Since the day quarantine started, it’s become a new ritual of mine to take long walks through the neighborhood we now call home. I didn’t know much about coping with isolation, but I did know that without routine, I’m not myself. Starting my mornings, or breaking up my afternoons, or capping off my evenings with a meditative journey past the fragrant flowers exploding from the Seattle lawns has been some kind of magical.
On these walks, I discovered a short podcast that helped me stop compulsively refreshing Twitter for new news – Coronavirus Daily from NPR. This week on my podcast walk, the host featured a clip from a neuroscientist that spoke about the “coronavirus time warp.” Has anyone else experienced this?! March, April, and May have been the fastest and most “upside down” in my memory, with the days plagued with a sensation of floating and restlessness. According to the neuroscientist, memory thrives on novelty… which of course makes perfect sense when stated so plainly. Especially with the Washington trailheads closed for the past few months, our lives have certainly lacked novelty. Despite our earnest attempts to keep ourselves from losing all sanity in our 700sq foot apartment (We ordered curbside pickup from Michael’s so we could learn to cross stitch from a YouTube video, I bought my first ever 10lb bag of flour for all the baking, I bought Animal Crossing…), I realized I have very few indoor hobbies!
Thankfully, the State Parks opened over the weekend and we jumped at the chance to stretch our legs. In search of novelty, we headed east away from the crowded trailheads on the I-90 corridor, which we’ve be exploring in the winter months, through the mountain pass to Central Washington. Dave and I have lived in Seattle for over a year now, but we’ve mostly enjoyed the damp, mossy forests, icy alpine lakes, and blustery mountain peaks. Compared to the past year of hikes, the pastoral hills of Central Washington felt like they should have been 1,000 miles away.
According to WTA, glaciers carved these deep canyons, that felt better placed in Utah or Iceland, during the Ice Age (hence, Ancient Lakes I assume?). The weather was a blissful 70 and partly cloudy. I can’t imagine hiking here in the brutal heat of summer without trees for cover, so I’d recommend a spring or fall trip to really enjoy the time here. Our intention was to follow social distancing orders, which ended up being fairly simple. We didn’t run into many other hikers here due to a mid-afternoon start, especially once the sun finally hid behind the clouds that threatened rain.
We parked at the lot marked on Google Maps/WTA and saw a handful of cars, but once we walked just a 1/2 mile in, we started to question if we’d set off on the right path. Approaching from the top and climbing down into the canyon means you can’t see much in the way of lakes until you arrive at the edge of the canyon wall. Thankfully, we saw two other hikers up ahead on the trail, so we figured we were headed in the right direction. As we crested the first ridge and descended into the canyon, I noted to Dave that the area felt impossibly similar to our hike through the Needles District in Utah. Peaceful, with just a quiet birdsong echoing against the rock walls and a trickling brook that we followed until it became a thunderous waterfall at the opening into the next layer of the canyon.
After a scramble down red, dusty rock that slipped beneath our feet on every step, we reached the sea-foam lake, dotted with campers on the far side. We wanted to see a sunset that day, but it turned out the best light hit as we looked back on the waterfall, volcanic rock, and pastel brush surrounding us. Like so many aspects of life, photography asks you to make lemonade out of lemons. No sunset rewarded us, but plenty of memories and another wild landscape invited us to return for more adventures.
In the end, we set out in search of novelty and a quiet escape where we could socially distance from other cooped up Seattlites, and we found exactly that.