Stories say there’s a pot of gold at the end of each rainbow, if you can only find it–and if the silly things would hold still. Every child who ever chased a bright band of colors as it retreated across the sky is familiar with this difficulty.
Other, less frequently repeated stories say that fairy gold turns to leaves and twigs in the morning.
Taken together, these tales don’t exactly teach us to go hunting for riches in the wild. But in my years of wandering through the woods, I’ve learned a different lesson: treasures are hidden everywhere. There is a trick, though. If you’re barreling after the end of a rainbow, you may never see them. They often aren’t where you expect them to be, and sometimes you don’t notice them until after the fact.
Last August, Adam and I hiked up to Flapjack Lakes in the Olympic Mountains. The trail up was steep and rocky, with plenty of sizable fallen trees blocking the path. In the more harrowing sections, where the trail was cut out of the slope of the mountain and fell away sharply on the other side, these trees sometimes knocked out parts of the trail itself. The only way to keep going was to climb them, bellies to the wide trunks and heavy with our full packs on, feeling our way over with our toes and hoping there was solid ground where our boots landed on the other side. (One time, there wasn’t, and I almost didn’t see it in time.)
We were fit after training all spring and hiking all summer, but this trail pushed us to the limit. Another pair of backpackers stopped at a camp about a mile from the finish, and we nearly joined them. Only the thought of how nice it would be to start the day already at the lakes kept us going.
We reached the lakes and were greeted with this:
Then we got to eat dinner here:
And watch the sunset reflected in the water:
So, it was worth it.
On the second day I wandered around taking pictures before we continued hiking. I decided I could get some good angles if I walked out onto the partly-submerged log by our dining area. (You can see the log in the first picture of the lake above.) I saw some neat-looking branches underwater and tried to capture them. I didn’t even see the sun halo reflected on the water until I checked the viewfinder to make sure the photo came out.
Will this treasure pay for my potential future children’s college? Will it buy me a boat or a castle on a hill? Nah. But that’s not what I hike out into the woods for. Getting away from my to-do list lets me slow down and notice the beauty all around me. If I hadn’t taken a few moments to wander around, off of my scheduled program for the day, I would never have seen this. And my life would be poorer for it.