Hiking in Samsara

It is a cool summer morning in the high Cascades and our Tacoma bounces through deep ruts and over exposed rock on the road to Broken Top trailhead. Arriving at the parking area, we manage to find one of the few spaces available. Thirty years ago we wandered a trail-less area and rarely met another soul. Now this place is going the way of many natural areas—being loved to death. I understand the magnetic draw to experience the incredible beauty here. 

We head down the trail, greeting interesting folks and wildflowers along the way. As we approach the first steep ascent, I hear music and singing—like echoes from a distant live concert. The music gets louder and I soon encounter an orange spandex clad woman coming down the trail with a bluetooth speaker dangling from her pack. It is blaring like a car stereo. She is with two other young women all decked out in designer sunglasses and tights.

I cannot resist suggesting she might want to reserve the music for a more appropriate venue and allow the sounds of wind and creek to inspire her. I only receive a glare as the group continues down the path. My mood shifts in a less peaceful direction until I settle down and chant prayers for her and her friends. May they be happy and not create too much suffering through their distractions. Tarn suggests the bluetooth woman is at least wearing bright orange so she won’t be shot by a hunter. Nice spin.

The rest of the hike is exceptional as always. One highlight of the trek is a milky green glacier-fed lake created by a moraine in the shadow of a massive volcanic wall. The peak is a glacially eroded stratovolcano given the name “Broken Top” because of its numerous fractured faces and rough edges. If you catch the sun angles just right, some faces reveal multiple layers of red and gray/black basalt that look like igneous layer cakes.

On Bend Glacier, just above an unnamed lake, a number of odd-shaped boulders dot the snow and ice. It turns out to be a herd of nineteen Elk who met their demise in an avalanche and are now exposed as a result of summer snow melt. I cannot help but see the symbolic deity teaching about impermanence. The wrathful archetype of Dorje Drölo, disguised in orange tights, greeted me at the beginning of the trail and now he bellows through elk carcasses. He urges me to surrender my judgments—to notice all things pass away.

Members of an Elk herd were carried down the slope of a steep mountain to their deaths. Orange spandex, made of petrochemicals derived from ancient dead organisms, will also fade away. What matters is loving one another right now. Maybe a bluetooth speaker in the wilderness is just another wake up call.

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