October 3, 2020
I didn’t leave early for my last hike of the season, unless you consider 6:15 early. It was foggy and, I discovered when I went out, lightly raining—though if the forecast was correct, I would get above it all. I didn’t need to add dark into the mix. Sunrise at Paradise isn’t all that thrilling anyway, at least if I don’t get to the top of the ridge for it, and that wasn’t going to happen. But it was Saturday. I don’t hike on Saturday, especially at Paradise, but I had no choice. I just wanted to get there before the parking lot filled up.
I was ten or so cars back at the gate house at 8:00. At the top, the closer, smaller lot was about 2/3 full. Goal achieved. I hustled off toward the Golden Gate trail, a shortcut to High Skyline. I ran smack into a wedding part on the way. Men in suits, women in gowns and strappy sandals, returning from a photo shoot at Myrtle Falls. No masks, of course.
I breathed a sigh of relief at the Golden Gate. It’s kind of a best kept secret in plain view. Photographers were out in force, but not many others. The switchbacks boast an amazing view of the Paradise valley and the rising sun was just hitting the small ridge.
I was barely on the trail when the tears began. Two years ago, I hiked this way up to the Skyline ridge and left a bit of my mother’s ashes at a spot overlooking the meadows up there near to heaven. I miss her.
As I hiked, I pondered a quote I’d read a day or two earlier about not letting the chaos monkey get you down; and it definitely did just that over the week: got me way down low. “Get out of the house and go somewhere where you can reconnect with the Earth,” Steven Charleston wrote. I breathed the air, watched the marmots getting ready for winter, observed the retreating vegetation, felt the warmth of the sun on my face and felt better. I came up with a new plan for dealing with small grandchildren at my virtual school. (You can read that here, along with the rest of the monkey quote. I’ll have an update on its success this weekend.)
Forty-five minutes later I was at the top and sat on a rock for a while, thinking about the monkey. I tried not to think about the one in the other Washington. I needed to let it go for the day. (I checked the news headlines on my phone, couldn’t help it. Chaos reigns; nothing new there.)
The Golden Gate may have been people free, but Skyline was like an airport concourse before the virus struck. And unlike the company on weekdays, mostly young. And mostly unmasked. I wandered down the trail to my mother’s rock and left her some chocolate. I hope she and my dad are doing well. I hope they are pulling some strings to help us out down here. We need all the angels.
On the move through the throngs again, I slipped down the unpopular Paradise Glacier trail for a respite after seeing the crowd gathered around the VanTrump bench like they were waiting for the airport tram. I knew when I proceeded to the route, as Siri says, there would be even more on the trail, but I needed a break from the chaos. Last year at this trail intersection, on a weekday, there was much marmot activity at the entrance to a burrow, and I got pistol whipped by a volunteer ranger for building an inukshuk for my mother. No marmots to be seen on the main trail this year; they were sticking to less peoplely ones.
So it wasn’t the solitude I love on a hike, and to be honest, it never is at Paradise. But the autumn oranges and reds were beginning to bloom, the alpine fir scent wafted about, the sun was shining…
…and it was closing weekend at the Basecamp Grill in Ashford.
The line at the gate when I drove out at 2:00 was 2.3 miles long. People are insane. Paradise Inn would have been closed for the season anyway, but this summer it never opened. These are sad times.
As I write this, another Monday with the grandsons is over. My chaos avoidance plan needs work. But it was a better day. And there’s a new post from Steven Charleston of chaos monkey fame on Facebook tonight. Probably he didn’t write it for me, but it sure feels like it; and there are many of me out in the world today, doing hard things. So I will leave it here.
See you here for Kickass Grandparenting in the Time of Corona, and next year for another season of Adventuring.
“By the way, has anyone told you recently that you are doing a terrific job handling everything these days? Not just the covid-19 pandemic, that is a whole story in itself, but I mean you are doing an incredible balancing act with the stress of the virus, the constant unrest in the world around you, and all of the family needs you must pay attention to. And that doesn’t even include the time you need for your own private life. So just in case no one has mentioned it recently: you are doing a phenomenal job managing everything with courage, dignity and grace. You are an inspiration to many of us and a blessing to even more. So please keep it up. Keep doing what you are doing.”Steven Charleston, Native American Elder and retired Bishop of the Episcopalian Church of Alaska.