-recounting a day in the wild –
A trail nestled high in the alpine of the west coast, specifically the Cayoosh Ranges of the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, is home to spectacular flora and the wildest of fauna.
The winding and steep 4×4 road serpentines a mountain on a now deactivated forest service road (fsr), that takes an adventurous soul to views of layered mountains in north-south directions.
I had vaguely researched this trail, but I had enough beta on it to know its well marked and flagged. So I took my adventurous little self, on an adventure. It is a day to be remembered, as several raging fires across Western B.C. were raging and devastating the area.
Each time I embark on a solo mission, I think about how much there is to know, to prepare for, and to cover my grounds as a self-sufficient and wise solo adventurer. I can’t possibly know it all, and a lot of the learning comes from finding myself in a situation or two, that I haven’t been in before.
Facing the unknown with both fiery confidence and calculated fear to keep me on my toes, has to be one of the most riveting aspects of my solo mountain travel.
The more I learn about the metaphysical aspects of my being, the more I relate to my surroundings in more profound ways. I flow with the natural world and into spiritual awareness on these solo missions. More specifically, I transcend into harmony with our mother Gaia.
When we co-create with the land, we deal with the cards that we are dealt and out of our control, and we learn to step in and step back. It is a constant ebb and flow and learning these rhythms within ourselves and outside is where we grow and co-create. It is with this high level of honour that I work on creating an altruistic relationship with the natural world. I connect deeply to my core values, ignite my survival instincts, and work with my intuition. Those are the ways in which I find I am truly present.
The inner feeling that I derive from connecting to what I do with more soul, is one of the drivers behind the shift the outdoor goals that I set for myself. In the past, I loosely associated myself as a peak-bagger, or the person who gets peak fever – an ever burning desire to, how I like to call it, summit into submission. You’ve given it your all, the mountain has destroyed you (physically and mentally), the summit box is ticked, and its time for another, and another, and another. I never really felt overly connected to that title though, and it felt more ego driven and without deeper purpose.
To date, I have completed a humble amount of solo long distance treks and summits, and mission after mission, I reach more aligned depths of my humanity on the trails. The more I disconnect from my ego, the more I connect to my soul and I begin encountering my life more profoundly. My moments and experiences range from the unexpected to ethereal.
I walk with intent. I walk with the elements and forces that are far greater than I am. I am here to walk and write the stories experienced by a free-spirited wolf-woman.
Along the Seton Ridge trail, high above Seton lake, with the nearest town being Lillooet, I came to understand just how remote my trail territory was, when I saw a wolf standing in a little clearing above me, on the ridge line. I had only slightly deviated from the highest point and took in the expansive views of the Cayoosh Mountain Range around me.
It was a scorching hot day and zero water sources. The barren land was dry and rough to touch, and yet a diverse landscape and home to elusive 4-legged fauna. As the distance to the lake I was aiming for shortened, I took a moment to breathe in, take one more good look around, and hit the trail with one last strong push. Not surprisingly, the moment of taking one more good look around me connected me to a wolf looking straight at me, stoically observing.
We made eye contact with less than 20m between us. I never really think about the encounters that I might have in the wild, but this one affirmed that I am but a visitor in the great wild scapes of the south Chilcotins. In a moment, fleeting by the milliseconds, the wolf and I acknowledged each others’ presence, before we went our separate ways.
The encounter ended my trail goals for the day, so instead of continuing to the lake, I turned back. As a solo adventurer, this was my first experience with an unplanned encounter. I interpreted my encounter as a sign to turn around as there were too many unknown variables ahead of me: distance, heat, water, daylight, and the long distance of hiking back to my truck. Turning back is never easy.
This experience was both majestic and deeply moving, but it was also nerve-wracking. On one hand I wanted to trust myself and my understanding of animals from an instinctual perspective, and on the other, I didn’t want to be an intruder.
I am an explorer, not an intruder.
I am allergic to the conditioning of fear, and so I worked through the nervous system response of this experience. I still struggle with high levels of fear while I’m out adventuring alone. I’m old school and I still summit and conduct my missions without an emergency beacon. Thankfully I have some great bushcraft & survival skills that I learned in the Australian bush. I have much more learning to do, and every mission is an opportunity to learn and expand. But I do believe a lot of my fear is due to the de-sensitization of my senses in an urban concrete jungle. The protection of giant megaliths makes me feel stripped of my armour when I’m out and about in the Canadian wilderness. Therefore my solo efforts serves a way to combat that and offset the damage done by the increasing comforts of life.
Putting myself through calculated risk means I am more profoundly experiencing my life and activating a new personal potential I would otherwise never tap into!
But it is through these experiences, I am able to regain control over my feelings in uncomfortable situations. I am able to work with my senses, I can re-write the narrative on fear and reverse the effects of social conditioning. These are, the very humble beginnings of continuing my education about all things mountain adventures. They include, but are not limited to: navigation, safety, bushcraft, wildlife encounters, knowledge of edible flora, practice making judgement calls, mental training, and physical aptitude. But the ultimate bullseye of my focus is knowing how to support a healthy nervous system, and to continue getting after new challenges, one step at a time.
Be well, walk with virtue, and happy encounters.
Please find below, some links to learning about what to do in various wildlife encounters, and an inspiring story of a woman amongst a wolf pack, and what it looks like to return to our natural instincts in a test of survival.