Written By: Kathy “OBAL Unbranded” Vaughan


High above the 55-mile-long fjord that cuts deep into the North Cascades of Washington, I awoke just as the sun was beginning to rise. Brewing coffee, still snuggled inside my Gossamer Gear single person tent, The One, I gazed towards the west. I had begun this backpacking trip in the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness, six days prior. My hiking partner, Lisa, and I were dropped off by ourselves, in the pouring rain, on a rocky shore of Lake Chelan, by the foot traffic ferry, the Lady of the Lake. My Mariposa 60 backpack had all the gear I would need for a couple of days of rain on the lower elevation Chelan Lakeshore Trail. I was also prepared for the cold, with the warm weather gear necessary for the other four days of the trip, up at 7,000 feet, in the subalpine larch country of the rugged Sawtooths.

Drinking coffee and reflecting on the past week in the wilderness, I watched the sky change into brilliant morning colors. I often missed the sunrise, being more of a sunset-watching night owl. The magic of this moment was just what I needed to get me ready for the 8-mile, 5,000-foot descent back down to Lake Chelan. Lisa and I would catch the Lady Express back to the small city of Chelan, and then back to our homes and what life holds in the transitional season of autumn to early winter. I gain so much inner joy, along with physical strength, from backpacking trips, that I often feel a tug at my heart when it’s time to hike out.

I keep a journal on my backpacking trips, to carry some of the special, real-time feelings out with me. I fill the pages with thoughts and observations; haiku and poetry, pencil drawings and lists. Often, I come up with a goal, or a main concept keeps coming back into my thoughts, in my talks with Lisa, and my journaling. It becomes a focus. I recommend this practice, as we are open to having helpful insights, while in the quiet space of the wilderness. This 50-mile backpacking trip came at a time of transition for me personally (my father was in hospice care at home and passed on October 7, 2021); transition for our nation as a whole (navigating its way through a worldwide pandemic); and finally, the season, blending from autumn to early winter, while the wildlife and the fauna of the forest and mountain ridges changes along with it.

The highlight of Fall, for many, is Thanksgiving. It invites a time for us to gather with friends and family. We often share food, games, laughter, conversation, recipes, thankfulness for all we have in our lives, and think of others that can’t be with us. It’s a positive and affirming time. Some of us share with others what we are grateful for through our social media outlets. We send cards to loved ones. We bake pies, create special dishes, and put together bouquets filled with the reds and golds of autumn. It’s a great time to share any abundance. There are many ways to express our feelings of the change of season, creatively or sharing in our communities. 

I recently participated in the Golden 6 Hour virtual run through old growth maple, cedar, and fir forest. The challenge was to accumulate miles, get a “Fall Capture” photo, and collect food for our local food banks. I loved this idea of inspiring a variety of goals to encapsulate the transition of the season. Those that rely on food banks have an increased need this time of year, with holiday meals and traditions approaching, seasonal work ending, and the current pandemic creating a further increase in need. There are those that need warm shoes and clothing as the temperatures drop and days are rainy.

As Lisa and I hiked towards a section of trail that meandered through a rockslide, I gripped hold of my LT5 Trekking Poles and at the same time heard the high-pitched whistle of a small pika. I said to Lisa that I wanted to take a minute to search for its pile of drying vegetation. The sun was shining and with the cold weather fast approaching in this higher elevation area, I thought that maybe this whistling pika would be busy getting its stores ready. I exclaimed out loud as I saw the huge array of drying meadow grasses and wildflowers. I hope for this type of prosperity for all as we go into a darker time of year with less sun, shorter days, trees dropping their colorfully dying leaves, and mountain ridges receiving their first snow. 

A season’s passing

Twilight hours come and go

A new dawn awaits


A fjord so deep

Steep mountains drop to its banks

Rock art left by natives


Fresh, cool air moves past

Nature’s messages passing

I can hear the words



Kathy “OBAL Unbranded” Vaughan is an adventure runner, thru-hiker, and long-distance skier, who is fascinated with pursuing the limits of trail endurance. When not on an adventure, she and her husband Ras use Whidbey Island, Washington, as their base camp. While currently off-trail, she is completing a poetry book inspired by The Wild Idaho Loop, a 650-mile thru-hike she and Ras completed last summer, and working as a gardener. Follow her adventures on Instagram and Facebook, and Team UltraPedestrian on Instagram, Facebook, and their website.

November 23, 2021 — Gossamer Gear