Where Do We Belong? | Reflections from the Pacific Crest Trail

Note: Everything you read here is from my journal. During my journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, I wrote in my journal at all hours of the day and night from 3 a.m., when sounds from outside my tent crept into my sleep, to 12 noon, when the beauty of the world sparked reflection within myself. Some thoughts I’ve kneaded and molded to sound poetic and comprehensive; Other passages, I left exactly how I wrote them then, leaving the words preserved as memories.

I’ve organized journal entries with the title card, “Where Do We Belong,” because these thoughts’ compose a fluid general theme. I hope you enjoy.

If you find yourself turning up your nose or thinking this post is way too out there, maybe a little hippy, stop what you’re doing. Leave your computer immediately. Lace up a good pair of hiking boots and walk in the woods.

Then, come back and read with eyes fresh from the nature perspective – things may become clearer. 😉

People say that returning to the mountains feels like returning home. I understand the concept, but the sentiment didn’t resonate. I don’t feel home on top of a mountain. In fact, I mostly feel wobbly.

The Pacific Crest Trail changed that. On a physical level, I’ve come to understand what returning home means.

Amongst the trees, towering and divine, that is home. The pine and cedar-scented moss-covered earth. The ancient wisdom spread across the land, deeply rooted underground and knowing. A system of communication beyond my understanding.

I feel at home among the trees, in the uncertain and overpowering forests. It’s an unlikely familiarity. I was raised for half of my life in a desert town and the other half on a tropical island.

As I walk through California’s northern forests, the familiar, safe scent takes me back to an unpredictable place. I remember a trip to Minnesota I went on when I was about 6 years old, and then 10, and then 12, and my last trip at 19. I recall how much this place I’d never been felt homey – like familiarity untouched. I had this profound urge to live in Minnesota for a long time. I told my Dad, who was born and raised there, how much this place felt like home to me. I was a child, but I remember saying, “This place feels like home.” I didn’t understand why.

I think now, as crazy as it may sound, it was the trees.

Before my first visit, I couldn’t recall seeing anything like the trees I saw in Minnesota – aspen, cedar, white pine. It was the trees, even then… the trees calling me home.

I wonder about humans’ innate gravitation to the forest. I think of my ancestors. As a white woman with European roots, I would be ignorant to assume my descendants don’t hold culpability in stealing land from native inhabitants. This reality cuts my connection, a deep severance I remain aware of. I want to be a part of this place and work with nature, not against her. I want to belong to a place that never should have been inhabited by me, to begin with. My non-native roots feel spliced.

I hope we can learn to recognize our faulted history and our ancestral connection to the disembodiment of this country and this land. One day, perhaps, we can repair the damage we’ve caused by acknowledging and changing continued practices that damage Mother Earth and her native people.

The land, this earth, is a pulsating life force with communicative vibrations beyond our comprehension. I am grateful to witness, in this one fleeting life, the parts of which I understand.

The farther we remove ourselves from witnessing the wild world – the golden speckled stones and twisted marble bouldered walls; the life cycles of trees passed and regenerating, fallen maroon leaves and forest floor coated in pine needles; the uninhabited-by-human habitats of the forests – the further we go, the more disconnected we become.

With disconnection, we lose our sense of belonging. We can’t bring together the inner workings of our being with the outer workings of the earth, the natural movement of the breeze, valleys, or streams.

Once the distance between the wild of the world and the wild of our soul closes in, the primitive and instinctual energy flows into one, and you recognize true belonging.

June 15, 2022


Perspective is a strange thing. It still ties me up sometimes, the way my perspective changes from one day to the next. Sometimes 3-miles sounds like nothing – easy even. Other times, 3 miles is the longest distance in the world.

Tonight, I lay here, in the cozy cocoon of my sleeping bag, listening to the sounds of many frogs. The croaks and clicks and grunts of constant communication. A language I do not know. If I were a braver woman, I would put my headlamp on or search for them by the light of the moon. I would love to see just one.

I am camping alone tonight (no other hiker’s tent near mine). I sleep so much better than I did the first week outside. The frogs are comforting. I am nervous about bears. If a bear wandered close to my food, I would prefer to just sleep through it.

I mostly feel safe.

I hope that my spirit speaks loud enough for the earth to understand. I will do no harm here – not to a beetle, an ant, or a flower on the path. I watch every step. I am careful. I hope my energy radiates through these mountains and she embraces me in her safety; in the knowing, I am an observer. I am here to appreciate every detail of this place. Perhaps in her knowing, I can be protected by the earth’s spirit.

I hope this is true. In a strange way, it feels true to me.

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