A Journey Into Silence
I was in Seattle when I became acquainted with the Olympic National Forest hike. I inquired about it and very soon decided to do this hike alone. This was my first ever hike into the wild. I took this as a challenge- I won’t be taking any thermal clothes after knowing that the temperature dropped below 7° C at night. I won’t be carrying a bear canister after knowing that bears hunt for our food. I won’t be taking any books, solar chargers, power banks so that I can completely detach myself from the world. I geared up with the essentials and left.
I took a ferry and a bus to Port Angeles from where I got the Wilderness Permit to enter the Hoh Rain Forest. I hitchhiked to the forest and as I walked a few meters in, it was a completely different world. The world where western hemlock had grown to a tremendous size, vast bed of moss, the prevalent fog and the mist contributing to its freshness! I was in awe of this spectacular landscape and its primeval character.
It was getting dense as I was walking deeper into the forest. I was entering into the sphere of silence. It was peaceful to be away from the day-to-day chaos and to be soaked in the wilderness. I reached Five-Mile Island where I camped for the night. It started getting cold slowly. I wore my rain jacket and squeezed myself into the sleeping bag. Soon it got dark and I was scared to be alone in this humongous forest. Even the shadow of trees on the tent was horrifying. I wished that I don’t get attacked by bears. I knew all these were just mind games. But still, I slept with the knife in my hand.
I woke up as the sun rays penetrated through the tent. After eating the oat bars and packing the tent, I started for the day. Slowly the silence that I was enjoying started discomforting me. I was never used to the silence for so long. No phone calls, no chats, no social media, no hangouts, no music, no movies, just silence! I camped early that day. It was just the second day and still, I was feeling restless. The silence was traumatizing! I decided to quit the hike and leave for Seattle in the morning. I won’t be able to live with this silence for more ten days.
The chaos that I hated, suddenly started feeling better. I wanted to go back amidst people. The lifestyle that was unknowingly imbibed in us was pulling me back. The lifestyle had spread like a virus.
It felt like time had stopped. I was eagerly waiting for the dawn. The silence didn’t let me sleep. Finally, the sun rose and I unzipped the chain of my tent. There was a deer grazing in front of me. I gasped, “Wow!” It was so beautiful to witness this that I immediately felt rejuvenated. The thought of going back was no more there. I felt like a part of nature now. With a fresh mind, I started my hike ahead. There was no looking back.
It’s the threshold that is most difficult to cross. But once you do, there’s no stopping. Jon Krakauer writes beautifully in his book Into the Wild- “Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”