June 24, 2022
Mount Zion / Olympic National Forest /
6.5 miles / 42.6 of 101 /
1030 ft. elevation change
It’s hard not to lead with despair here, but I will at least keep it chronological.
For my first hike in my 71st year, I chose to reclaim one from four years ago—a few days after my mother’s memorial service—that had creeped me out a little.* Fog, cougar warnings, no people. This time it was a very different experience.
My five a.m. start on the two-and-a-half hour drive was accompanied by NPR and two stories that dominated the early newscast: Thursday’s vote by the Supreme Court to overturn a century-old NY law that had restricted the concealed carry of a weapon to those demonstrating potential need for self-defense or for hunting (presumably not for hunting people). That, juxtaposed with the other big story of Congress passing an unprecedented (and very modest) gun control bill almost down party lines, voted for by just fourteen House republicans and fifteen republican senators.
There are no cars in the parking lot at the end of seven and a half miles of potholed forest road. Unlike four years ago, it is a sparkling sunny day.
The reason for the trail is the rhododendrons that line the way, and I’ve been waiting. Everything is late this year after a cool, wet spring, but the most recent WTA trip reports haven’t mentioned them. I decided to take a chance. They are in all phases at the lower elevation: tight in the bud to fully open. As I climb, the buds are far from opening. I’m disappointed, but it is a glorious day nevertheless. And not at all creepy, in spite of how gloriously quiet it is.
Thirty minutes into my hike, as I gain elevation, I begin to hear gunfire from a shooting range, or from multiple pop-up ones that seem to be a feature in old gravel pits in the forest. It will continue to echo through the valley without ceasing for the next three hours, until I’m back down where it’s muffled again by the trees. I struggle not to let my irritation with the noise assault, along with the Supreme Court ruling, ruin the day. I do not understand why the (IMO, misinterpreted) second amendment trumps my constitutional right to life, liberty, happiness. Oh, I may have answered my own question with my choice of verb.
I take a side spur, pulling myself up with the handy rope, to the first view. Oh my goodness; I do love vistas. I think that flat topped, snowy ridge on the left is Mt. Townsend, a very steep trail I’ve been up twice, that kicked my butt, that I will not do again, though it is spectacular from the top.
Along with the rhodies, the wildflowers are mostly still underground. There are still a few trillium, even, in various dress, and one flowering quince shrub in the forest. Phlox, a bit of heather and kinnikinnick bloom, one paintbrush, at the top where there is more light.
I reach the summit and head to the left, following the “technical trail,” as WTA calls it. I didn’t go all the way four years ago, because it was a little scary around the rock ridges and too foggy for a view anyway. Turns out, I had done the hardest part, and it isn’t scary today anyway. The end is glorious!
I sit with the beauty (and the gun fire) and eat my snack as an eagle passes overhead. I want to be the eagle, soaring above this mess.
Returning to the first summit, I head fifteen minutes the other direction. I begin to wonder if it goes to another viewpoint or if it’s just one of the other routes up the mountain. Then the trail opens to another huge rock. Top of the world.
Heading back toward the main trail, I meet a human and her dog, a solo hiker of my age.
I meet three more parties on my return to the parking lot. There are six cars now, besides mine; the other two occupants must be on the Sleepy Hollow trail. I head down it a quarter mile, but I know nothing about it, so I turn back. I count the half mile, but the intention is not there to call it a new trail. I need to get on that goal. When the snow melts.
Back to Hwy. 101, I turn on NPR again. And hear the devastating news. I am crushed. The beloved country has lost its way. I’m glad to live in Washington. I am ashamed of America. We are better than this. We used to be. (I am thinking the less restrictive concealed carry law could be useful to women to prevent unwanted pregnancies.) I don’t have granddaughters, but it’s shocking that I’ve had more rights to my own body than they would. And whose rights are next, that will impact my grandsons and their moms?
I stop for ice cream in Hoodsport. The tiny cafe is crowded; there is a very unhappy small child. The harried-looking cashier (the only one besides me who is wearing a mask, in spite of the sign recommending them) says she wishes for the pandemic service window to come back. Me too. We are in another kind of pandemic, one a vaccine isn’t going to stop. But votes will! When I get home I will send a donation to the DNC and Planned Parenthood WA. We have work to do.
Back home, I sit on the deck in the sun with a beer. It seems like the right one.
* See Mt. Zion in the fog, four years ago here.