Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2005 Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2005
Sandpoint Magazine

Sandpoint Magazine Summer 2005

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The author's watercolor paintings demonstrate how light, shadows and clouds enhance a hiking experience. Above, "Magical Valley" shows the Seven Sisters, including Chimney Rock, Beehive, Roman Nose and Harrison Peak.

Hiking the southern Selkirks with an artist

Sitting patiently by the pool below Arches National Park one summer afternoon, I watched the sun cross the overhead sky. Waiting for the shadows to lengthen and the light to turn orange-red, I refused to look up at the rock arches above us until the falling evening sun transformed them from pale, washed-out vampires to deeply colorful, rich and alive monuments of earth. Finally, I assured my husband that it was time. He was stunned by the difference as we entered the park, now changed from not terribly impressive to alive and memorable. We basked in the warmth of the evening sun's glow, indigo shadows popping the natural arches out at us. This was the beginning of his believing that light can make all the difference.

"Pack River Valley with Sunrise Colors" by Julie Hutslar

Light is only one consideration in enhancing your moments with nature. Choosing when and where to enjoy your favorite outdoor spots can turn your experiences into memorable and beautiful ones as well. As an artist, I would like to be your figurative guide for some favorite hikes in the southern Selkirks – offering perspectives and ways to memorialize your day.

Never expect to have a golden moment in the outdoors at midday in summer or on a white sky day. Faces get washed out and trees are paler green in the harsh sun, when there are fewer reflections and fewer – or no – shadows. And often, little or no wildlife accompany you. The sun beats down on the earth directly overhead and eliminates the element that creates 3-D, which is depth, or shadows. Shadows create inspiring contrast, enhance the views and add much needed depth to beautiful mountain scapes. When the sun is at an angle to the Earth, it casts longer shadows, but directly above (midday in summer) the shadows are sadly below your feet. So first commandment: Choose morning or evening as best times to recreate in nature during summer.

Let's look at a short, but rather vertical hike up to Harrison Lake. One hike I am sure is particularly memorable to my husband is the one when we started out so early in the morning that there was still dew, and getting to the trailhead almost froze us out! But once we arrived at the top, the pristine mountain lake was still steaming with morning fog, and the drama of the place, with the gargoyle-topped Harrison Peak overlooking the lake, was like a setting of a photo shoot for National Geographic.

This trail is excellent for photo opportunities all the way up. Walking through the dense forest for the first little section, you don't realize how quickly you are climbing and that you begin to hug a ridge. Make sure you stop at several of the opening spots along the trail that afford a spectacular view of Beehive just to the west. With the sun casting shadows, you can see all the lines and ridges in the rock formation that gives Beehive its name. Watch for Chimney Rock as well going up and down. With one side of the chimney in shadow and one in light, the perspective brings it closer, making it more vivid.

Choose your hikes or picnic spots for inspiring views as well as timing of the light. To hike for hours and not reach an expansive view can be less than satisfying. A huge mountain or valley view brings a sense of awe and openness to your hungry spirit. Even though my husband greatly prefers level hikes, he knows if I am in charge of making the selection, we're going up! Reason two, awe-inspiring views feed the soul.

Julie Hutslar, husband Ed Hunt and Moki the dog

Roman Nose is one of the highest spots in the southern Selkirks. Driving a good way up the mountain, you can't see anything until you take the loop trail above the lake. There are several different views, not just the magnificent long view to the south and all the valley and Lake Pend Oreille beyond. Some of the views are looking north, or west into the center of the mountain range. If you want to create a moment you will cherish, hike in with a bottle of wine and some cheese and watch the sun set from one of these viewing spots. Feel the romance overwhelm you! Many times on my birthday, when my husband asks what I want to do, we end up sitting on a ridge somewhere soaking in the soft, pink alpine glow of a snowy mountain top, watching the sun set with some baba ghanoush. Also, don't underestimate robust clouds as they catch more color than a clear sky.

Continue with me to Fault Lake. Bring your backpack with lunch and snacks as it is about 13 miles round-trip. We're leaving early (remember the morning light requirement?), but the purpose is walking it all off. This long and fairly strenuous hike provides just the right amount of exercise and distractions to let all the thoughts of the week fall away. After the first two miles, you have stopped the constant voice in your head, the recounting of things you need to do and other mundane conversations with people that never happen.

By mile three, you round a bend that offers an exquisite view – one of the Selkirks' insides that rivals the Andes! Plodding, pondering, your mind wandering, as soon as you come into contact with this gift, you suddenly become present. It's as if God were standing there waiting for you, greeting you; it is that stunning and beautiful! Make sure it contains the requisite shadows. Stop at Gunsight Creek, shortly after spotting the "Andes," and soak your feet. Find a flat rock in this smooth creek, great for splaying out on hot days.

After mile five, you really have lost all thought that you have a day job. And if you do think about it, you wonder why, when this experience exists and rejuvenates you so. At the top, you now have it all, a gorgeous and expansive view, shadows and light, a clear mountain lake and now a clear, peaceful mind. Hike for consciousness, to bring clarity, put things into perspective and allow the calming vibration of nature to soothe you.

Lastly, consider choosing where you want to take in your vista and enjoy your lunch. Judging from the well-worn tracks, most hikers stop at the end of the trail. But spend a few more minutes to walk around the lake or your vista ridgeline to find a perfect location. After all, you deserve a perfect spot, having hiked against gravity for so many miles. Enjoy it, enhance it, feel it, bask in it, soak up the view as if it were a remedy. It is. The artist creator within is being greatly rejuvenated.

Trailhead directions

Summer 2009

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