We hiked up to Heather Lake on Saturday morning, a 5 mile roundtrip with an elevation of 1,781 feet, according to my fitness tracker. Being one of the easier hikes at driving distance from the city, Heather Lake Trail generally sees a lot of foot traffic. That’s especially so with COVID-19 restrictions in place, as hiking is one of the few outdoor activities still possible when the weather allows it.
Our own plans tend to be created on a whim, of course. When you get up in the morning and discover that it’s not going to rain, you’re forced to think of something to do before the clouds move in again. If you dally, the weather gods may get angry and change their minds.
The trailhead is a little over an hour drive from Seattle. The last mile is on a pothole-ridden road that somebody should really consider fixing. The trail itself is fairly straightforward, and can be tackled at a brisk pace. The path is wooded with tall trees and a few small streams that need to be negotiated.
In a sense, a hike through the woods is a spiritual experience, though you may not always know it at the time. When you spend all of your energy sensing your environment, absorbing the sights and smells, and stepping carefully from one rock to the next, your mind has the opportunity to switch into low gear, hum silently and contemplate the meaning of life.
The meaning of life is not complicated. The mind is usually a jumble of distinct and sometime conflicting motivations crisscrossing through the terrain. To understand the meaning of life is to organize these motivations into an aesthetic, if not simpler, hierarchy. Let the deeper motivations bubble up weightlessly so you can understand them better, and then let them sink back down to the bottom of your mind. Dust off ideas and observe them dispassionately without the constraint of time looming over you. Some ideas become clearer, others become superfluous. The process is automatic, like air rushing to fill a vacuum.
When we reached the lake, we discovered, to our surprise, that it was completely frozen. A few people were brave enough (or stupid enough) to stand on the ice in the middle of the lake and take pictures.