The journey always starts with the drive: Zip the backpack, toss the gear in the car. Put the ignition into “drive” and off we go. I remind myself — pack in gear, pack out stress. Turn up the tunes, start the unwinding process. I look over to see my sweet friend Jules, who I love dearly, next to me. I imagine her doing a similar unwinding in the midst of our silence. I’m so grateful we’re going on this adventure together. On this car ride, the music takes the background, and we talk and dream together about life and the things we’ll discover on the rest of our journey. 

Time flies, and next thing we know, we’ve arrived at the trailhead at our final destination: The Wallowa Mountains of Oregon. The physicality of hiking on the trail instantly drops me into my body and allows me access to other realms of thought, tune out of my station and into nature’s. There are so many teachers in the mountains, and I was playing with my senses, focusing on different parts. First noticing just through my eyes, then paying attention to sound, then smell. There’s so much information to gather if you just pay attention.

After 5 hours of hiking we arrive at our campsite for the night, a rocky ridge overlooking Hells Canyon, a stone’s throw from Idaho. I think cooking and chilling with a sunset view might just be my favorite part of the whole experience. Pink reflections as a backdrop for dinner? Sign me up. It’s obvious that we’re both feeling a shift. Something happens out here. Nature heals us in real time.

The way back is just as good as the way in. We see a black bear – and then an owl – and then a fox. I take these as good omens and thank the trail and the mountains for all that they shared with us. Sizzling fajita plates welcomed us back into civilization, a great spot called La Laguna in Joseph, Oregon. It’s nice to eat hot food in a booth, I feel the afterglow of our trek.

Before heading back to Portland, we rent a canoe and paddle around Wallowa Lake. Just a couple days later the marina would close for the season and we like to think we got the last ride. I put on the same music we listened to on our way but it sounds different this time. We roll down the windows and breath in the fresh air.

We did it – Pack out stress, bring with us a newfound sense of calm. My final reflection is on how transcendent it was to have done this journey with her, and also with me. Me and her, together with nature; creating magic.