All posts tagged Hiking

One must wonder whether wildlings appreciate the grandeur of their surroundings, apart from their innate connection to their world. This grouse and another hen were foraging amongst the autumn foliage shortly before sunset ignited the mountainside’s already smoldering hues, as seen in the photo below a short while later. Did she pause for a moment of wonder at day’s last flourish, as did I? Life in the wild isn’t easy.  For the creatures who inhabit them, scenes like these are sandwiched between the much more frequent paroxysms of the elements, the predators lurking where least expected, the seasons of scarcity, and the burdens of parenthood. (Grouse can lay up to fifteen eggs at a time!) Do the rigors of life render these fleeting moments the sweeter, even for a grouse, or wholly irrelevant? Whichever it may be, that there are creatures in a world where the sublime is as natural a fact as the toilsome is somehow comforting.

Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.

Fleeting splendour sets the alpine autumn slopes ablaze.
Granite Mountain Trail, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
(ancestral lands of the Snoqualmie),
October 01, 2021.

© 2021 Anthony Colburn

Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.

Perhaps I should have felt apprehension as these vultures swept about me, circling, dipping into the valley below, then swooping upward again, near enough that dark shadows crossed my path and I could hear the whoosh of feathers as they banked overhead. But no, I thrilled at this unexpected meeting of their world with mine; after all, they had no interest in the living.  Despite their rustled silence, their presence was palpable.  What did these phantasmic enigmas signal at this crossroads of human and avian?  As hideous as they are to our eyes, vultures are not entirely unlike us. These were quite social: always near one another, never squabbling as songbirds do, and even engaging in what could have been a bit of small talk between themselves. When evening fell, their roost became a scene of domestic tranquillity as they settled in for the night, preening leisurely, gazing out upon the same islandtop vista I’d climbed to view, and nodding off. In the end, it was I who left the birds of death to their timeless idylls.

© 2021 Anthony Colburn

Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.

Gray, or, Canada jay
(Perisoreus canadensis)
Mount Si Trail,
Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area, Washington (ancestral lands of the Snoqualmie)
December 10, 2017.

Good day to you, good day, Gray Jay!

What do you, can you say today?

Not like your cousins, not at all,

who shriek and scold and fairly brawl;

not like you, no, to chatter so,

like Blue Jay, Green Jay, Brown Jay — no!

But circling heedlessly — it seems —

you scorn their noisy, plotting schemes

and flitting sprightly to and fro,

and twitt’ring slightly as you go,

with no more word, no “May I, please?”

you leave the trees with swooping ease

and, sidling up with subtle tack,

you snatch my snack behind my back!

So tell me, tell me, now, Gray Jay —

what do you, can you say today?

© 2016 Anthony Colburn

Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.

Columbian black-tailed deer
(Odocoileus hemionus columbianus)
Coastal Trail / Ozette Triangle,
Olympic National Park, Washington
(ancestral lands of the Makah)
August 04, 2018.

Slowly, a young blacktail buck works his way along the woodland’s coastal verge, nibbling the tender shoots that spring into light where weathered spruce gives way to ribbons of dunegrass. Still lithe in body and bearing, he is likely in his second year, as suggested by his unbranched antlers. He leads a harsh and likely short life — predators abound here, too, and unforgiving seas lash the retreating coast with frequent storms. His lot matters not to him, for it is the only life he knows. In his time, he lives unbidden by any and beholden to none but the sage old instincts honed through countless generations of his kind. Like many creatures in national parks, he is accustomed to humans, yet not tame. Near, and yet apart. Here, he is an equal, much like his and human ancestors were when all dwelt amid the teeming wilds, before some humans sought to subdue the world and all therein. He pays me no heed, but would surely bolt if I drew nearer. In these few moments, we are merely fellow beings on briefly parallel paths. Then he slips into the forest fringe and is gone. Be well, O wild one!

© 2020 Anthony Colburn

Uh-oh! Please check back later or use this site's Contact form to let HesperosFlown.com know this link is broken.

Petroglyphs carved into seaside stones by the Ozette band of the Makah witness their former presence on ancestral lands now known for the lake and hiking trail that bear their name.
Coastal Trail, Ozette Triangle,
August 05, 2018.

Place names tell stories. They endure and evolve over generations, often holding clues to a forgotten past. Hiking around Washington (the state, not the “other” Washington), one encounters many place names that are clearly of indigenous origin, but otherwise have little meaning to casual passersby or even to lifelong local residents. Names such as Willapa (the valley where I grew up), Entiat, Methow, and Palouse become so commonplace, we seldom consider the derivation of these words that are clearly not English. Although we may suspect them to be of indigenous origin, most are not merely remnant Native American words or place names — they are the names of people, the First Peoples who once inhabited the places that bear their names. However, these First Peoples’ existence — both historic and current — is often obscured by their absence from those very places.

The arrival of non-indigenous settlers dramatically — catastrophically — altered our First Peoples’ very existence. Within the span of but one or two lifetimes, First Peoples were swept both from land and from memory to make room for newcomers, gone from the homelands they had inhabited for countless generations. In a few unfortunate cases, they no longer even exist, like the Willapa of my childhood home. By “treaties” with non-indigenous settlers from other lands, these First Peoples were systematically and forcibly removed from their ancestral lands and consolidated — often arbitrarily — into the system of tribes and reservations that exists today. Furthermore, those new organizations were often given names unrelated to many — or any — of the First Peoples who comprised them, rendering many First Peoples virtually unknown beyond the borders of reservations and pages of history books, conveniently disconnected from the lands they once inhabited. For example, not one of the twelve confederated tribes of Washington’s Colville Reservation — the Colville, Chelan, Okanogan, Lakes, San Poil, Nespelem, Entiat, Methow, Moses-Columbia, Wenatchi, Palus, and Chief Joseph Band of the Nez Perce — was initially named “Colville,” a name carelessly applied to the reservation and First Peoples who live upon it by non-indigenous settlers in reference to the reservation’s proximity to Fort Colville, which was in turn named for a slave-owning governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Yet, the actual names of several of those tribes are instead more readily recognized as Washington cities, geographic features, and popular vacation destinations.

In a cruel twist of irony, our First Peoples’ names remain behind them, sprinkled across the landscape in maps and road signs, disembodied echoes of a not-so-distant, not-so-comfortable past. Upon realizing the derivation of those place names, it becomes apparent that, long before Europeans and others “settled” what is now called “Washington” (and much of the rest of North and South America), it was already fully populated — every river valley, every coastline, every swath of sageland. Far from living in scattered isolation amid a tractless, empty wild, Washington’s First Peoples formed a vibrant network of communities, alliances, and trade routes connected to others as far off as what are now known as Canada, California, and the Great Plains. Across a panoply of cultures and languages, our First Peoples lived, married, traded, celebrated, and sometimes warred. They were every bit as human as you and me, at home in the place we all now call “home.”

First Peoples still cope with intergenerational consequences resulting from the divestment of their ancestral lands, cultures, and social and family structures.  Many still struggle to attain the rights promised them by treaty.  Although we can never fully undo the injustices of the past, respectful acknowledgement of our First Peoples’ historic presence and continued experience can speed rectification of ongoing inequities and reversal of their very “invisibilization” by fostering awareness and dialogue. A first step is land acknowledgement, also called “territory acknowledgement” and “acknowledgement of country.” Land acknowledgment is the simple act of recognizing that the places we live today are the ancestral lands — birthplaces, thoroughfares, hunting, fishing, and gathering grounds, cultural touchstones, and sacred spaces — of our First Peoples. Well established in some other nations also founded on colonialism and imperialism, such as Canada and New Zealand, the concept of land acknowledgement is still little known in the United States, despite its historic habitation by many indigenous peoples, including Native Americans, Native Alaskans, Native Hawai’ians, and others. More than a mere throwback to a simpler, often romanticized culture, land acknowledgement recognizes, even in just a few words, the hardships and injustice imposed upon our First Peoples and the benefit inured to all subsequent arrivals as a result. It’s a simple way of saying, “Your people were here. You were here. You are here. We acknowledge your experience and our place in it and we recognize your place in the world we all share today.”

Land acknowledgements can take many forms.  Governments, educational institutions, and businesses post acknowledgements of the First Peoples on whose ancestral lands their campuses stand or on which they conduct their affairs.  Land acknowledgements are also recited before classes, sporting events, business meetings, weddings, and other gatherings.  Those of us who enjoy hiking the Pacific Northwest also have an apt opportunity to recognize the relationship between ourselves, First Peoples, and the natural spaces we all treasure. And, the digital age facilitates acknowledgement of that combined experience. Not only are we able to share our wilderness experiences almost instantaneously in photos, blogs, and other posts across social media, but information about those magnificent places is readily available at our fingertips. Adding a land acknowledgement to our social media posts can be as simple and logical as noting that the trail we hiked lay on ancestral lands of the specific First Peoples of that area. You may have noticed that a few Instagramers in the hiking community have begun to include basic land acknowledgements along with the locations of the photos they post, for example, “Ancestral lands of the Quileute.” This is why.

Proper, respectful land acknowledgement does require a little work. Before slapping the name of a local tribe on your post, make sure it’s accurate. Again, this is where technology empowers. Simply conducting an internet search using a place name and a relevant term such as “Native American” will provide a great start. Although not every website is an authority on indigenous cultures, the internet contains a surprising wealth of information on North America’s First Peoples (and especially those of Washington), including geographic ranges of tribes’ ancestral lands, identification of individual bands and their specific locales, and traditional spelling of indigenous names — often even in the alphabet used by the tribe for its first language. Once you have an idea of who the First Peoples of a specific location are, try checking that tribe’s or reservation’s website, which should be considered an authority on information about the tribe. Note that some First Peoples refer to themselves with a name other than that given them by treaty or by common, non-indigenous use. For example, the Twana of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula consider “Skokomish,” the formal treaty name by which they are commonly known, a misnomer; the Wenatchi and Yakama of central Washington spell their names differently from the cities, valleys, and rivers named for them; and the Ts’elxwéyeqw of southern British Columbia and northwestern Washington refer to themselves with the spelling of their first language, rather than the anglicized version, “Chilliwack,” even when otherwise writing in English.

Land acknowledgement is a first step toward greater inclusion of our First Peoples and their experience as Washingtonians and Americans. Use it to consider how you can learn from or even partner with First Peoples in your community. Our First Peoples still care for our land and many are at the forefront of efforts to protect and preserve it for all. Washington is truly fortunate to have so many of its First Peoples remaining as integral members of its communities, demonstrating stewardship of the land and leadership in social justice.

A final note: delving into the history of non-indigenous relations with First Peoples can make you heartsick. Learn to just “be” with that discomfort. Don’t defend. Don’t deflect. It’s not about guilt or blame, but rather acknowledging the past and working toward a better, more inclusive future.

Land acknowledgement is about respect. Respect for one another, respect for our shared experiences, and respect for the land that is home to us all.  As hikers, we already have a special appreciation of our great outdoor legacy. We are close to the land. We sense a connection with wild spaces. We understand how they sustain our physical, emotional, and even spiritual wellbeing. And, we understand the concept of sharing them with others. Land acknowledgement is an opportunity to deepen that appreciation for our land, how we’ve come to enjoy it, and how it connects us across time and culture to our broader community.