they could have given me.  I couldn’t wait to explore the parks!  I was most excited about Joshua Tree and Glacier, but Lassen Volcanic proved to be my favorite of all the parks I saw.  I’d never heard of it and honestly thought it was going to be a big pile of ashy after-volcano mess…but it turned out to be so much more extraordinary than that.  Hiking in some areas of the park felt like walking through a Pixar film.  It was so green and almost other-worldly.  It looked too pristine and felt too idyllic to be real and natural…but Mother Nature, I was reminded over and over again on my journey, is the greatest creator of all.

Hike
I did a lot of hiking on my trip, so it’s difficult to identify the one hike that moved me most, but when I look back, I can’t help but think of Mt. Shasta.  The drive up to the trailhead was an adventure in itself.  It was the first of many drives that gave my little Civic a real run for her money (and the first one to shake lose her ski plate, which would have to be zip tied or duct taped three times on my journey).  At one point in the climb, I was literally driving 1 MPH!  I hadn’t even known this was possible, but the climb was steep, and the rocks and ruts were big.  (A fellow hiker said to me “You climbed that hill in a Civic!?!”  Yes, yes I did – for better or worse!)  Unbeknownst to me, this particular trailhead is mostly used by backpackers climbing to the peak.  I may have been the only hiker on the trail without technical gear and skis for sliding back down the snowy patches near the peak.  And I was wearing hiking sandals…!  I had no intention of hiking to the top, but I laugh at myself looking back.  It was a challenging climb, and I lost my way coming back down and had to “Marco Polo” some hikers and tag along with them to relocate the trail I’d lost.  But I did it.  It was the first of many hills I would climb on my journey, literally and figuratively.

Town(s)
Of all the towns I visited, Victoria, British Columbia was my favorite.  A close second was Telluride, Colorado.  Then Jackson, Wyoming.  In each of these places, my experience was enriched because I was spending my time in the company of friends, new and old.

Leap outside my comfort zone
Shonda Rhimes wrote a book called Year of Yes, and it’s about her giving up resistance to living life to the fullest.  I bought it just before my journey and tried to incorporate her advice and life learning into my everyday, saying “yes” more than I said “no” to new experiences out on the road.  I remember one night in particular pushing the bounds of my comfort zone, and I smile looking back on it, even though I was close to miserable in some of its moments… I’d started talking to a guy at a bar over lunch in Telluride and wound up meeting up with him to let him introduce me to some local culture and experience later in the evening.  We went to a natural hot springs (my first time) where an old guy named Warren was sitting along the edge of the pool with a bathrobe covering nothing but his shoulders, doling out PB&J sandwiches and passing around his water bong to share with the group.  All the folks who eventually filled the relatively small tub were naked but me, and I got crowded out of my seat by a bunch of young hippies, one of whom didn’t even notice me and almost sat right on me with his bum in the buff.  I probably appeared a bit prudish in my swimsuit, but I’ll never forget the experience and staring up at the sea of stars in the dark skies above the pool of naked strangers.

Chance encounter
When I set out on my journey, I had no idea how many people I’d meet and get to know along the way.  I thought I’d spend most of my time in solitude, trying to figure out what the heck I’m gonna do with the rest of my life.  Perhaps I didn’t discover my “path” because I spent too much time accidentally meeting people…but I have no regrets about any of it.  I had fun with and learned something from everyone I met.  My most rewarding chance encounter happened in the Alabama Hills of California.  If I hadn’t met Dawid, I’d never have braved going to Death Valley on my own – and I wouldn’t get to say I visited the hottest place in America in the heat of summer and discovered a waterfall (and a friendly frog!) in a surprisingly lush area of the park.  I also wouldn’t have saved two lives, as Dawid tells the story.

Wildlife sighting
I didn’t see my first bear until 8 weeks into my trip.  Even then, it was from a very very long distance…and I could only sort of see it with binoculars (a cub, shaking berries loose from a huckleberry bush).  I actually began to think bears were imaginary creatures – and wonder why in the heck I’d spent $90 on aerosol sprays for warding them off!  I never once saw a rattlesnake, and that’s okay, but I do wonder why the most interesting (and admittedly intimidating) creatures seemed to evade me.  There must be some significance to that, right?  Thankfully, I did see buffalo – loads of them – and they absolutely amazed me.  They were my most favorite creature-encounter of the journey!  (The giant tarantula I spotted crossing a rocky road in front of me late at night outside Sedona was a close second.)

Nature moment
This one’s a toss-up between two very different experiences.  My initial favorite moment in nature was early on in my trip when I escaped the crowds of the Redwoods to curl up with John Muir (er, his writings) on the trunk of a fallen tree and watched the clouds pass slowly overhead.  There was simple, lovely, I’m-doing-this-thing-I thought-I couldn’t-do-and-this-is-the-stuff-it’s-made-of joy in this experience.  I felt at peace with the world in that time and place.  On the flip side, late in my journey, I explored a relatively out-of-the-way cave with Julie on a hike in the San Juan Islands.  It was pitch black inside, and she was terrified, but I felt alive, invigorated to have absolutely no idea whatsoever what might lie around the next turn, or even just beyond the few feet I could see in front of me by headlamp.  I felt brave.  I’ve chickened out of a lot of things in my life, quitting before making good on commitments, without following-through on this, that, or the other thing… But in the few minutes we were inside the cave, I felt almost altogether free of fear, and it was incredible.  In retrospect, this feels like a good blueprint for life, since we never know what’s to come but have the opportunity every day to forge ahead anyway.  I don’t always do this, but on that day, in that cave, I did, and it felt good.  Really good.

All-around experience
I met a lot of great people in my travels, and all of them made an impact on me and my journey, but my hosts at Lake Tahoe made an especially lasting impression (I’m certain I can’t put into words here all the reasons why).  I’d met and talked with the Liegingers for a mere twenty minutes when Betsy invited me to stay with them at their home.  When I showed up, I immediately asked “Does it seem weird that I’m virtually a complete stranger and I’ve come to stay with you?”  Her husband and brother answered unequivocally “Yes…but not to Betsy it doesn’t.”  She and I share the same name and birthday; we both collect heart-shaped rocks in nature; and we have the same dishes, for goodness sake.  I was meant to pick them up and give them a Lyft back in the spring, and we were meant to connect on my journey.  I’m not sure why, but I’m certain it’s so.  And I’m very grateful.  What lovely people they are, and what a lovely time we shared.

Spiritual awakening
It seems crazy to recall a single sunset and evening of stargazing, but I do.  It was outside Joshua Tree, California, and it was magical.  That night, I showered outdoors under a ginormous sky emblazoned with the colors of the setting sun.  Then I laid naked in the desert landscape under that same sky as it transitioned to night and filled with a million twinkling stars.  In those moments I was at once all alone and intimately connected to the entire cosmos.  I felt an incredible sense of calm and tranquility, at peace with my place in the world.  I don’t often feel like I really belong in this time and space (I feel like an interloper in a culture and society I don’t understand – and vice versa), but for one night, I belonged.  I felt like everything was going to be okay, and for someone like me that’s a really significant sensation (perhaps the intention of my journey).  I’m a perpetual over-thinker and a worrier.  As an empath, I often obsess about the feelings of others and try desperately (sometimes unconsciously) to align myself with their expectations, even though they don’t fit me.  But that night I got a reprieve!  Under that sky, in the middle of the desert, I seemed to sink into my truest self and accept all of her, to love her with my whole heart, and I got a sense for what it might feel like to live the life my soul intended.  It was incredible, and if I could jar up that feeling to sip on for all the days of my life, I most certainly would.  Until I figure out how to capture that essence of Universal alignment, contentment, and belonging once and for all, I will return to this experience over and over in my mind’s eye because to me it felt like coming home.

And those are a few of my favorite things. ❤
(It’s very interesting to me how many of these things happened in my first month on the road… Hmmm.)

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Days 84-87: Forest Bathing

John Muir, environmental philosopher and activist, once wrote “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home. Wilderness is a necessity.”  I hadn’t heard of Muir before my journey (or his writing had yet to resonate with me), and when I “discovered” his simple wisdom of the wild on a bookshelf early in my travels, I was quickly taken by his words, experience, and loving admiration for all things natural and wild.  One of my favorite memories of my time on the road is hiking away from the crowds of Redwood National Forest, finding a fallen tree, and climbing atop it to read from a collection of Muir’s works.  I laid there, soaking in the energy of the tree, and looking up at the clouds moving ever so slowly past the canopy high above me, completely present in the moments.  It was my first such experience of the journey, and it felt right to conclude my trip in a similar state of just being – doing what the Japanese call shinrin-yoku.

Shinrin-yoku is “forest bathing.”  It’s the “practice” of going out into nature to move slowly amongst the trees and plants, taking it all in, without timeline or expectation, just being in a state of mindfulness with nature.  (The fact that it’s been given a name and become a “recommended practice” reminds me a little of the modern movement toward eating simply and organically.  This “practice” was just eating before the advent of processing and fast foods and genetic modification; there wasn’t an alternative.  And there must certainly have been a time when going out in the woods for rest and rejuvenation didn’t need a name or recommendation from doctors; I imagine it’s just what people did.  Funny how far we’ve come from that place and time… Still, forest bathing is definitely a wise prescription for what ails us as a modern people and society.  And I’ll continue partaking!)

I’d planned to spend the last two weeks of my journey in Washington State, exploring the North Cascades (apparently breathtaking in the fall) and the Olympic Peninsula.  I was looking forward to completing my travels in places I’ve never visited relatively close to home…but I was also tired of rain after spending several days in it on the San Juan Islands…so when I discovered the forecast was calling for most of a week of it in both the Cascades and Olympic National Park, I planned my escape.  I journeyed quickly south and east of the mountains and found a quiet, secluded place in the southernmost area of the Baker-Snoqualmie Wilderness.  In four days, I saw or heard probably only ten vehicles, and, much to my relief, none of their drivers had any interest in me or my location.  Plus…I had next to no cell phone service!  Couple that with the babbling creek I found to pop up my tent beside, and I was set for some shinrin-yoku.

Sitting beside the creek, just listening and breathing in the forest, it struck me that flowing water provides a great analogy for a Zen Buddhist way of life…and these words just seemed to come to me.

The river doesn’t wonder
about the rocks it just flowed past.
It never stops to think
on the trees along its way.
The river curves and winds,
sometimes falling over cliffs.
It never seems to question
the path it’s meant to take.
It doesn’t look back
or try to change what was.
It never stops to wonder; the river, it just flows.

Water has always spoken to me but never quite so literally as this.

For a few days, I walked around the woods, slowly, without intention or destination.  I stopped to watch, listen, and even speak gently to animals.  I was struck by the way that one squirrel and two finches in particular seemed to engage with me, sticking close by and just being, the way animals do every day, so wisely.  The squirrel cocked his head, back and forth, as if he were really listening to whatever I said.  The birds chirped away, dancing on their branches, close by me without flinching, seemingly comfortable and content.  I sat by the creek and took in the sound, the scents, the essence of the forest.

It’s when I’m in nature I feel closest to my own true essence.  I feel alive and connected with the Universe, at once energized and at peace.  It’s my happy place.  And if I had my druthers, I’d occupy this space everyday for the rest of my life, in a state of shinrin-yoku, bathing in the forest that Muir regarded as the ultimate healer.

Day 75-77: Banff, Driving, & Breathing

I was super excited to visit Banff National Park, but the time I spent there was almost all together disappointing (except for my hammock; there’s nothing disappointing about literally hanging out in nature.)

The weather was cold and rainy.  I spent most of my time in the car, driving around not seeing too much because of the clouds.  I went on only one hike, and it was miserable.  I’d reached out to someone on Instagram inquiring about where he’d seen a view he posted, and he refused to tell me since “people are destroying the natural environment because of Instagram.”  (Then why the heck are you contributing to it, dude!?)  Anyway, I found the place (no thanks to him) and, though the weather was blustery, the trail was indeed over-crowded and littered with trash, which I collected in the rain.  I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so far away from nature on a hike as I did on this one.  Too many people.  No serenity.  And sidewalks.  The park built a pathway with guardrails through a cavern.  (Mr. Instagram actually got me thinking about whether I and others are chasing a picture instead of an experience…and how nature might be affected by this – and also how national parks are catering to this trend.)

After that hike (and breakfast with a very grumpy server at a little spot in the park), I rushed back to my campsite to relax in the rain in my tent (and my hammock).  I read and watched Hulu and just chilled out.  It wasn’t what I’d hoped for in the very small window of time I had to spend at a place I’d heard and read so many incredible things about…but it gave me some time to think and reflect and plan and look forward.  I’d set my alarm to go off very early the next day so I could squeeze in another hike before making the ten hour trek to meet Julie in western British Columbia, but I turned it off.  Whose schedule was I accommodating?  No one’s but my own, I realized.  So why would I set myself up for losing sleep to squeeze another cold rainy hike into my “itinerary” before a long day of driving?  #nope

I left my campsite later in the morning relaxed (and well-rested) and looking forward to meeting my friend.  I took my time driving across lower British Columbia toward Vancouver (the views were incredible).  I stopped when I wanted to stop and just…took big gulps of the Canadian Rocky Mountain air.  I don’t love driving, but I settled into a groove early on in my journey (driving Lyft in the spring probably helped me prepare), and some of my best thinking (and listening to my intuition and the Universe) came to take place in the car.  And the driving proved to be great “down time” before my next adventure began.

(Someday, I look forward to coming back to Banff in nicer weather and taking my time, maybe taking pictures for Instagram and maybe not.)

Day 68: Netflix & Chill

I left my new friends with the intention of making it to the Glacier area by evening – and I did.  Only when I found my spot in the Flathead National Forest just south of the park, the rain was coming down and the temperature was steadily dropping… I’ll save you the gory details but “nature called” on multiple lines as a I hunkered down under a towel in the forest, and I thought to myself “I think I’ll drive to the next town, find an Airbnb, and take care of this in a warm, dry pace.  So I did.  And boy was I grateful when the wind picked up and the rain poured all night long and into the next day.

I didn’t exactly sleep soundly, what with something banging on the metal roof all night, but I was grateful for Netflix and the company of my favorite Gilmore Girls from Stars Hollow…and when my hostess contacted me in the morning to ask if I’d heard the same noise overnight as my neighbors, I filled her in on the specifics and she offered me an additional night free.  Rain, wind, and cold temps (even snow!) were forecasted for the next 24 hours, so I took her up on the offer and spent what would have been a miserable day outside inside eating pizza and reading and Netflixing and chilling, not in the way I might have done in my tent, but in a warm, snuggly, dry, and comfortable way.  It was lovely.  And perfect.  And I was grateful to those noisy branches (and the kind man who came and removed them, leaving me to sleep in peace the next night).

Days 66 & 67: Libby

Yesterday I put on my big girl panties to brave a solo hike despite the gruesome stories I’ve heard about grizzly attacks.  Fred in Ovando says the bears are eating huckleberries right now and aren’t too very interested in humans, and I’m taking his word for it.  (I considered investing in a bike helmet so that even if my body gets mauled by a bear, I’ll still have my face and my scalp, unlike the unfortunate guy I saw pictured on a bear spray display at a mountaineering store the other day…)

At the suggestion of the handsome owner of a coffee shop I drove out of my way to visit in Columbia Falls, I headed south to visit the Jewel Basin.  I was excited the road to my chosen hike was well-maintained…but, boy did my 4-cylinder struggle making its way up the hill!!  Wowza.  At any rate, I made it and was in this case grateful there were several other cars at the trailhead (cuz…noise scares bears).  I was also grateful to the kind lady who shared her toilet paper at the outhouse…then strategic in following her and her family up the trail, figuring their conversation and noise-making would be my first line of defense against grizzlies.  (Smart, eh?)

Soon enough, we were taking pictures of each other at a viewpoint and then I was hiking with them (three cans of bear spray and five voices are way better than one!).  Turns out, the couple, in their 50s, had just retired to move to their family vacation home near Big Fork from, of all places, Illinois (Evanston)!  Their daughter and her boyfriend were in town visiting from Nashville, where they write music and he tours with up-and-coming country artists.  We hit it off right away, and next thing I knew, they invited me to spend the night at their house.  I love the way this talking to strangers thing works for me!

When I found out there was a town in northwestern Montana called Libby, I knew I had to visit, and the night of the full moon was perfect timing.  My grandma’s name was Carrie Elizabeth, but she hated the name Carrie (none of us quite understand why…), so she chose to go by her middle name and shortened it to Libby.  A few family members have called me “Lib” over the years, but no one outside the family ever really has – until Jim in Jackson learned of the family nickname…and he’s called me Libby every since.  Gma always called me her Libby 2 (Libby “two-two-two,” actually).  And when I told the Supellsas (Candus, Mark, and Ava from Evanston, and b.f. Jeremy from Texas by way of Nashville) the story of Gma and her moon and my plans to visit Libby for it, they called me by her name the rest of our time together, and my heart swelled every time.

As I drove two hours out of my way to the little town of Libby, population ~2,000, after an afternoon of strenuous hiking up the side of a mountain, I wondered if it was really worth the drive, if I’d feel Gma there or even see her moon at all, given my driving into more and more smoke all the way…but I couldn’t have been happier I took the time to make the journey.  The drive gave me all the evening to think of and remember her, and without a doubt I felt her presence with me in that little town.  I found a lovely local restaurant with delicious pizza, a delightful waitress, and friendly locals at the bar, and I took my time soaking in the feel and the flavor of the place before driving back to Big Fork…then sure enough as I drove a ways from Libby, I saw that most beautiful Gma moon shining down on me from behind the clouds, and all I felt was love (not coincidentally, one of the only words Gma muttered in her final days with us).

Candus and Marc were delightful, and I’m so thankful again to get to spend my time with really good people doing things that I love.  The climb up Mt. Aneus (not Mt. Anus, as I initially thought…) was so much more enjoyable with company, and we went all the way to the peak, which I might not have done on my own.  Plus, we didn’t get eaten by bears!  This morning, we shared breakfast, stories, conversation, and goodness, and I left Echo Lake with my love cup filled to brimming.

Day 63: Sleeping in the Street with Bikers

Today was shitty.  But tonight was unexpectedly lovely.

A friend in Wyoming told me he’s nervous about my hiking alone in Big Sky Country because of the grizzly bears…but I can’t just manifest hiking companions (though I’m definitely on the lookout!), and hiking is what I DO out here.  Still, he’s gotten in my head, and I’m feeling more nervous about grizzly bears than I did about rattlesnakes… So, the last few days have been mostly driving days (blech).  I’m heading to Glacier National Park, and I WILL find fellow-hikers there (update since initial writing: THREE hiking companions found and SCHEDULED!)!

On top of that, some people are just mean, and that messed up my day.

So I decided to cut my road time short and look for a spot in the national forest by afternoon…but when the only spot I found in my first 7 miles of searching had what looked to be a coyote jaw in it, alongside a bunch of mangled fur, I thought I better take my chances finding another spot up the way (cuz…grizzly bears!?).  Then, of course, I realized I was nearly out of gas…so I hurried to find the closest gas station and wound up in the tiny town of Ovando, Montana.  Google Ovando, and you’ll find it had a population of 71 people at the time of the 2000 Census.  I’m afraid the count-takers may have missed the place in 2010…and I almost missed it myself, but I needed gas, so I followed the signs and found myself at Blackfoot Commercial Company.

When I asked the gal at the check-out (Christine) for camping recommendations, she pointed me in the direction of the owner, Fred, and he said “How about that spot of grass over there?”  I laughed…but he was completely serious, so I “set up” camp in what was essentially the town square.  Nearby my “site” I saw some folks Fred told me were cycling the Great Divide Trail and introduced myself.  They invited me for drinks up the way at Trixi’s, the local “watering hole,” and I turned them down to go to bed early and read like a hermit…then reneged on that and walked with them up the way to the very country, very Montana, very small town spot.

The bartender didn’t have much use for us travelers, very evidently favoring the locals…but I felt very privileged to get to be in the company of fellow wanderers – Harry from England, Adam from Canada, Gloria and Craig/Greg from Spain and New Zealand respectively, by way of Australia.  I’m a talker, but when I find myself in the company of strangers from all walks of life and corners of the world, I ask lots of questions and soak up their knowledge and experience and cultural variety.  That’s what I did at Trixi’s – over a bottle of Big Sky Brewing’s Summer Honey, against a backdrop of mounted big game heads and locals wearing cowboy hats and sticking close to their own.

Then I slept restfully in the town square with bicyclists from all over the globe.

 

Days 61 & 62: Montana

Jim and I stayed up late into the night my last evening in Jackson planning the next leg of my journey.  Well, I planned; he chatted.  (Ha!)  Finally I said “You’re not very good at this planning stuff are you?”  (That was indirect for “Talk less; map more!”)  Of course, he was a good sport in the face of my razzing.

“Get ‘er done” was the theme of my Monday morning: groceries (check), laundry (check), fresh sheets (check), oil change and car wash (check, check), caffeine for the drive (check)…so I hit the road fresh and ready to go, grateful for my extended time in Jackson and with Jim.

I was eagerly apprehensive to head to Montana.  The grizzlies run wild here (unlike in Idaho and Wyoming, outside of Yellowstone), and the spaces are vast and scantily-peopled.  They’re wild in a way I haven’t really experienced alone on my journey.  And Canada will be even wilder, I expect… I’m a long ways from California; that’s for sure!

I drove through Yellowstone one more time on my way out of Wyoming (it’s the most direct route) and came into the state curious about the cloudy skies.  Was it smoke or ominous weather brewing?  Something told me to pull into a campground instead of venturing into the national forest at dusk…and I was right to listen to that voice because the rain started just as I popped up my tent – and my first night in Montana marked my first night camping in a thunderstorm.  It was scary for a bit…but the storm passed in less than an hour and I slept cold but soundly to the tapping of raindrops on my “roof.”  I can’t help but think rain is a very good thing up here right now, what with all the fires.  Thunder and lightning not so much, of course…

I wanted to catch-up on writing, so I made it as far as Bozeman this morning and settled in at a coffee shop.  I complimented a woman’s shirt (it reminded me of something my mom would wear), and before I knew it, Marj was sitting at my table and we were talking about all the things – travel and family, her rocky marriage and my journey – then next thing I knew we were planning to meet for dinner.  She treated me to BBQ at a local place – Copper (one of Montana’s nicknames is “Treasure State” because of its rich mineral deposits and extensive mining history) – and we spent the evening soaking in each other’s company, both knowing we’d probably never see one another again.  She actually thanked me for helping her make sense of some things…and we agreed we were meant to connect in that coffee shop.

Came “home” from dinner to the most beautiful sunset behind the mountains above my campsite.  It got me thinking about the enormity of the Universe and the tininess of me.  That same sun has risen and set over those mountains day after day after day for more time than I can even begin to fathom.  Regardless of me, regardless of you, regardless of any of us, it is constant.  It’s at once the same and different every day, and tonight, it really struck me.

These are the experiences that come from slowing down.