It was about this time thirteen years ago, that I felt the call to make a vision quest. Not a very big vision quest, as vision quests go, but as much as I could handle. This involved the first and only backpacking trip of my life. I don’t remember how or why I decided to take a four day weekend, rent some backpacking and head off for my first real wilderness adventure.
It seemed like spirit was guiding me all the way. It told me when to go, where to go, and even how to get the equipment I would need for the trip without putting out a lot of money. So off we went to the outfitter, where we were fitted with hiking boots, a frame pack, a down sleeping bag, a very small stove, some dried food, and water purifying tablets. And a very important book for this quest, “How to Shit in the Woods.” Would I lie to you?
Off I set on an early Friday morning. I was going to a place called La Push, to a beach called Rialto Beach, to camp past “Hole in the Wall.” So named because it was a hole through a headland. It was about 2 miles from the car park down Rialto Beach. This had been one of my favorite beaches on the Olympic Peninsula ever since I had stumbled on it a couple of years before. The
only thing I regretted was that only pack animals could go past hole-in-the-wall, which seemed to preclude taking my faithful camping companion, Reggie. Later on, I discovered I could have put a backpack on him and taken him, too. But my neighbor was watching out for Reggie while I was gone, and things always shake out the way they are supposed to.
I couldn’t have timed it better if I had gotten out the tide tables and planned it. You could only walk through hole-in-the-wall at low tide, and I got there just as the tide was starting to go out. By the time I had gotten everything together and slogged two miles down the beach in sand, hole-in-the-wall was passable. That didn’t mean it was easy. The rocks were slippery and rugged, and it was difficult to get a purchase. About half-way through, I fell on my back, and with the pack on, I was as helpless as an overturned turtle. Fortunately, every body else what going through the hole at the same time, and a couple of good Samaratins helped me get back on my feet. Once I was through the hole, this inexperienced hiker decided to call it a day, and pitch a tent nearby.
The purpose of the trip was to commune with nature, and center myself, so other than some meditational music on tape, and the “essential” book, I hadn’t brought anything for entertainment. I also didn’t bring much food. If you really went for a vision quest, you would go without food or water. But you have to know what your body will take. I hung my food up in a tree to keep it from the animals. And when it got dark soon after I had eaten a little, I went to sleep.
Apparently I didn’t follow the “6 feet up, 6 feet out” rule well enough, as I was awakened in the night by animal noises, and tearing sounds. When I awoke in the morning, it was apparent something had gotten into my food. You can’t fool the spirits, they know how much you need, and will make sure you only have that much. I was glad to see the tracks were small ones, probably raccoon, but I could have sworn it was a bear by the noise they made.
The only problem with this campsite is the nearest water was on the other side of the hole. And by now, the
tide was in. There was a trail over the headland, but it looked more suited to mountain goats than humans. But I asked for a walking stick, and one was shown to me that was “just right.” And over the headland I went to fetch water. There was a pool not too far away that was labeled as safe to drink, but it was loaded with tannin and tasted terrible. So I hiked back to the car, drove to the little store, got an extra container, and filled it in the campground before I hiked back, over the headland again. And that pretty much killed day one.
Day two, I just sat by my tent, talked to people who came by, including the couple with packs on their dogs. A man came by and did a colored pencil sketch of the hole. And I looked out at the ocean and just drifted. That night I stood in the ocean as the tide came in, up to my hips. Considering I don’t swim well, had never swam in anything other than a pool, and am deathly afraid of water that moves and has creatures in it, this was a spiritual awakening. I’m still afraid of all those things, but something broke loose then.
Later that night I woke up having to go pee, and just crawled out of my sleeping bag naked, did the deed, and then sat on the sand. I don’t much remember day three.
I remember day four. It rained. In fact it poured. I had planned to leave in the morning, but the tide was in, and the headland trail was treacherous when it was dry. You would have to be suicidal to try it in the rain. There was nothing to do but wait until the tide went out, and hope it quit raining. And it was cold. I ended up crawiling into my tent, getting in my sleeping bag, putting on my meditation music and just drifting. By this time there was no food left, but I did drink hot liquids to keep warm. This was trance inducing, and I did have a vision at this time. But even now, I don’t understand it. I figure I will understand it when the time comes, or the trickster gods decide to let me in on the joke, which is more probable.
If finally did stop raining in the afternoon, and by the time the tide went out, I was ready to leave and hike back out. It was dark by the time I got back to the car, and I was exhausted. I spent the night at the nearest motel. Something must have happened, all my coworkers said I was radiant when I got back to work.