I didn’t work until 5pm today, so went on a hike by myself this morning. While I know it’s safer and more fun to hike with other people, sometimes I just need to hike by myself. Today was one of those days.

So rather than take a trip to the EDR, meet people who ask me what I am doing and then invite me to their plans (or I have to tactfully avoid saying that I do not want them coming along with me), I just ate a granola bar for breakfast and packed not one but 2 PB&J sandwiches for lunch (you can never have too much PB&J!), and set out around noon.

If one sets out from our dorms, passes the basketball court and takes a small trail that heads south, they will find themselves at the boat launch. And if one continues to head south, there is another small trail that follows Jackson Lake’s shore for about 2 miles to South Landing Campground. I had hiked a short part of this trail earlier to set my hammock on the hill overlooking the lake, and now wanted to hike the whole thing.

The trail quickly rose above the lake so that to my right there was a drop-off to the cold water below. The day was sunny and warm, and though I had brought my iPod with me, I never wanted to use it. I wanted to listen to nothing – or rather the birds and the waves and my footsteps.

Butterflies are everywhere at every hike I’ve been on – orange ones that graciously pose on flowers, small blue ones that are attracted to dung and will not sit still for photos, and large yellow ones that leave a breeze when they zip past my ear.

After a while I stopped to straddle a fallen log and dig through my backpack, only to find I had left my sunscreen behind. Which spelled disaster –  a terribly sunburned face at work that night! Fortunately I began to hear voices as I drew further away from the boat dock and on the lake Donohue Point glided behind me. I came upon a father who had taken his two children fishing. They gladly shared their sunscreen with me and we struck up a conversation.

The children – a girl about eleven and a little boy about seven – pulled the fish they had caught out of the water and showed them to me. Showing no signs of squeamishness, they ran their hands over the glassy-eyed fish that were still alive and gasping for water. I ooh-ed and ahh-ed and the little boy pulled out a piece of gum and gave it to me with a smile, probably because I had shown the proper admiration for his fisherman skills. They told me they had caught fish before and I told them they were lucky to have such a great dad, and I meant it.

A half-mile past the fishing family I came to a parking lot and a road, and crossed the road to walk among the sagebrush. Sagebrush is great for walking through because unlike a hedge, the bushes do not grow up next to each other but keep their distance – and little grows inbetween. So while you have to weave a bit, you’re pretty much guaranteed a good path through the brush.

I climbed a little hill, pausing a bit when I heard a noise that I couldn’t determine if it was a birdcall or not. I talked aloud a bit, just to let any mountain lions know that I was there and would not appreciate being jumped on. Then I set forth on the scout for some good hanging trees.

There are a lot of things to look for in good hanging trees. If you’re spending the night in a hammock, you want to look at the weather and what side of the hill you will be on, and whether you’re in a low swampy area, etc. I just wanted to hang for a few hours, so I was just looking for a few trees about 12 feet apart, with minimal lower branches and no brush inbetween that would snag the hammock. They also had to be large enough to be sturdy, yet small enough that I could easily wind the rope around.

I pulled my hammock out of its stuff sack and began the search. There was a rustling noise behind me, and I quickly turned to give a small jump and gasp at a snake right on my heels….. Which was actually just the rope of my hammock, trailing behind me. Dang it, now I know I’m one of those girls who will squeal at a snake. Maybe I just squeal at false snakes, though? 🙂

Once I had the hammock strung I ate both of my sandwiches and began on Frank Peretti’s newest book, Illusion (which I checked out with my wonderful library card!). The earth shifted and the sun shone on me full force, and after a while I got up and sat in the shady grass, continuing to read. The smell of pine needles filled the air, and while I could faintly hear the cars on the road, I was off the beaten track and the place where I sat was untouched. Setting aside the strict hype at Rainier about stepping off the path, I felt as though this was how national parks should be used – people scattered throughout the woods, enjoying the solitude and natural beauty of the untouched. Making sure not to feed the bears or birds while they were out there… 😉

I packed everything up around 3pm and left the area just as I had come. The fishing family had left their spot and, I’m sure, would be preparing the grill that night for their fresh catch.

Good, beautiful day. 🙂