Along with my big hiking goal, I’ve got a few artistic goals as well. One of them is to create the hike’s number using material found on the hike. I got this idea while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2011. When big milestones are reached, like mile 100, 500, 1000, etc, it is common for a hiker to write the mileage in the trail using rocks, sticks, flowers, etc. One thru hiker I met made a mile marker every 100 miles for her entire 2,655-mile trek. As well as using the common stone, stick, or pine cone to make her century numbers, she also used flowers, snowballs, lichen, burnt logs, deer bones, fruit, even other hikers laid out to form the numbers. For my own art project, something I simply call “The Numbers,” I’ll be sticking to a few rules:
- The Number must be made on the hike it is representing. (i.e. “33″ must be made on hike #33.)
- The Numbers must all be the same size – about 5-6 inches in height.
- The Number must be made using materials found on the hike.
- The Numbers will be made without killing. If living fauna is used, the plant will be pruned so it can continue living and reproducing.
- The Number will be left as is for nature to reclaim. I simply walk away once it is created and photographed.
I’m writing this after bagging my first ten hikes and this project has turned out to be much more fun and educational than expected. Looking for things to use in The Number gets me to pay attention to my surroundings, to see things that I might’ve missed otherwise. The item(s) used are never decided upon prior to the hike, but I do have an idea of what I want. When I finally pick out something to use, I become more curious. I want to learn more about the thing. For instance, for hike #10, I chose a reddish-orange berry that I found growing near Paulina Creek. I didn’t think much of the berry before, but now I was curious. What plant is this? Are these berries edible? Where does this plant normally grow? After ten hikes, I’ve learned quite a bit more about the plants, trees, and geology of the area having used flower petals, tree branches, coniferous needles, and rocks to form The Numbers. I imagine by the 100th hike, I’ll know quite a bit more about nature than I do now, and that excites me.
On some hikes, I’ve made more than one number after finding something more interesting to use later on the hike. Below is the first number for Hike #2, but later on I went with something that I thought better represented the hike (see below).
The trail up the North Fork Tumalo Creek on Hike#6 has a lot of downed trees, making it easy to collect very specific twigs to make Number 6.
Building Number 8 was one of the most difficult to make thus far. It was the first to be made on a grade and on a very uneven surface. Trying to balance small pumice stones is like a game of Jenga and Tetris combined.
I spent a few minutes on the shores of Paulina Lake gathering small polished obsidian pebbles to make Number 9. Here’s a close-up showing a small green bug along for the ride.
The accidental inclusion of the green aphid in Number 9 gave me an idea for Number 10. While making this on Hike#10, I saw a darkling beetle nearby and decided to include him in the photography of this piece created using rose hips.
I invite my hiking partners to help out in gathering the materials once I’ve figured out what I’m going to use. I usually look for something that’s prevalent on the trail or represents the hike. No sense trying to gather something that’s hard to find or unusual. Not only would it be more time consuming to collect but I’d hate to use something that would obviously make the experience for the next hiker less enjoyable. On hike#5, Caitlin and I made sure not to pick more than a few petals off of each yellow flower needed to make this along Six Lakes Trail. She’s adding the final touches here: pearly everlasting.
Kim and I found a nice shady western juniper to make The Number on hike#7 from the yellow flowers of the local rabbitbrush. We highlighted it with blue juniper berries.
Emily and I had to dig deep to find the patience to build #10. Put one round rose hip in place and three others rolled out of place. Patience prevailed and we had something we both were proud of. Then we walked away, leaving the number in place, never to see it again. That’s how I roll.
And here’s all ten of The Numbers! I look forward to the next 90!