• Matt's Photography

Leave No Trace

I want to use this forum to give you insight in to what I think and feel as I explore, adventure, and immerse myself in the world around me. Sometimes I go out in to the mountains and forests simply for the fresh air; other times I am trying to escape something. These escapes in to nature often bring forth a myriad of emotions, helping me to see things in a new light.

While the photo below may just look like a burned out tree to you, it means so much more to me. After a particularly difficult breakup, I needed an escape. The need to get away had never been stronger. Fortunately, two of my best hiking friends were free for the New Years holiday and ready to hop in the car for a road trip from Seattle to California. We booked a cabin between Sequoia National Park and Yosemite, packed our bags, and jumped on the highway.

Just a few weeks after the abrupt end to a relationship, that I thought could be forever, I was a mess. Among the giants of Sequoia National Park, I found solace, even if only for a few minutes at a time. I found this particular burned out section of an absolutely massive tree, while my friends were exploring a nearby grove. The solitude I found within enabled me to become overwhelmed by its splendor and my place within it, instead of being overtaken by my sadness.

Being surrounded by these giants, which have lived through millennia, made me feel so small, so short-lived, that I could not help but feel a sense of awe. They had lived through massive forest fires, been around while countries waged war upon each other, and were still standing; stronger than ever. If they can survive being burned alive, I could surely survive this heartbreak and come out on the other side even stronger than before. Burned out and hollow is how I felt, but in this moment I knew that I would not feel this way forever.

When you start hiking and backpacking, you cannot help but hear the term "Leave No Trace." We are trained to explore the wilderness, while leaving zero impact. We try our best to not crush plants, forge new trails, or disturb the wildlife. Fortunately, while we leave no trace behind, nature leaves traces of itself in us. We carry with us the feelings and emotions explored during our times away. These traces become part of us; changing us, and altering our views of the world and ourselves.

Over a year after this trip, I remember that sense of awe at the sheer magnitude of each tree and the groves in which they stand. These pictures bring back the memory and remind me of the traces left behind. I live by the Leave No Trace principals, but am grateful the forests and mountains do not.

- Matt

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