Where Are Your Places Worth Going?

–There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

I need wild spaces. Tall jagged mountains, fields of wildflowers, crystal clear streams, views that go on for days, and the simplicity of carrying everything I need on my back. You may be thinking why would anyone need that?

My knees and back were reminding me of my limits.

Just like we need air to breathe, these wild spaces fill my heart, soul, and mind with perspective, gratitude, and awe. I was on a recent backpacking trip near Mt. Rainer. My friend planned a hike that allowed us to go easy. We hiked in for five miles with our heavy packs and set up our camp. Easy is a relative term. My knees and back were reminding me of my limits. The next day we left our camp and hiked up an additional three miles to the base of Old Snowy Mountain. Hiking up the steepest parts without our heavy packs helped us enjoy and soak in the incredible mountain and meadow views. Red and purple wildflowers filled the meadows and in the higher, rocky landscape, patches of intensely colored wildflowers thrived in harsh conditions with sparse soil and no visible water source. I was in complete awe.

We crossed a blinding white snowfield, the Pacific Crest Trail, and had views of Mt. Rainer, Mt. St.Helen’s, and Mt. Adams along with steep ridgelines, green valleys, and trees. There was not a cloud drifting along the deep blue sky. This was rare during this season of fires and smoke. I stopped often along the trail to deeply breathe in the intense beauty of this area. I breathed in as if somehow this landscape would become a part of me.

When we reached the base of Old Snowy we took our day packs off and found the most comfortable rocks to sit on to eat our lunch and soak in the views. After an hour and a half, we decided it was time to start heading back to camp. I stood up and reached for my daypack. I noticed something copper poking out between the rocks. It was a penny!  I was surprised to find a penny under the rocks at the base of Old Snowy. I immediately picked it up and thought of my friend who told me that when you find a penny it could be sent from a loved one who has passed on. I held the penny tight in my hand and thought of my precious mom, Rosemary. She passed away in May. She loved me fiercely. I greatly miss her Although she was not a hiker or outdoors person she loved visiting the Pacific Northwest. We went on many trips to Mt. Rainier National Park. She could never get enough of looking at Mt. Rainer. She loved it so much we called it Mt.RoRo.

I stood there with the penny in my hand gazing at Mt. Rainer and could feel my mom’s presence.

As we made our way back to camp my mind wandered in a peaceful bliss. I was filled with gratitude for the experiences of the day and the experiences I’ve had in my life. In comparison to the mountains, streams, and valleys we are small and our time is short. It reminds me to make the most of each day and be the best I can be.

The landscape did become a part of me and will stay with me forever just as my dear Mom will be with me forever.

Experiencing the beauty of this wild place will forever remind me that there are no shortcuts to any place worth going.

Wherever you go, go with all your heart

What fills you up with perspective, gratitude, and awe?


JoAnne Duncan
JoAnne Duncan
JoAnne Duncan has worked in public education for the past 16 years serving in a variety of roles: Kindergarten teacher, First Grade Teacher, Reading Intervention, Early Learning Coordinator and for the past 4 years as been an Elementary School Principal. She has published pieces in, Staying Grounded: 12 Principles for Transforming School Leader Effectiveness, by Dr. Michael J. Hynes and Actually I can, Inspiration, Empowerment, and Leadership by, Dr. Lori Koerner. She has published pieces for the International Literacy Association. JoAnne has presented at Literacy Conferences across the country. She is driven by a strong belief that each child/person has unique gifts and talents and it is one of her prime responsibilities to recognize and celebrate the unique gifts and talents that each child brings to school. She believes in the power of nature to teach life lessons. She spent several years working as a fly-fishing guide on a remote river in Southwest Alaska where she deepened her love and appreciation of the outdoors. Life is short. Do all the good you can and be the change you wish to see in the world.

DO YOU HAVE THE "WRITE" STUFF? If you’re ready to share your wisdom of experience, we’re ready to share it with our massive global audience – by giving you the opportunity to become a published Contributor on our award-winning Site with (your own byline). And who knows? – it may be your first step in discovering your “hidden Hemmingway”. LEARN MORE HERE


  1. Beautiful article JoAnne. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insights. I couldn’t help thinking of my own dear mother who passed away at the beginning fo 2019. I miss her dearly as well. She loved roses so every rose I see reminds me of her and the wonderful lesson she taught me to always stop and smell the roses!

  2. Welcome Welcome JoAnne!
    Thank you for taking me with you on this beautiful hike this morning… I could see what you saw and felt the sun on my skin; BEAUTIFUL. May we all be more present to those moments that fuel and nurture us, and then do more of it to find our way home.
    Looking forward to reading more! Welcome HOME.

    • Carolyn, thank you for the warm welcome. I love what you said, ” May we all be more present to those moments that fuel and nurture us,and then do more of it to find our way home.” Being here seems like home!

  3. Oh JoAnne! I’m filled with so many emotions! You perfectly transported me into the mountains and I feel my heart open. You remind me that, so often, awe and challenge/hard work, are inextricably connected and that one enhances the experience of the other. And your connection to your mom…oh friend…I’m so sorry I didn’t know of her passing. I know how deeply you cherish your mom. I can imagine that moment, in that glorious setting, thinking of your mom and the mixture of love and gratitude and sorrow… I’m so grateful you are writing here. Your words are the tonic we all need right now. Big hug to you!

    • Kimberly, I’m so happy this resonated with you. I appreciate you and your ability to dig in and put words to the deeper meanings and layers to what is in the heart- “the mixture of love and gratitude and sorrow…” Wow! Sending a big hug back to you!!

  4. Thanks, Joanne.
    We are part of the geography, and I think many of our dysfunctions come from either accidentally or intentionally separating ourselves from that most spiritual truth.
    People still look uncomfortable with my walking barefoot – not in stores or restaurants, but as often as possible otherwise. There is a deep and abiding peace in feeling the earth through my skin.
    Wonderful that the connection spilled over into your relationship with your mom.
    It’s all there, we just need to acknowledge it and let it in.

    • Hi Mac, I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Thank you for sharing about going barefoot and the peace it brings as you feel the earth through your skin. I agree that “It’s all there, we just need to acknowledge it and let it in.” That is beautiful. Thank you, Mac!

    • Maria, I appreciate your thoughts. I’m sorry to hear your moms passing. I’m glad to hear you see her in your dreams. You are right, she is not far and is with you always. Thinking of you!