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With autumn coming and the end of warm sunny days to explore, it’s hard to leave my favorite hiking zones; but variety is good. Yesterday I set the alarm for 5:00 (though of course I was awake…because I set an alarm), and got an early start to the other side of the mountain. I beat the road construction crews, and the gate into the Park was not yet staffed, so I got in free, which was a little disappointing because I like to flash my get-in-free pass. The parking lot that was jammed five hours later, was nearly empty when I arrived at 8:30 on a weekday.

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Sunrise is very different from my side of Rainier. No old or second growth forests, therefore no shade. The temperature was forecast in the “upper sixties…’feels like’ mid-80s.” Much closer to the sun up there, plus being on the east side.

The trails at Sunrise are 95 percent sandy, five percent rocky; not full of roots, no carpet of evergreen needles. It’s dry and dusty. There are no streams to cross as they tumble down the mountainside through the forest; no waterfalls. The alpine smell is subtle, because there aren’t many trees. It isn’t damp. There are no high, lush meadows.

There isn’t the sense of anticipation I’ve experienced and loved on my other hikes this summer—the stunning scenery is all laid out in front of you. Which is not to undersell the jaw-dropping awe of the immensity and span of the Universe from up there.

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I chose the Burroughs Mountain trail, which goes even closer to the sun, and to Herself. On the good advice of a friend who was there last week, I headed out on the trail less traveled. There are a few firs there, and still some wildflowers in the shade, with the huckleberry already beginning to turn scarlet. Spring, summer, and fall are brief and jammed together in the mountains.

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Shadow Lake

The trail begins on the Wonderland Trail, meandering for half a mile above a shadow-filled meadow, past Shadow Lake and Sunrise Camp. Leaving the Wonderland—and the trees—it continues along Sunrise Rim with spectacular views into the White River valley and across to the Tatoosh Range (I think), rounding a curve to the Queen of the Pacific Northwest.

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White River

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A sign informs that the alpine tundra zone is similar to the tundra in the Arctic regions.

At the apex of Burroughs 2 (I did not do the third one), I found two women trying to take a selfie while holding a sign. I offered assistance. I stepped back to snap the shot as they held up their sign: “We 💜 you, Gretchen.” What are the odds? I asked them where Gretchen was. She used to live here, they told me, but now she lives in Flagstaff, AZ. 😳. They both live on Whidbey Island, they offered. As they were leaving, on a hunch, I mentioned the names of two of my friends on Whidbey. Yes, they knew them! Sometimes the world just astounds me.

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I built a small cairn in homage to Herself—not getting the fourth piece to balance, but pretty pleased the tricky third one did—and headed back to Burroughs 1, planning to take Sourdough Ridge Trail, the rim on the other side, back down. It overlooks Berkeley Park and, perhaps, on into Grand Park. I’ve been to Berkeley and will return one day to continue to the Grand. The parks here are in the valleys, the others I’ve been to this summer are at the apex.

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Berkeley Park. Mt. Baker and Mt. Adams are on the horizon, but not visible in the haze this day.

Far below me, I spotted a small tribe of mountain goats run out of a copse of trees and begin grazing. (Yes, they are called a tribe, or a trip; how great is that?) Then I saw another small group, and another. Farther on, right on the Berkeley Park trail, was  larger one! As I moved on, continuing to watch them, the smaller groups wandered or ran to join the bigger group. I counted at least 40.

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I stopped trying to take photos of goats too far away to take photos of and picked up my pace. The big group looked headed down into the park; but maybe the small one that seemed content to stay a half mile from the intersection of the trails would still be there. It was still early, and I wasn’t in any hurry anyway. I was headed toward Berkeley Park in search of goats.

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From Berkeley Park Trail. Burroughs Mt. 2 (where I was) is in the center. 3 (where I was not) is to the right with the snow fields. 1 is to the left. The trail follows the ridge line before descending.

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The goats made the trip memorable. That and the people I spoke to. I made an error in choosing the return trail. I wish I had chosen to hop back on the Wonderland after the goat viewing, rather than the primary trail access from the parking lot, which is like a highway. But then I would have missed the Buddhists on Sourdough Ridge.

I was wearing the shirt the owner of my yoga studio handed me some months ago. I was the right size at the right time and she was getting rid of stored random inventory. I didn’t ask her then or later what the Sanskrit meant.

“Ah, [something that sounded like] moxie!” one of the young men in the foursome said as I stepped aside to let them pass me. I looked puzzled. “Your shirt!” he said, “moxie!”

“What does it mean?” I asked, telling him how I came to have a shirt with something on it I didn’t know the meaning of.

It was a little difficult to understand his accent, and others wanted to get in on the explanation, though mostly they deferred to him. It’s related to “enlightenment” and the cycle of life. Something about the ages 1-7, 7-14, 14-21. After that all is suffering; through the decades from the 20s to the 70s. At that age, through good works and meditation, the Buddha died and achieved enlightenment; and went to heaven. “Moxie!”

“After you die, achieve enlightenment, and go to heaven, the suffering ends,” one of the other young men said. “You don’t want to return to this life, because then the suffering begins again. Stay in heaven!”

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If someone can tell me if the word is really pronounced “moxie,” please do. And did I got the story more or less right? I felt enlightened, and glad the trail chose me, instead of the other way around. My PNW is heaven; I’m not sure how any place could be better. But I don’t live on an island; I am aware there is suffering all around me. And I do have to go home to my own. But there was none this day.

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The path to Enlightenment.

Next week: camping at Mt. Hood. I hope there are a few more adventures after that before the weather turns inward. Though I am about ready for introversion, I still have an autumn trip to Paradise in my sights, and then back to my forest a couple more times before the snows.

As I left, a cloud was descending like a curtain. By the time I was out of the park, the mountain was gone.

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Update: I asked my yoga teacher about the Sanskrit word on my t-shirt, as mentioned. It’s spelled moksha, not moxie; and it means freedom, or liberation, release. Read more about it here. From this reading, it’s quite possible my enlighteners were Hindi, not Buddhist.