Monday, August 12, 2013

This is My High Country

We each have our place of refuge; that place we know we can go to escape, even if it’s for just a little while.  That place where you get to reset and recharge, even if it requires you to expend all your energy just to get there.  It might be in the mountains of California, or the coastal plains of the Carolinas.  It could be high deserts of the southwest, or the foothills of the northeast.  No matter where you are, we all have our place of refuge; our own “High Country,” if you will.

This is mine.

In the past, I’ve always thought of the High Country as being literally just that.  A place high in the mountains, surrounded by the alpine wilderness, and for some, it may be just that.  The more time I’ve spent in such places, the more I’ve acquiesced to the fact that it’s more of a figurative term to me, than a literal one. 

To me, the High Country is simply a place where you can go be amongst nature, to achieve a higher state of being, or at least a higher state of yourself.  Some might call it a religious, or spiritual experience.  It’s that place where you can go, look out over the wilderness, and get that feeling in your gut that lets you know this is where you are supposed to be.  A place to be in the moment, where everything feels right in the world, and suddenly everything becomes clear. 

For me, I have experienced a few of those places.  One of them was on the summit of Mt. LeConte in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  I’ve written of this experience before, and each time I reread that post, or think back to it, I get chills thinking about what it felt like.  I can still see it as if it is right in front of me; I can smell it as if I’m still there.  The crisp, cool air that had a still freshness I’ve yet to find anywhere else.  The green forest growth that blanketed the earth, undisturbed by footsteps.  And that lone single track trail, that even amongst the silence, whispered “follow me.”

Another one of those places, has come in the form of the high desert mountains of Joshua Tree National Park.  So arid and hot during the summer, that it seems to sear away your insecurities.  During the winter, it’s such a place of contradictions.  Amidst the desert, you experience cold, blustery winds, snow, and haze blanketing the mountains.  It’s almost as if you are taken back to a time before people walked the planet, and you are the only one there to see it.

Recently, I’ve had the chance to spend time in what is quickly becoming my favorite place in the world.  It’s my literal and figurative High Country; the San Jacinto Wilderness near Idyllwild, California.  Here, you can climb the trails through lush green, up into the alpine forest, and continue farther.  Climb higher and higher, to peaks of over 10,000 feet, and look out, over everything.  You feel on top of the world.  I felt on top of the world.  I pushed harder and harder to get to the peaks, lungs and legs burning, to be rewarded with a feeling of overwhelming awe.  I peered out over the mountains and valleys around me, and felt an emotional connection with my surroundings.  Those mountains called to me…”Welcome,” they said.  I finally felt as if I have arrived.

I’ve found my High Country.  Go find yours.

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