It’s my second drive in a rented car, and this day, I drove East out of the city in a sedan up winding roads leading upwards toward snow. Winding around the mountains remembering to breath out as my body and brain have grown accustomed to when slightly nervous, I quite literally spent the day with bated breath. I sang along to Z-100, determined to let go of the city stress that had accumulated and stacked on my shoulders, singing along to countless Ariana Grande songs and Happier by Bastille and Marshmello over and over again each hour. I finally turned around a ridge and, in awe of the nature of Oregon I exhaled an audible, “oh my god” which only comes from a combination of honest disbelief and keeping myself company.
As the fog and clouds sat nestled in the dark green of the mountainous trees that poked into the sky, dusted with a light snow of early December, my breathing settled for the first time in days.
I was en route to Trillium Lake where I would spend the majority of the day, unknowingly, due to the roads being blocked off from the early December snowfall. In a sweatshirt and a vest, I braved the walk to the lake, alone. I am a horrible packer, despite traveling the corners of the world, and am fated to always forget something important for the trip, whether it be headphones, a charger, my glasses, or a visa to get to the country I’m about to board onto. So I’m forced to live with it, and take whatever surprise I’ve left myself with with whatever level of grace, because I have no one to blame but myself, and well, life happens, and you have to learn to deal with it.
This particular trip left me without an iPhone charger. Luckily, I had a back-up Google Pixel phone and its charger, without the appropriate headphones, and no USB port to charge in the car. So for the walk to the lake, I was solo. While I tend to travel alone, and love to do so for its ease of planning and doing whatever I wanted when I wanted, this trip left me feeling very alone. There were long drives to the mountains through rougher terrains than I was used to, not having driven in snow in upwards of four years, not having driven in close to a full year, either. The grandness of the newly coated trees, while stunning, left me feeling smaller than my 5’0 stature and with each passing group or couple with a dull throb in my heart and stomach of what could, when you get down to it, define as jealousy.
Reaching the lake, the snow falling silently like powdered sugar, the aloneness lifted. As the trees on the walk there could not provide me, the beauty of the open space in front of me, trees with the sheer magic of a new fallen blanket, and stillness of the water was a comfort. But I’m not sure it was in a way I’ve ever felt comfort from nature before. All was calm. There was a group of photographers and a fashion blogger a few yards ahead and a group visiting from some Spanish speaking country, and while I was definitely alone, those at the rim of the lake were all there at the same time. Holding these minutes on the same plane of time as myself. Exchanging a smile as one group passed, but nothing more than the instinctual ‘hi’ exchanged from acknowledging another human being, we were the only ones here, seeing the same snow as it fell, slowly dampening from the melting flakes.
I continued the loop, suppressing the feeling of dread as I wasn’t exactly sure where I was headed because I forgot to bookmark where I was parked, and through a stubbornness of not wanting to ask anyone I passed. Stubbornness is a recurring theme through my travels as an independent girl who has done worse than this and wanting to finish what I started. I finally reached the parking lot and treated myself to cold leftovers that sat in the car as it waited for me, and decided I had just enough time to try and get to the next lake if I didn’t hit any traffic.
Winding new roads further and further upwards, the stubborn clashed against the growing dread of skidding slightly with lack of traction on the sedan’s wheels as I was determined to make it to the lake before sunset. There was not one driver on the road for over an hour. Wondering whether or not it was worth it, and chanting for protection from the universe, at a 15 mile an hour rate, I made it to the base of another closed off trail to the lake, and had to turn back, Arianna still playing on a loop, just to turn back and with my brights on, inch back down the mountain and back to Portland.
Another deep exhale of making it out safe from a potentially stupid, stubborn situation, alone, I learned a few things:
Sometimes, there are places and times where it’s better to travel with a partner; someone to fill the silence with engaging conversation when you’ve exhausted what you’ve been working on in yourself.
Stubborn is not the same as determined, or persistent or driven. As it holds a somewhat negative connotation, it digs its heels in when you might know better. It’s what it is. And while you might try and skirt the definition, it will always be what it will be, by its own definition.
It’s relieving to make it through a situation where your adrenaline hikes and you land safely on the other side, but you don’t have to push to go there. You can just go to the one lake and be happy with what you found there.
Also, everything has something to learn from. Even if you weren’t going at it with some inspirational conclusion, you might just get there anyway.
And finally, if you drive by a sketchy diner in the middle of nowhere while you’re still on the comedown from your heart racing, that’s called Twin Peaks, don’t kick yourself for weeks afterwards that you didn’t stop in to check it out. You had a big adventure and that might just be enough.