A journey into silence
I was in Seattle when I got to know about 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 down to 7 °C at night. I won’t be taking bear cans 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. It’s located on the Olympic Peninsula. I hitchhiked till the forest and as I walked a few metres in, it was a complete 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, where ‘The Jungle Book’ was live. I was transformed by its spectacular scenery and its primeval character.
It was getting dense as I was walking deeper in the forest. I was entering into the sphere of silence. It was so peaceful to be away from the day-to-day chaos, to be soaked in the wilderness by myself. I reached Five-Mile Island where I camped for the night. It started getting cold slowly. Fun fact- Always keep all the edible items away from your tent when you camp in wild. That’s because bears get attracted to the smell of your food and you stay safe in your tent. I hid my food below the rocks near the river. 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 prayed that I don’t get attacked by bears. I knew these were just the mind games. But still, I slept with the knife in my hand.
I woke up as the 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 hanging out, no music, no movies, just silence! I camped early that day. I was feeling restless. The silence was traumatizing! This was just the 2nd day. I decided to quit the hike and leave for Seattle in the morning. I won’t be able to take this silence for 10 more days.
The chaos which I was fed up off suddenly started feeling better. I wanted to go back amidst people. The lifestyle that had been unknowingly imbibed in us was pulling me back. The lifestyle of likes, comments, pokes 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 went to the river to wash my face. As I splashed the cold water, I felt rejuvenated. The thought of going back had vanished. I felt a family with the forest now. With new-born energy, I started my hike ahead. There was no looking back.
It’s just the threshold which is always difficult to pass. But once you do, there’s no stopping. And as Jon Krakauer penned perfectly in 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.”