I just returned from six months of wandering the wild rain forest of the Olympic Peninsula. I arrived at the trail head in January with nothing more than my camera, a book of matches, a bag of heavily salted peanuts (jumbo size), and a rain poncho that doubled as a shelter, sleeping bag, and camera bag. I walked off the parking lot and hooked a left, letting the forest be my guide. Soon I was surrounded by a thicket of primeval growth, an impenetrable morass of moss and branches. It wasn’t long before I was completely abandoned by my sense of direction.
I lost count of the hours, days, and weeks as I penetrated deeper and deeper into the hinterland, reaching places that had never felt the trample of a man’s boot. When I encountered a deep and wide river, I spent ten days hollowing out a dugout canoe from the trunk of a fallen tree. After crossing, I set fire to the boat—for me, there was no turning back.
When I ran out of food, I drank the sap of the rare Speckled Quinault Cloud Maple, not realizing that it had slightly hallucinogenic properties that imbued one with a vague yet impending sense of being stalked by tenacious process servers. As my madness progressed, I began to neglect my health and personal hygiene, and my body wasted away from starvation, dehydration, and exhaustion. At some point—I do not know when—I collapsed and prayed for a painless death.
To my surprise, I was rescued by a clan of reclusive Sasquatch, who normally shun humans, but who took pity on my broken state. They nursed me back to health, and soon I regained strength and mental clarity. It took me three months to master their primitive language—which consisted of grunts, primal screems, and ripping apart tree trunks with one’s bare hands—but finally I was able to ask them to point me in the direction of civilization. After a tearful group hug, I left my new furry friends, and began my long journey back. I had a few more adventures along the way, including a brutal encounter with a ravenous six-foot man-eating giant vampire slug. Lucky for me, I still possessed my jumbo peanut bag, sans nuts but full of copious amounts of salt. Needless to say, things ended badly for the slug.
And then, finally, it happened—I stumbled into a mysterious glen and found the image I had searched six months for. A place as primitive as ancient earth, a hidden cacophony of green splendor, a haunted copse deep in the dark heart of an epic wilderness. A place where life itself stood still, besotted with the splendor of its own creation. For some reason I felt the moment required the barest semblance of dignity (although I possessed little in my feral state, and in any event no one was watching), so I pushed my knee-length beard behind my back and straightened and smoothed the remnants of my tattered clothes, which by now were mostly held together by finely woven strands of moss. After an appropriate amount of solemn reverence, my hands trembling with excitement, I clicked the shutter, recording the first and only image I had taken during my entire journey.
As I walked away from this magical place, I realized that I was only fifty feet from my car (which by now was covered in dust and parking tickets). I had completed the circle, returning to the far side of the parking lot from where I began. If only I had turned right.