A quote by John Muir goes like this when asked about the word “hike”: “I don't like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains — not hike! Do you know the origin of that word saunter? It's a beautiful word. Away back in the middle ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, 'A la sainte terre,' 'To the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them.”
I found myself contemplating these words as I spent some time in the Columbia River Gorge earlier this week. As I stood upon the observation platform in front of Bridal Veil Falls snapping pictures, I was alone and then at once surrounded by about 10 people. Most strode up to the observation platform, snapped their picture and strode back down the trail. A few brief murmurs of how cool the Falls were and then off to the next destination and I looked around and found myself alone again. I continued to wander around a little bit above the observation deck, climbed down nearer the water and up and around a large rock to see if I could get a better or different view of the Falls.
I am not sure how much time I spent there. When I take photographs, particularly in nature, it is the one place I lose myself completely. People and conditions fade into the background and I do not mind the cold, the heat, the wind, rain or even people. I am so overwhelmed by the beauty before me I am desperately trying to capture it so others can see what I see. Further on in my journey that day I visited Lower Latourell Falls and could not stop taking pictures of the way the water fell and hit a particular rock.
I ended up hitting Vista House right at sunset and the view of the Gorge from Vista House, well, you can see for yourself.
Saunter. Yes. I sauntered up Historic Highway 30, stopping as I pleased with no clear plan in mind other than to enjoy the Fall weather. I sauntered around Bridal Veil Falls, Latourell Falls and Vista House. I came away with my soul feeling scrubbed, full of beauty and inspiration. I find when I pause frequently and look up or right or left, I see things I might have missed. I think this is what is meant when it is said that it is the journey, not the destination, that is important. The traveling, not the arriving. The being and not the doing. I plan to add more sauntering to my life.