“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature's darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature's sources never fail.”
-John Muir, Our National Parks, 1901
Hey there, my name is Nate! On the weekends you can find me in the mountains of Washington, whether it be hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, or trail running; it’s guaranteed that I have a smile on my face!
I grew up in the flattest of flatlands in southern Illinois, and never enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew I wanted to leave the Midwest to find something else. I enlisted in the Army after high school and spent the next several years of my life bouncing around almost every corner of the US and the world. After seven years, the PNW was the only corner of the US I had not been, but I knew from all the gorgeous pictures that it was a place I had to see for myself. I signed a contract for five more years of service, and in exchange the Army would relocate me to Washington. Even though it came at a high cost I count this as one of the BEST decisions I’ve ever made.
As soon as I arrived in Washington, I was speechless! I’ll never forget what it felt like the first time I saw beautiful Mount Rainier rising above the horizon. Mountains, ocean, volcanos, rainforests, high desert and prairie! I instantly fell in love with the land as well as the culture of the people living there. I started hiking every weekend, always pushing further into the forest, or higher up the mountain. I continued to expand my love of the mountains by joining The Mountaineers and taking the basic climbing course, which gave me all the technical skills needed to start climbing the jagged mountains of the North Cascades and the massive glacier covered volcanos.
I choose mountains for many reasons; I honestly believe I could write an epic novel and still come up with new reasons, since they are constantly surprising me with new revelations. But one of the most important reasons I choose mountains is my desire to find inner peace. I didn’t realize it at the time I moved here, but I had some severe emotional demons that I was carrying from over three years spent fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I had buried the emotions deep within my soul, but it was only a matter of time before they reared their ugly face. If you were to ask me why I spent so much time in the mountains, I’d just shrug and say I liked it, unable to comprehend the true meaning of the overwhelming happiness it brought me. Spending so much time in nature was allowing me to come to terms with this heavy emotional baggage; as Muir said above, I allowed nature’s peace to flow into my heart like sunshine through the dark forest. No matter how stressed or emotionally exhausted I am, a day in the mountains breathes new life into my soul. Even the worst days with non stop rain, no views, and achy bones leave me humbled and grateful. The mountains and the ever-changing lessons they teach me about life is something I hope to be a student of as long as I live.
I choose mountains for the pursuit of happiness.