One of the many reasons I love the dream of going to every national park is that there are so many unexpected surprises. There’ve been many times in which I’ve gone to a park with either low expectations or having a pretty solid hunch of what my favorite part of the park will be. Wind Cave was a perfect example of this for me. I went in thinking it was a checkmark and was only excited to knock it off the list because we were already close. What I found instead was a profoundly deep experience in hearing, as the ancient Americans described it, “the breath of the Earth.” Today was another of those days for me.
On our first day at Olympic National Park I was so pumped when we saw Hurricane Ridge. The beautiful line of several mountain peaks appearing seemingly out of nowhere was nothing short of spectacular. When Dominic first saw them he immediately stated that this was his favorite national park. The views were amazing and I was pretty sure that I’d seen what would be the best part of this park. The next couple of days would just be because we’re already here… which leads me to today…
As we were driving back from our morning hikes and lunch we stopped in the Sol Duc area to check out the hot springs (BUST – it was a freaking swimming pool!) and a falls (BEAUTIFUL!). While there we were also going to check out this cool little grove of ancient trees, the “Ancient Grove.” A short hike, I was expecting a nice little walk in the woods. What I experienced was anything but that.
In this grove were ancient trees (surprising, never would’ve guessed that by the name, would you?). The sign on our way in explained that some were over 750 years old. Walking in I was expecting a thick and lush rain forest setting similar to Muir Woods, but instead it opened into a wide open expanse filled only with giant trees (350+ feet?), moss, and a few ferns. It was wide open yet totally full and untouched. As I stepped into the grove there was an overwhelming feeling of serenity. It was calm, no stress, no chaos, no sadness, no frustration… just peace. The breeze lightly blew through the woods and the sun came down in beams, broken up by the primeval giants. Everything was right in the world, I was in heaven on Earth. My heart was filled and all was good in my life. To say it was amazing was an understatement.
I must’ve been acting a little off, Becky came up to me and asked if I was okay. All I could mutter and explain was that I was feeling great, incredible, at peace. It was tough to explain, but it was one of those moments in my life when everything just felt right. Not just right, but “right.” Closer to something bigger than myself than I had been in a long time, something that had called me there without me knowing it, something that just felt like home. It felt right.
To say that I was surprised by how incredible this little grove was, just over a half mile hike, would be an understatement. With Dad’s death so fresh in my heart this was the breath of calm I needed. It brought me peace. Earlier in the day I had been talking with Dad while I was hiking, telling him about how I was missing him, wishing he was here, and knowing that he was. At one point as I stopped a gentle breeze blew across my face in what had been otherwise stagnant air… I knew he was with me. When I felt the peace of the Ancient Groves I didn’t even need to talk with him, I knew he was there. And for that, I am so deeply grateful.