Hellroaring Lakes: A Simple Calling-Dharma Story


The idea of having a “Calling” (with a capital “C”) has intrigued me for decades. Even before I knew what a Calling was, I had experienced many moments that I can best characterize by two phrases:

  • “I was meant to be here!”
  • “I was meant to do this!”

And then I started to read about Callings and Dharma (again with a capital “D”). The ideas started to inform my experience, and my experience started to inform my understanding of the ideas.

A Calling can be defined as a strong drive to live your life in a certain, particular way.

The purpose of a calling is to summon the person away from their daily grind to a new level of awareness, into a sacred frame of mind, into communion with that which is much bigger than themselves.

— G. Levoy (paraphrased), “Callings”.

For my purposes I define Dharma as having to do with what is real … deeply and authentically true. The notion of Dharma can be tied to what is real about a person … what is deeply true, what is at the very core of a person. It is also what is most important about a person … what makes that person “that particular person”. It points to a person’s real self, and their real potential. It also points to the person’s “duty” to pursue that reality.

Dharma primarily means “vocation” or “sacred duty”. Most of all it means “truth”. There is a belief that every human being’s duty is to utterly, fully, and completely embody their own idiosyncratic Dharma.

— S. Cope (paraphrased), “The Great Work of Your Life”.

The Simple Story of Hellroaring Lakes

This story takes place in the Southern Purcells in July of 2001. I was on a backpacking trip with Oliver and Peter.

On Day One we took our full packs up to the Hellroaring Lakes. The first half of the route was on a trail, and the second half was bushwacking. We established a base-camp at the largest of the lakes. I think the name “Hellroaring” must come from the turbulent creek that runs out of the lakes and cascades down the valley below, because the lakes themselves seem quite calm.

On Day Two we ventured out from our base-camp and day-tripped along a narrow ridge, and then scrabbled up to the summit of Mount Flett (elevation 6958 feet).

Summit of Mount Flett in the distance.

It was a challenging scramble, but we made it. There was a nice view at the top, and we had a few laughs, a few mishaps (mostly my navigation and route-finding), and a jolly good time.

When we got back to our base-camp we all had a well-deserved late afternoon nap and then dinner. After dinner I went to the lakeshore to do some writing and reflection (i.e. to examine my adventure). Here’s the view sitting at the lakeshore, looking Northwest:

And here’s what I wrote in my journal:

I’m sitting on the shore of Hellroaring Lake, thinking about the day’s adventure, and about being the person I want to be. I was that person today.

Right here, right now, I have this very palpable feeling that I was “meant to be here”, and that this is what I am supposed to be doing with my freedom in the summers.

— Journal Entry, Hellroaring Lakes, 2001, Day Two

For me, the main point of this story is … that it is quite reasonable to imagine someone in the wilderness getting the sense “I was meant to be here … I was meant to do this”.

This feeling has been very strong throughout my life. But when I started to read about Callings and Dharma things got taken to the next level. I remember the first time I read John Muir’s quote:

Mount Assiniboine as seen from Ferro Pass, 2008

And I instantly recognized that I too was Called to the mountains.

A Calling is more than a mere “liking” (as in “Oh yeah, I like hiking”), more than a preference, more than a pleasant activity. A Calling demands something of you. For the most part, a Calling happens within the Catastrophe.

I am hoping that this simple story helps to set the stage. I plan to post more Dharma stories in this blog — stories of “meant-to-be”, stories of a person being aware of their Dharma (their Fate, their Destiny, their Calling) in the midst of their adventure. Please stay tuned …


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