I Want To Be A Mountain Goat

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”
― John Muir

After more than two months of quarantine – under very strict rules – in my small apartment in Rionegro, Colombia, I long to go for a rugged hike in the mountains or a walk along a sandy beach while listening to the soothing sound of breaking waves. Unfortunately, all non-essential travel is still banned in the region, with checkpoints set up to prevent unnecessary contact between people from different towns. With the healthcare disaster taking place in neighboring Brazil very much on people’s minds, the government of Colombia is taking the transmission of Covid-19 very seriously.

But, hey, I’m not complaining. Compared to the millions around the world who are currently suffering serious illness or feverishly searching for their next meal, I know I’m very lucky. And, while I’m grateful to be in a country where the government is placing the health of citizens first, my spirit needs to fly free for a while.

Despite feeling alone, distracted and at times disoriented, I’ve been finding a degree of solace in the 25,000+ photos on my hard drive which allow me to relive memorable past adventures. Even though I’m not a prolific selfie taker, I must admit that seeing photos of myself surrounded by magical landscapes makes it easier for me to visualize an escape from the reality of the moment.

Snowshoeing on the southern slope of Mount St. Helens, Washington, in America’s mystical Pacific Northwest. Photo: Dave Jones.

Discovering the Pacific Northwest

In 1988, I moved to Seattle, a tolerant, diverse city with thriving art and music scenes. While I immediately felt as if I’d found my home, it was what lay just beyond the urban area that fully ticked all the boxes on my best places to live list. Gazing in any direction from one of the city’s seven hills, there were splendid views of snow-capped mountains and glistening water – a true wilderness lovers paradise.

The mineral-tinted waters of Ross Lake with Ruby Peak in the background in North Cascades National Park. There are three national parks within a 2-hour drive of the Seattle metropolitan area. Photo: Henry Lewis.

As I always do when arriving in a new place, I read voraciously to learn about the area’s history, particularly stories of the region’s early explorers – miners, mountain climbers and unconventional dreamers. My fifteen years in the region were filled with weekend and holiday hikes and backpacking trips straight out of the many guidebooks published by local hiking experts Bob and Ira Spring, Louise B. Marshall and the Seattle Mountaineers. These local authors were supplemented by the writings of naturalist John Muir and the photos of Ansel Adams, both pioneers in wilderness preservation.

On the summit of Gobbler’s Knob with the west flank of 14,411 foot Mt. Rainier (Tahoma to the Native Americans) in the background. Photo: Random Hiker.

Ice Caves above Paradise on Mt. Rainier. Sadly, this interesting feature has disappeared due to glacial recession over the past 20 years. Photo: Henry Lewis.

While I’ve traveled far and wide on six continents and lived in half a dozen countries on four of those, it’s difficult to think of a better place to be on a sunny August day than enjoying the outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

One of my favorite hikes was to Ingalls Lake which lies at the foot of Mt. Stuart on the eastern slopes of the central Cascade Mountains in Washington State. Photo: Henry Lewis.

The surreal landscapes of the high elevation Upper Enchantments in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area just outside Leavenworth, Washington are a sight to behold. In this photo taken in the fall, the needles of the Larch trees have turned a brilliant shade of gold, adding to the impression that this is an oil painting and not a photograph. Photo: Henry Lewis.

Feeling Whole in Nature

Grueling summit hikes in the Cascade Mountains – thundering with the sounds of the range’s innumerable waterfalls – were both physically conditioning and a self-esteem booster. The physical and mental challenges of the Cascade volcano climbs I undertook with experienced local friends – who’d spent years honing their mountaineering skills – were particularly beneficial in building what folks from previous generations would call ‘character.’ Being roped together with other members of a climbing party while traversing steep icy glaciers certainly highlights the importance of mutual human trust and interdependence.

High base camp on Mt. Baker in Washington’s North Cascades. Flat sites for pitching a tent were non-existent. Photo: Henry Lewis.

Our climbing party on the large snow dome that serves as the summit of Mt. Baker. I’m on the right. Photo: Henry Lewis via tripod.

Most of all, the time I spent exploring the majestic flower-covered mountain meadows and the equally rugged and magical Pacific coastline of the Olympic National Park were the times when I felt whole. Backpacking solo to the summit of an isolated peak and imagining that I was the only person on a mountain gave me a sense of peace and oneness with nature that I relished.

The building lava dome as seen from the summit of Mt. St. Helens, Washington. This Cascade Mountains stratovolcano erupted violently in 1980 devastating the northern flanks of the mountain and miles beyond as seen in the background. Once pristine Spirit Lake can be seen on the right side. Photo: Henry Lewis.

Added bonuses on many backpacking trips were eating wild blueberries growing along the trail or waking up to find a family of mountain goats grazing beside my tent. Away from the distractions of civilization, life slows to the rhythm of one’s breath and the sound of the wind blowing through the tall fir trees.

The rocky coast of Washington’s Olympic National Park holds mystical beauty and is a great place for hiking. Here, the temperate rain forest meets the rugged edge of the Pacific. Photo: Henry Lewis.

The setting sun casts a warm glow over one of the many forested sea stacks off the coast of Cape Alava, part of Washington State’s Olympic National Park. Photo: Henry Lewis.

So, off I go on another imagined adventure as I try to forget that I’m sitting on a wooden stool at my kitchen counter trying to make the best of life under government quarantine.

Sometimes, one just has to throw caution to the wind and jump in order to find a moment of freedom. Photo: Skydive Kapowsin, Washington.





Categories: Health and Well-being, NatureTags: , , , , , , ,


  1. Beautiful and amazing! It reminds me of my 8-day backpacking trip over the Great Western Divide in the Sierra Nevadas near Mount Whitney in 1985. We neared 12,000 ft. elevation, and it felt like I was at the top of the world! What a shame about the ice caves being destroyed by climate change. We’re losing so much of the natural world.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Fortunately, my government here in Berlin took this virus matter also very serious, but the threat by COVID-19 continues although things of daily life are slowly easing and improving here. Good luck and stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with you, our hard drives allow us to continue the travel, immobile travel this time; the memory factory is running at full speed. The mountain pictures are very impressive, thank you for sharing.

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  4. Thank you for the walk through beautiful climbs. Great to get some mountain air. You are really fit to go on those big hikes!

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  6. Beautifully written, amazing photos! A post that awakens my thirst for adventure and vast open spaces. How is your situation in Colombia currently?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great! I’m happy to feed your thirst for adventure. Things are still quiet here in Colombia with the continued government quarantine and rigidly enforced restrictions. All international and domestic flights are banned through August 31, and only officially sanctioned movement between municipalities. It looks as if I’ll be having more imaginary adventures for the next few months. Enjoy your own adventures–both real and imagined!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Spectacular pictures! We call larch trees ‘tamarack’ here. 🙂 What adventures you’ve had!!
    We consider ourselves lucky here by the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia to have such a lovely spot to be ‘safe at home’. Like you, we are thankful that our officials have taken the health of its citizens seriously.

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    • Hi Carmen…I haven’t had the opportunity to visit your region, but the photos I’ve seen are lovely. Although I know photos rarely capture the true majesty of nature. I hope you’re enjoying springtime!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Super post Henry, great to catch up on some of your breathtaking adventures in parts of the world I know nothing about but thanks to you have been able to visit. You have certainly lived life! Yolo!

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  9. Beautiful area. We visited often when our son was stationed at McChord AFB.

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  10. Henry, I enjoyed reading this so much! My daughter, now a junior, went to college near Portland, OR. We toured colleges in her senior year of Highschool in WA and OR. She knew, never having been there, she wanted to experience the PNW. I have fallen in love with that area, and to be honest want to move there someday. It is glorious in the natural beauty and the greens of flora, the rocky majesty of the ocean. I felt like I was discovering a paradise. Hang in there with quarantine!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the Pac NW is a gorgeous area, especially for nature lovers. But, you also must understand that the winters are
      l-o-n-g and dark with a severe lack of natural light and constant drizzle. However, the glory of summers there almost makes surviving winter worth the effort. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you Henry for all the beauty!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You are so lucky to have such beautiful memories to fall back on right now! Thank you for sharing a few of them. Keep safe.

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  13. You’ve lived quite an adventurous life, Henry! Lots of amazing memories to fill your quarantine days. We know not how much we lose when we don’t connect with Nature, our natural home.

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  14. Beautiful photos. Beautiful places. I love your posts. I hope for all people that this ends well and soon. Nature is certainly needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I don’t know why but I seem to have missed your blogs recently! Good to see you again and your always so interesting stories and posts! This one was like a breath of fresh air!

    Inspiring photos and what a beautiful place you lived in! The photo of Mount Stuart is fantastic! I wish I could be there right now! How lucky you were to be hiking in these wondrous places, you just can’t beat being out in the full glory of nature! I hope you’ll be able to do some good hiking in Colombia when things are back to normal!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Peta,

      The Pacific NW does offer some amazing outdoor adventures and I’m really missing those at the moment. Yes, there are still so many places I want to explore in beautiful Colombia, but it’s anyone’s guess when travel within the country will be possible again. In the meantime, I have things I need to take care of in the USA and I’m not at all sure when that will be possible either since all commercial flights are suspended in and out of Colombia through the end of August.

      Hope you’re able to get out for some nature adventures. Take good care!


  16. Wow, Henry!
    Great blog site and this post is so well written with great photos. We lived in Portland Oregon for 6 years and loved the PNW. So much beauty and great hiking.

    John and susan

    Liked by 1 person

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