“After work one day in late August, I sat alone by the side of the trail, motionless. Suddenly, I noticed the light. Beyond just observing, I absorbed the light. The angle of the sun had changed just enough to give everything a slightly different hue. The earth seemed to pause between summer and fall, and I was at rest as well. Weeks of walking, days of hard work, nights staring at the stars and moon, and mornings watching the sun filter through the trees all culminated in that moment. I’d slowed enough to assimilate the pulse of the landscape, the imprint of wilderness. This still point anchored me — it anchors me now.” — Excerpt from “Bitteroot” by Margi Fox
Some of you may recognize Margi from walking the streets and trails of Bellingham and Whatcom County or maybe you know her from taking writing classes at Western Washington University or Whatcom Community College. She seems to build community wherever she goes. I first met her blueberry picking off of Highway 9 where we got to talking about hiking and body work. She practically glows when she talks about walking. It’s no wonder that she has made many enduring relationships from a lifetime of hiking.
This love of walking did not come from her grandmother who dragged her by the arm, from errand to errand, teaching her to walk as a form of transportation because she didn’t own a car. Instead, this love of walking began during a middle school summer camp where the students studied history as they hiked. In the Nevada desert, her group learned about the Donner party’s trials and tribulations as they migrated by foot, horse and wagon from Illinois to California in 1846-1847.
In high school, she joined The Sierra Club and hiked and backpacked through the Sierra Nevada Range, Wyoming and Idaho. It was while summiting Snowyside Peak in the SawTooth Mountains of Idaho that Margi says, “I had this sense that I was tiny in this sea of the mountains and as big as everything I could see.”
On her 18th birthday, as she was hiking out of the Grand Canyon at 5000 feet of elevation, she had a realization, “I am 18 years old and I know how to pace myself.” These memories have sustained her through life and all of its ups and downs.
Because of these early experiences, wilderness became a place where she felt at home and in 1973, nine years after the Wilderness Act of 1964 was established by Congress, she took a job as one of the first women trail crew members in the remote Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in the Moose Creek area of Idaho, the ancestral lands of the Nez Perce (Nimiipuu), Salish (Séliš) Kootenai, Shoshone-Bannock and Lemhi-Shoshone peoples. For four months during the summers, Margi and her work partner, another woman, crosscut trees, beat back the brush, constructed small bridges, re-routed trails and built hundreds of water bars. At times, the only other person they saw was their supervisor, who resupplied them with food every two weeks.
During graduate school, Margi met her husband while working in the Alaska Range and every day after work, they walked together under the late night sky. Later, they raised their son to hike and backpack. Margi’s grandmother claimed that Margi’s happy marriage was all due to her forcing her to walk during those childhood years.
For many years, Margi found her solace in the wilderness, but now she finds it in simply walking no matter where she is. While walking, she makes new friends and solidifies old ones, through side-by-side listening during movement. On the week of her 69th birthday Margi completed her goal of walking 69 miles. This is her wish: To continue walking her age on the week of her birthday. The other weeks she averages 40-50 miles per week depending on the weather or the state of her body. When I asked Margi what her favorite stretch was, she responded, “Walking. For me walking is my meditation. It’s my exercise. It’s my connection to family. It’s my social time. It’s my everything.” x
Luca Williams is a certified rolfer in Glacier. She helps snowboarders, skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts get aligned and out of pain. Website: lucasrolfing.com Blog: movingwithgravity.wordpress.com