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Writing Away the Miles: Poetry & Hiking

Posted by Erika Haugen-Goodman at Aug 13, 2021 11:11 AM |
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"Hiking, like poetry, gives me the room to explore my own thoughts. And one complements the other."

By Claire Haindfield

The car door slams, the keys click, the trail runners crunch gravel and kick up dust, the sun is warm on exposed arms. Chatter hums through the small lot like the drone of a herd of hummingbirds. I move away from the familiar. Ahead, the trees open up as if to welcome me and I accept their invitation. In a lot of ways, this is a second home.

Poetry is not on my mind when I am hiking. Instead, I’m thinking about a summit, a tarn, a meadow, a view — a point to unwrap a CLIF bar and return to my Crosstrek in the parking lot. But, in this return and state of euphoria, my mind is as equally distant from me as I am from the town I come from. Colors are vivid, sounds are crisp, rocks are hard under my feet. Life is simple, and I am grounded. In a deeper sense, I am taken aback by the resilience of the landscape in its natural state: the ponderosas will last the winter and perennial lupines will return next July. Life here is a constant.

hiker standing in front of mountain backdrop
Claire is an avid hiker and backpacker as well as a published poet.

The space in my steps allows me to process heavier thoughts and cushions me with beauty simultaneously. Poetry comes to me in lines or phrases or words. It comes to me on this return seamlessly, as if knowing my pen await me back home. I write for the same reason I hike: to have a space to process and explore my thoughts. The two passions complement one another and shape my perspective of the world as a single force. My poem “In Times of Melancholy” explores the connection between humanity and earth and illustrates how naturally this symbiotic relationship occurs.

The line “thins sweetness into raindrops” hints at the lush greenery that comes from the immense rainfall in Washington state, a reminder I often return to in the sunless weeks of February. The line guides the poem but stands on its own, too. Even in poems that are not about nature, I find myself forming metaphors and symbols directly from my time spent outdoors, which I often use when I write about my more personal experiences. Trails are places of growth, but also healing. It is in this space that I better my poetry and I better myself, too.

Claire Haindfield is a rising senior at Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, Wash. She is an avid hiker and backpacker as well as a poet. Claire has had work published in Disclaimer Magazine, The WEIGHT Journal, Creative Colloquy and Paper Crane Journal, and was featured at the Bellevue Arts Museum in early 2021. She is also a member of her high school’s slam poetry club. Her two biggest goals (in no particular order) are writing and publishing a chapbook, and thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

In Times of Melancholy
Golden honey drips from the nose
In meadows too warm for June where
                                                                   This honey
Comes from,
Thins sweetness

Puddling beneath


In our


Is the abundance we carry in our medial clefts,
Is what rushes under our bridges,
Is what calls for the

Who find their way back
To this honey of
Or not theirs.
But still.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of Washington Trails Magazine. Support trails as a member of WTA to get your one-year subscription to the mag