It had been raining in Bozeman all weekend and I was getting low on the inability to do much outside. Snow had been in the mountains since early Saturday and more had been accumulating today. I was tired of letting the weather stop me so, wanting to get away, Buddy and I drove up to Hyalite Reservoir to hike the Hood Creek trail.
We started from the road and quickly began gaining elevation. Down low there was still no snow and the clouds were so heavy and thick that I could not see the snow line on the surrounding slopes. It grew colder as we climbed and the mixture turned into wet snow drops, the type of snow a coastal city would get and one that usually falls in this part of Montana only during the early fall or late spring. The trail followed through tall forests of dripping pines and firs, enclosing us in a cold, tranquil scene. Because it was a Sunday and because of the weather, only a few campers and fellow explorers had ventured into the area, leaving this piece of the forest to Buddy and I.
As the snow grew heavier and I grew both wetter and colder, a small opening by the side of the trail appeared where I was able to look out across Hyalite Reservoir and see the bottoms of the mountain slopes on the other side. Above these slopes was nothing but an endless sky of grey that hung over the valley, clinging to the mountainsides. I gazed out across this expanse, taking it all in before capturing some pictures and continuing on my way.
We had been hiking for a half hour or so and I was still filled with the uneasiness, the edge and anxiety, that plagues me so often. I began our walk through the woods in order to work through this tension and I hadn’t been able shake it. I still had it in my mind that I was doing the wrong thing, that I was in the wrong place. I was thinking of all the productive things I could have been accomplishing if I had just stayed home or had made an entirely different decision long ago.
This was all present as I trekked up the trail and made my way to Wild Horse Creek. We continued climbing and the snow grew heavier and began to stick to the trees and grass. Another half mile and we were walking in several inches of snow, with even more on the grass and fallen logs that littered the trail. Along the way there were several clearings that allowed views out over the valley and even some mountaintops that were able to break through the clouds.
We reached Wild Horse Creek and stopped. The creek appeared through the heavy forest into a clearing that led to some beautiful steps, then down under the trail, and out again on the other side where it disappeared back into the forest. The snow had stopped for the most part and the clouds had begun to lift. With this peaceful stream flowing through the forest and the clearing, my spirits were lifted and I rejoiced at all there is in this life. For a moment I was able to forget all thoughts of worry, all my musts and shoulds, all my insecurity regarding life, and just let go and take the moment in. I was free, I was alive, and I was exactly where I needed to be. There was no judgment, no thought, no action, only the pure form of being. Then, as quickly as it had come, the moment passed and we made our way forward again, this time down the other side of the loop that led us back to the trailhead.
On the way down I began to grow tired and cold. Even though the snow stopped and the clouds lifted, I was expending less energy and was having to keep the circulation in my fingers going by putting on gloves and swinging my arms in rhythm to my walking. My mood was fluctuating as well. The nagging feeling that I was in the wrong place doing the wrong thing wouldn’t go away. When I realized that I was almost finished with the hike and still hadn’t gotten any closer to the peace I was seeking, I began focusing hard on my thoughts, on what I was telling myself in order to react this way. Rather than let them run rampant on their own and have them continue subverting my enjoyment of the moment, I began countering them with other thoughts, positive thoughts, thoughts that helped me understand why my self-talk was not only defeating, but altogether wrong. I was in control of my choices.
As I neared the end of this self-talk session, I found the clearing I had stopped at earlier to take some photos of the trail. Before, the clouds were so low that I was unable see beyond the trees at the edge of the slope. Now, I could see across the entire valley, up into the canyon I had hiked last summer that led to Hyalite Peak in the far distance. Once more, the beauty lay before me in all its wonderful glory, letting me take it all in as before, letting me take it with me back to Bozeman and into my life.