#ilovewhereilive, #michiganfolkschool, #notesfromthreeofearthfarm, #staeblerfarmcountypark, #ThreeofEarthFarm, farming in the 1900s, gratitude, hummingbirds, living in my childhood home, Michigan Folk School, spring, Staebler Farm County Park, Sunrise, this old house
Despite last week’s surprise snow, things seem well on the way toward a season change now. Other people have crocuses and daffodils. I don’t know where mine are; maybe the moles ate the bulbs. My Lenten rose is MIA too. Weather Underground boasts 71º next Monday and Tuesday and I will have to decide if one of them is an adventure day or if they are both work days.
Monday is definitely a work day. My far away sister will be in town and it’s my in-town sister’s day off (this month anyway) and I’m putting them to work on the “farm,” pre-installation painting of 450 feet of trim for baseboard and door frames. But there’s still Tuesday. Perhaps next week’s blog will be an Adventure Log.
After the Friday snow, Sunday was a spectacular day and I pulled on my boots and headed outside while my cute floor installer and his weekends-only side-kick finished putting in the beautiful hardwood floors that didn’t quite get finished while I was away.
There were maaaaannnnny tasks to choose from and there is no point in prioritizing them because they all have to be done. Maybe I should have chosen preparation of the raised beds in my vegetable garden, but I haven’t even ordered seeds yet, so pffft. I could have repaired the fence and gates, or pulled out the bricks in the walkway the moles destroyed last autumn. (I’m considering inhumane measures for those fiends this year.)
I could have picked up winter blowdown in the woodlot that used to be meadow that I didn’t pick up the last two springs, which was a big mistake. Or maybe the fir branches in the meadow that have to be gone before the first mowing. Or cleared trails from overgrowth and downed limbs. Or returned to my mother’s garden (read that story here), or any of the other flower beds that need to be weeded and mulched. I could have cut up the small tree that collapsed into the far corner of the meadow and is in the way of the mower, and is where this year I hope finally to follow through with my idea to mow a labyrinth.
But I arbitrarily chose to scrape the fir needles and silt from the edges of the driveway before it started growing. It was a task I knew I could finish and that wouldn’t take all day. I gained a foot of pavement on each side and hauled three wheelbarrow loads of the rich loam down to a long abandoned strip of vegetation where the soil washes down the hill. I will probably never try to make it beautiful, but I will show it what love I can. Maybe the daisies and euphorbia will be happier. I can hear my mother saying, “Nothing will grow there. It’s not worth your money.” It’s almost enough to make me want to try.
As I continue to read stories my father and his siblings wrote about life on the Michigan farm where they grew up, I ran across one about how my grandfather eased the plow-pulling horses into spring work after the relative ease of their winter workload—mostly just pulling the wagon of milk to market or the sleigh for Sunday family excursions. He took care of his horses so they could take care of the farm, and hence the family.
I’m taking a page out of his playbook and easing my aging body into the work of spring. There was much more to do, the weather was perfect for more, I still had energy, and there was an extra hour of late day light. But I stopped. I had done three hours of heavy work, it was enough for early season.
As I put away the wheelbarrow, shovel, and blower, and straightened my spine, I was both pleased with having finished the task and overcome with the heaviness of all there is to do. For one thing, I had ignored the blackberry vines along the driveway that need to be pulled out before they cross to the other side. I shook it off. I did one good task, there will be other days.
Before I went inside, I sent a message to a local Facebook friend who works with the local Girl Scout council, asking her if she knew of a troop earning money for opportunities. She responded immediately that she does. Many hands make light work. I will hire out the winter blow down…and maybe the blackberry vines too.
I returned to the house as Chris and Corey were loading their tools. Corey, who had been there alone on the weekend, told me a story. He had left the sliding glass deck door open and a hummingbird flitted inside. He followed it around with a broom trying to coax it toward the door. The hummer was having nothing of it. Finally, exhausted, it lit on the corner of a windowsill and sat trembling with fear. Corey scooped it up and held the tiny quivering being in his cupped hands as he went outside to release it. “It was so soft,” he said in wonder, “but it was lighter than air.”
It reminded me that I have a choice as I care for my family’s beautiful property. I can choose to see it as a burden that has been dumped on me and weighs me down. Or I can choose to see it as a privilege lighter than air. Either way, I am the guardian for now, and I reap both the responsibility and the good fortune.
#ilovesnow, #ilovewhereilive, #seminaryhillnaturalarea, #ThreeofEarthFarm, #walkinginthewoods, barns, Centralia WA, Garden fences, gardens, photo essay, Salzer Valley, Seminary Hill Natural Area, snowmageddon, snowpocalypse, snowy day, Three of Earth Farm, walking in the woods, walking in the woods on a snowy day
#ilovewhereilive, #ThreeofEarthFarm, big leaf maple, living in my childhood home, neighbors, Notes from Three of Earth Farm, remembering mother, reminiscing, Seminary Hill Natural Area, Three of Earth Farm, walking in the woods
I’ve been thinking for some time it’s been too long since I saw my neighbor and one of these days I needed to go knock on his door with muffins or homemade soup. At 91, he has had some heart health issues this fall. I’ve been concerned, I check in with his daughter now and then, but I’ve not rung his doorbell for a while. You know how it is, best intentions.
I’ve been thinking for some time it’s been too long since I walked in the woods. How many times have I promised myself to get in there at least once a week? You know how it is, best intentions.
After Thanksgiving weekend with the Littles and their moms here at Three of Earth Farm, I didn’t go to Seattle for my weekly 30 hour gig away from home―including five hours driving time―and by Tuesday it already felt like I had an expanse of time not usually available. When the rain stopped and the sun unexpectedly came out, I went out in my orange rain boots to check on the supply of firewood left to lie in the woods near the house when the man I hired to cut and split a fallen tree just stopped working on it.
After seeing there is indeed still a lot of wood scattered about that’s small enough for burning if I pull it out from under branches and blackberry vines and wheelbarrow it down the trail to the rack where the supply is rapidly diminishing, I spontaneously head across the meadow to the trail by the barn to walk in my mother’s playground. She didn’t hike in the mountains like I do, but hour for hour, she spent far more time on the trail than I.
Reaching the main trail, I see Robert coming toward me. He has walked the trails most every day for years, but for the past several months I was thinking he wasn’t able to. I’m ecstatic to see him out and about again. His dog Gracie trots down the trail toward me. I’m not a dog lover, but I am very fond of Gracie. I put my arms around her broad neck and pull her in close; then give Robert a hug when he reaches us.
We stand on the trail and talk. I have no where else to be and nothing else I need to be doing that is more important than this. Robert had emailed me a month or two ago that he had discovered an apple tree on the trail he’d never noticed before; spotted it because it bore a single apple. I haven’t figured out where it is and I ask him now. Turns out we are standing under it. It’s spindly and unformed, imitating the miles of vine maple in these woods. No wonder no one noticed it. It’s near where there were remnants of a rotting ancient puncheon road when I was a child, the boards that kept the wagon wheels from sinking into mud on alleged cattle drives through here, returned to soil now.
Robert muses that a wagon driver—or maybe a child sitting on the back, legs dangling—threw an apple core out and a seed took hold. The single apple was good, he says, maybe a Gravenstein.
We go on to reminisce about our former neighbors. The Holits were a German couple, still with thick accents even after decades in the States. I told Robert I remembered making fudge with Margaret at Christmas, standing on a stool in front of her stove stirring the bubbling chocolate. When their house was cleaned out, after they moved to California to live near their son, I happened to be home and acquired the spoon we used to stir the fudge, it’s end worn down from years of scraping the bottom of the hot pot. He tells me, when the home sat empty for a time, he found a box of silverware overlooked on top of a beam in the basement; and later a box of sample awards ribbons from, presumably, Gene’s father’s family business in Germany before WWI in a dark corner, and something (I’ve forgotten what) with the Kaiser’s picture on it.
Robert remembers helping Gene cross the steeply sloping road to get his mail out of the box. Paying it forward, as it turns out, he says, as now the Holit’s niece, who raised her children in her aunt and uncle’s house, brings Robert his mail. (I really need to get my newly purchased mailbox painted and back in its rightful place between theirs.) We’re silent for a moment then, remembering times and people who are gone.
He tells me another maple tree fell recently behind his house. These damp woods that were my childhood playground are so old. The big leaf maples are nearing the end of their long lives, their grey crowns broken and leafless. They are host to mosses and licorice fern, adding to the rain forest feel of these woods. Lichen clings to everything, making the forest look like a host of hoary old men.
I go on to Staebler Point, and Robert and Gracie continue their trek home. I turn back toward the house as the clouds drop into the trees, rendering the forest mysterious and a little spooky in the mist. As I walk back through the now empty arching vine maples where we had stood talking, I realize that, like my mother and father and the Holits and Robert’s wife Sandy, someday Robert will no longer grace these woods with his presence. Like the maples, we all come to the end.
I’m hanging up my coat as the earlier rains return, pouring onto the roof I need to clean off again. Just a pocket of time, snatched for a rendezvous in the woods with a neighbor. I vow—again—to stop by more often, and hope I run into Robert and Gracie.
I found this poem when I Googled big leaf maple (acer macrophyllum). Overlooking the exclusive language, it seems a serendipitous find.
A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.
A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy
reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.
I lived in Raleigh proper for eight years, worked in the city longer than that, and lived in the county that contains it for two decades. I’ve been gone six years. Although this week’s visit was my third, I was nearly completely lost. I guess you really can’t go home.
After making multiple wrong choices on the maze of interstate interchanges coming into the city, the next morning I can’t make it from my friend’s house where I’m staying to my favorite café where I wrote my first blog every week—two blocks from where I worked for eleven years—where I’m meeting friends for breakfast. The street names are familiar, but the map in my head of how they connect is completely gone. I drive in circles with no idea where I am or how to get where I want to be until I happen to come to the street the restaurant is on, the name of which I had forgotten. The remainder of my time in Raleigh, I depend on Siri.
It doesn’t help that there are new traffic circles (the first ones went in shortly before I moved and have now multiplied like rabbits); many new buildings; new businesses in old buildings; and torn down buildings.
My favorite blueberry crunch bagel at Café Carolina is now mysteriously too sweet. I’m reminded of my mother grumbling that foods aren’t as good as they used to be, declarations I rolled my eyes at in their predictability. The café and that bagel are among the very few things I have missed since I’ve been gone. I don’t have to miss them anymore. The Panera Bread and its cinnamon crunch bagel, where I write many a blog post now, have become home to me.
After breakfast I wander into the number one place I’ve longed for the past six years: a sweet boutique grocery store called The Fresh Market. I note the new signage as I approach it. I’m lost from the moment I walk in the door as the picture I’ve carried with me evaporates. It’s been completely reorganized; nothing at all is familiar. I wander for the three minutes it takes to quickly walk the circumference and I’m out the door. I don’t have to miss that any more. Of course the FM scone I loved has been long gone, the reason I settled for the blueberry crunch bagel in the first place.
I mention to my friend that though the Nissan dealership washes my new car for free, I’ve missed the car wash where I used to get my Honda CRV washed, hand-dried, wiped down inside, and vacuumed for $10. She tells me it went out of business. Don’t have to miss that anymore.
Before I head to the airport on the last day of my visit, I drive to the last two beloved places: my dear house and the historic cemetery where I watched many a sunrise before I went to work.
My neighborhood is barely recognizable. More houses have been renovated, some torn down and replaced. New neighborhoods surround the old one. My house looks mostly the same, other than yard improvements I saw several years ago. My prized banana tree—that the new owners moved—is a thriving grove. The front door is still Global Purple, and that makes me happy. The lawn is still weeds. Then, as I drive on by, I realize they have removed the fence with the purple window pane door my son Nicholas built for me. It was my pride and joy, and that makes me sad It’s not mine any more.
I expect property values have gone up and I wonder for a micro-second if I should have hung on to 609 Edmund. The wondering doesn’t last long, though once home I check the city deeds records online and confirm my suspicion.
The last stop is the Oakwood Cemetery. Old friends there are right where I left them. There are some shiny new stones scattered among the ancient ones, but otherwise at least one neighborhood is unchanged. I can breathe there.
Heading out of town on the way back to the Charlotte airport, after making wrong turns on what I thought would be a simple Siri-free drive to Hwy 64, I decide to drive through the first neighborhood, in Apex, my family owned a home in when we moved to North Carolina in 1988. I get lost somewhere between a new Costco shopping center and where the high school Nicholas attended was but now is not. I never get to the house, but end up in what was a decrepit tiny town but is now super cute.
I love the friends I had when this was my home. I felt loved and cherished spending time with them again, just as they always had made me feel. I miss what we had then. But, like me, they have moved on with their lives and the lovely evening we spend together is more time travel than reality. I look forward to hosting them at my home someday (some have already been). I will lavish hospitality on them as I share my new familiar. But while I will continue to visit my grandchildren at the other end of the state, I will not return to Raleigh. I am a stranger in a strange land there.
My American Airlines flight flew close to Mt. Rainier in the glow of the setting sun before making a wide circle over the entirety of Seattle and its islands as the moon cast a ribbon of light on its waterways. I usually fly American, but only one other time in the more than 40 years since I left home, do I recall it taking that same long eye-popping loop. We were 40 minutes early. Maybe the crew was eager to be home too.
“Are you home?” my seat mate asked as we touched down. “Yes,” I said. “Oh, yes.” Good and truly home.
#adventurelog, #ilovewhereilive, Adventure Log, Endgame, gratitude, Lake Quinault, Lake Quinault Lodge, legacy letters, letters from World War 2, May Sarton, Olympic National Park, Olympic Peninsula, Pony Bridge, Rialto Beach, solo camping, thanking our parents, Willaby Campground, world's largest trees
Dateline: July 23-16, 2018
Willaby Campground, Lake Quinault, Site 19
It’s an alternate plan after discovering the place I reserved in a timely manner in the Gifford Pinchot NF was not where I wanted to go. I’ve camped at Willaby three times now. The first was the only week it rained that summer, and was also an alternate plan. I had a reservation at Takhlakh Lake, but I didn’t want to camp in that remote place in the rain with no amenities other than a pit toilet. I don’t like camping in the rain, but my sister was coming from Virginia to stay with my mother so I could get away and I wasn’t about to cancel.
Now I think I will make it an annual camping spot; I do love it here. It’s 45 minutes from the ONP beaches, half a mile from the lodge (cold beer/dry and warm if it rains) and merchantile/cafe so I don’t have to prepare all my meals if I don’t want to. Also flush toilets, a light in the bathroom (also, unfortunately, a mirror), and potable water. Takhlakh Lake, where I’m going in September for maximum beauty and solitude with the fishing eagles and osprey, has none of those.
Departure day begins with killing some 50 yellow jackets in my house after I sprayed their nest the night before and drove them inside. I duct tape their access hole into the magic kingdom and leave a key for the exterminator.
I set up camp in a record one-hour, even with the 37 steps down to the secluded site with a view of the lake through the trees. Not bad for a site at the back of the campground, which I usually eschew. As for the 37 steps: I like walk-in sites, usually choosing them because they are closer to the lake or river and farther from the campground road. This one is a little much however, especially when food and toothpaste have to be returned to the car in the evening and retrieved each morning. The tent pad is a balcony, just barely big enough for my tent with a long step out the door, because I insist that the door, which has the only window, face the lake and the hills beyond. Still, I feel lucky to have scored it in the full campground.
I go to the lodge for a beer after I set up camp—late because of the yellow jacket invasion and needing to clean the Airbnb after the wait-until-the-last minute guests leave. I’m in bed early and watch the sun set over the water from my air bed. When the glow fades, I go to sleep with no idea what time it is. “Day is done, gone the sun, from the lake, from the hills, from the sky.”
When I awake with the early light, the lake is shrouded in fog, mist rising from the water. I get up, put my sweatshirt on over my pajamas and make coffee. I take it and my journal down to the lake and sit on a stump. The sun will come soon and burn away the fog as the day slips into another hot one.
My thoughts turn to my mother. She and I stayed at the historic lodge here—where, with great foresight, Franklin Roosevelt signed the Olympic National Park into being in 1938—a couple of times when I came home for a visit after my father died. Sad to say, I saw those visits as duty rather than days to be lived. When she finally lost her vision, those opportunities were lost. I still took her to Mt. Rainier, but she couldn’t really enjoy it. Yes, I do have regrets.
I sit hoping for eagles or osprey to fly over looking for fish, but there are none. A pair of herons come toward me, but I thought they were gulls until they were right overhead. They were flapping, so they weren’t raptors and I didn’t pay attention, so focused on what I wanted to happen that I missed what was happening. Pretty much like living with my mother and missing her essence while wanting her to be a different mother.
I do half sun salutations at the edge of the water then return to my campsite to build a fire and cook eggs with goat cheese and bacon. (Not over the fire; I’m not that ambitious.)
I struggled with what project to bring with me. I’d grown accustomed over the past few years to use my time away from mother care to work on my memoir…about mother care. But now it’s out there looking for an editor and I’m a little lost without it as I struggle to discern the next project. I brought a variety of possibilities.
I pick up the first of two bulky notebooks of letters my father wrote to his folks during his World War 2 service. As soon as I read the first letter, I’m hooked. I was bereft some time back when I finished the 500 letters he wrote to my mother. It was like he died all over. And now here he is again, my funny daddy, long before I knew him.
I sit by my small fire and begin to read. The letters begin after college. He’s working for the WPA in Ohio and doesn’t like it. He’s irked when he files his first income tax returns. After “penny pinching for a whole year,” he owes $19.45. He supposes since he’s “better off than many people, [he] should pay for the privilege. But on the other hand,” he writes, “I owe that to my parents, not Uncle Sam. Taxes would never pay them for what they’ve done though. In fact, I have no idea how they could be adequately repaid.” He thinks he can get a job with the Tennessee Valley Authority (where he will meet my mother). It pays $2000 a year. This is new information, before the letters to my mother begin. I’m elated.
When the fire goes out, I dress, make a sandwich for lunch, and head to the edge of the Pacific: Rialto Beach. I drive through Mora campground, where my family camped, remembering rising early with my father—the breakfast cook, at least the coffee. You can read about and view my beautiful foggy day here.
I sit by the fire again in the evening reading letters. I turn a page and am startled to see my mother’s straight-lined perfect penmanship; the hand that never changed, except, perhaps, for the cocky slant in the cross of her ts, in all the years I knew her. Until the last two years when she lost her vision. She had gone with my father to visit his folks before his induction into the Army. It would also be the last time she sees him for a very long time. She is embarrassed at letting a week go by without writing to thank them for having her.
I go to bed early. For the second night, I’m not staying up for the stars. I love bed. I’ll be up at day break with my father, just like I was when we camped at Mora.
I return to the lake the next morning. I’m later than the day before, it’s cold and the warm cocoon of my bed holds on to me. The fog is already dissipating when I reach my stump.
I’m going to hang around “home” today, on the lawn at the lodge with a book. But I finished the one I was reading last night. I brought three more and reject two of them, settling on May Sarton’s journal “Endgame,” about her 79th year that I found on my mother’s bookshelf. I read most of her journals years ago, then quit when they begin to detail May’s failing health, beginning with a stroke, then—in this one—irritable bowel syndrome. Rebecca gave it to my mother, according to the inscription, for her 79th birthday, 10 days before my father died. I wonder if she read it. Maybe I should have, in preparation for moving in with her.
On page 45, there are underlined passages:
“…doing the daily chores is all I can manage. I am living, I sense, against the tide of life itself. I don’t know how to wake up and get going…” “here I am wading around in oceans of time and wasting it!”
Wasting time was a theme of my mother’s when she wasn’t able to do what she did in stronger years. She never learned to value time at rest in daylight.
I thumb through the rest of the book looking for underlinings. There are a few over the next six pages about Nelson Mandela being released from prison, and Martin Luther King and their beliefs about when non-violent protest can and cannot work. And, finally, this one:
“Eating is hard for me still, and more often than not I settle for dry cereal for dinner.”
Then there are no more underlined passages. I weep for how hard life was for her, how alone she was, how much I didn’t care, and how courageously she kept going.
I have dinner on the deck at the lodge then go for a drive. I’ve never been on the other side of the lake. It’s far longer than I anticipated, but beautiful with the sun slanting across the sword fern through the rain forest that gets 10-15 feet of rain a year. And I just read this: “The largest specimens of Western Red Cedar, Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, Alaskan Cedar, and Mountain Hemlock are found in these forests, as well as five of the ten largest Douglas firs. It has the largest trees in the world outside of California and New Zealand.” Many of those largest trees have signage directing visitors to them. I remember going by horseback with my family for an official measuring of a Douglas fir around here, young enough to ride behind one of the researchers on his horse.
On the last morning, I build another fire and finish reading the letters. I’m glad there’s another notebook at home; I’m not ready for them to be over. This notebook ends just before he proposes to my mother. Having my father back through these letters is both beautiful and sad. All of the people he talks about, family and friends that I met over the years, are gone. All except my two cousins who were born to his eldest brother during the war years.
It occurs to me that these are my father’s legacy letters: a record of his values and who he was. I’m shocked by the depth of his mysogeny and racism. Was it the times in which he lived and I should just let it go? Did he overcome them? The racism, yes, I think so. Perhaps less so the mysogeny. But I don’t think my mother would have used words like “nigger” and “scrub woman.” I’m also blown away by his outspoken admiration for his mother and his upbringing, which he credits to her and tells her so. My children do not tell me they admire me, or thank me for what I taught them. And I did not tell my mother until the last weeks of her life. Yes, I have regrets. Not the ones she feared I would have, because she did, but my own.
I break camp. I’m ready. Three nights is just right. My reservation at Takhlakh is for four nights. I may leave early. Nice to have the option though. The last time I was there I wanted never to leave. I drive to the end of the road for a hike to Pony Bridge before I go home. You can read about that adventure here.
Back home in my own bed, the almost full moon is slipping down the valley. I bask in the glow that lights my room like day. I love where I live. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Dateline: July 26, 2017
Elevation gain: 900 feet
I wait until the last day of my camping trip at Lake Quinault to take a hike. (More about camping later.) After a last fire, leisurely breakfast (pancakes with tiny wild blackberries picked at my campsite), and breaking camp, I head to the end of Graves Creek Road beyond the end of the lake. Way beyond. Including 11 miles of gravel road beyond, following the Quinault River through moss-laden trees, sun rays turning them to gold, past glittering waterfalls.
Pony Bridge is on the way to Enchanted Valley, a backpack trip I’ve done three times; the first and last of them on through the Valley, over Anderson Pass, coming out at Dosewallips. It’s been a long time. More than 20 years since the last, with a party that included my teenage son. More than 50 years since the first time with a tribe of Girl Scouts.
It’s a beautiful little hike—five miles round trip, though my pedometer says closer to six—through the forest. I think there is no place else like the forests of the Olympic Peninsula. Really, there’s no place else like the OP; and I think that is a fact, not just my opinion.
It’s impossible to capture the enormity of the trees on a camera, though I try, then delete most of them when I get home. I continue to marvel at the sound these giants must make as they fall in a storm after standing tall for hundreds of years, eventually raising a new forest on the backs of the fallen mothers. When one tree uproots it thunders to the forest floor bringing others crashing down with it. It must be deafening. (I Googled for an audio recording, but didn’t find one.) There are many storms here, close to the ocean, as evidenced by the huge drift logs on the coast. It’s a wild place.
There aren’t many flowers here now, save for foam flower that lines the trail with clouds of delicate white. And berries. I eat plump red huckleberries as I walk.
I inch my way down into the river gorge to the bridge. It’s steep and rocky. I dread going back up. The “little” hike means short, not necessarily easy. As it turns out, the going down was more difficult than the going up, at least with trekking poles.
The river thunders through the narrow gorge walls, not at all the placid river with its wide bed along the road in. The rushing water gets to take a little vacation before it hits the sea. The water is deep blue and green under blue sky and beneath the canopy of hemlock, cedar, and fir, surrounded by the sword fern garden.
While I eat my peanut butter and apple sandwich on a log bench in a backpacker campsite, the pack of mules I noticed getting geared up near the parking area clip clops across the bridge. They are roped together (I didn’t get a good photo) and each carries what look like a pair of triangular metal saddle bags. I venture a guess that they are carrying trail repair tools or maybe something for the historic chalet in the valley. The chalet is hanging over the ever shifting river bed and is closed now, pending a hoped for second move farther from the river. It was moved 100 feet in 2014 and now is in danger again. I remember back to my first trip there when the camp group I hiked with went inside, though we slept in pairs in the meadow under our plastic lean-tos beneath the stars.
I walk up the trail and find a spur to the edge of the canyon for a look back at the bridge. I build a cairn so my mother can find it, then head back down the trail for home.
The leg pain above the back of my ankle started on the hike in. I re-laced my boots several times into different lacing patterns, tighter, looser; nothing helps. I’m really hobbling by the time I get back to the car. My new boots hurt for the first time after last week’s misadventure to Kendall Katwalk. I had to moleskin up for this hike due to a blister from that one. And now this. I Google it, of course. Perhaps the soleus muscle. It had better not interfere with next week’s hike back to Snowgrass Flat. I’m glad to reach the bridge at the parking lot and take off boots and don flip flops for the trip home.
#adventurelog, #ilovewhereilive, Adventure Log, Anne Lamott, Daughter on Duty, Ed's Trail, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Help Thanks Wow, hiking, hiking in the PNW, Lewis River Region, Silver Star Mountain Trail, Washington Trails Association, Yacoult Burn State Forest
Dateline: July 11, 2018
Help. Thanks. Wow!
The prayer that is sufficient for everything is applicable for this hike in all its essential bits. The impassible road; the belated arrival at the parking area; the soul-expanding, eye-popping majesty of Creation.
The day starts at 5:30 at the espresso kiosk where my favorite barista is on duty. She hasn’t been there the past couple of times and I’ve had to tell the replacement my order. As she whizzes up my 16 oz. extra-hot latte without asking what I want, she asks me about the hike I had been off on last time she saw me, remembering it had been my birthday. (That was three weeks ago.) I tell her about the unexpected adventure and we chat about where I’m off to this time. She asks me if I’ve been to Goat Creek (yes). I give her my blogger card so she can read about this adventure, and I’m off, off to a great beginning.
It is, again, my favorite kind of morning to drive south on I-5: the sun’s promise glowing just above the horizon through the fog, blue sky above as it clears. I’m going three-quarters of the way to Portland, so I settle into Flutterby’s comfy seats (made by NASA, I’ve heard), with my latte and recorded book.
I should have used the exit instructions on the WTA website, but Google Maps had a different idea so I have two sets of directions. It’s probably a short-cut from the north, so I take it, later wishing I had consulted an actual physical map first instead of waiting until I get lost. I have a pretty good sense of direction and a compass on my dash, and I like depending on them. With not much help from Siri, I get back on track eventually. Part of the adventure.
I heard about this trail in the Lewis River Region for the first time from a friend of my sister’s who was there over the weekend. “The road is the worst I’ve ever been on,” she told me. “Worse than Goat Creek?” I wondered. Now that was a bad road. WTA warned of the road to Silver Star too. “Must have a high clearance vehicle and 4-wheel drive.” Check and check.
First you drive 6.6 miles up a bumpy DNR road creatively named L1100, then you turn off onto Road 4109 “a road to the right going uphill.” It’s unmarked, as are several roads going uphill to the right before it. I watch for the clues offered by the WTA and hope for the best.
The “best” cannot be attributed to Road 4109. It’s not just potholes, but abysses. I go .4 of the 2.7 miles to the trailhead and stop at the grand canyon of ruts.
In spite of all-wheel-drive, Flutterby’s rear wheels are spinning without purchase. She’s digging in her heels, screaming “hell no!” The ravine on the right as I scrape vegetation on the left will swallow half the car if I fall in. Maybe, I think, CuRVy’s wheels—my 20-year-old Honda CRV that is no longer mine—could have hugged the edges, but Flutterby’s wider body is not going to flit by; there will be no return from a missed calculation. Plus I don’t know what’s coming up.
I briefly wonder what other trail I can find in the area, foiled again by a road as I was on my birthday. But, no! The road may defeat me, but the goal will not! There just happens to be room not only to turn around, but to park out of the way right there before the chasm. I will walk.
I lace up my boots, unfold my trekking poles, and take off.
I know I walk uphill at about 2 miles an hour, and I figure this will be all up. But there won’t be any photo ops, so I project an hour for the 2.3 miles. I’m already behind the time I thought I would be at the trailhead, what with chatting with the barista, getting lost en route, and the surety that Google Maps didn’t take the condition of L1100 and Road 4109 into account in their projections. Still, it’s only 8:45 and the hike itself is just 5 miles RT. I can for sure add 4.6 miles, albeit boring ones.
As I walk, my mind strays to my years as Daughter on Duty. I lived with my mother for almost five years before the road defeated me; but the goal did not. There was not a good option then for staying on the road I started off on, there is no option for this road but to choose another mode of transportation. I tried through those 5 years at home with Mama to take the high road, but often found myself on the edge of the rut I kept falling into, never learning that you can’t fight dementia with reason. You just can’t. Moving her to assisted living was not defeat, nor is this, they are just different roads to the same end.
At exactly the one-hour mark, I round a curve and there ahead the road ends in a giant keyhole, and the horizon opens up.
I would have felt the road hike worth it even if I went no farther than the parking lot. There is Mt. St. Helens and the vista that stretches to the silhouetted Olympic Mountains. The Pacific Ocean is out there somewhere beyond the towns on the valley floor and the patchwork of forest and selective clear cuts and reforesting. My father would be proud that I’m seeing the view not as travesty as I once did as a cocky youth, but as using and replenishing for another generation our renewable natural resources.
The WTA’s trail instructions are unclear. There are many options here as the two trails wind up the mountain, one on the west side overlooking the valley, the other on the east overlooking the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. But the WTA gave a cautionary tale about a stretch in which a slipping foot would be disastrous on Ed’s Trail, on the east side; so when I arrive at the junction, I will stay on the wide rocky Silver Star trail to the west.
At the diversion of the trails, my heart expands right out of my chest, my eyes open wide.
Mt. St. Helens has company: Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams; the three white queens laid out in a row. And, turning 90º, there is Mt. Hood. Snowy mountains against cerulean sky beyond verdant forests. I’m a little disoriented at first, viewing the girls not from the angle I’m accustomed to; but eventually I figure it out and name them.
I take a long drink of it all, then start up the trail not marked “Ed’s Trail.” Signage will remain sketchy (i.e. non-existent) as the trails enter and leave the one I’m on and crisscross the mountain between the two trails. I expect they all go up, though, to the pointed peak I can see above me. If I hit the scary place, I can always retrace my steps and take another route.
“How many stars could you see from here?” I wonder, when I come upon a fire pit on a wide windy spit of meadow.
As I hike, the sound waves are full of the hum of nectar-seeking bees in the profusion of paintbrush, Queen Anne’s lace, tiger lily, columbine, pasque flower, penstemon, Oregon iris, gentian, bear grass, elephant’s head, valerian, and on and on. Butterflies silently flit from bloom to bloom with the same goal. Is this even real?
I turn around when the trail begins to descend into the forest on the other end, backpacking country. After lunch on a rock at the top of world, I head back down the rocky trail until I get to a cross path I saw on the way up and take it. I reach the top and look down on the Gifford Pinchot, across to Mt. Hood. The trail continues both up and down. I wonder if it’s Ed’s Trail, and decide to give it a try for the return to the parking area. I can always return to the familiar safe trail, I tell myself again.
I meet two guys coming up. They confirm it is indeed Ed’s Trail; the best side, they say. They tell me the place “with a bit of a scramble” is on up, beyond where I came from. Yay! They have been here many times, they say, and have never seen the road like it is. They came in a jeep,. They tell me there are two 4×4 pickups in the parking area and more cars down where mine is. I’m not a chicken shit, just wise.
I get back to my car, meeting another rugged pick-up truck, and find Flutterby’s had company, and another car has just arrived. The driver directs me out of my tight parking spot without scraping bottom on the drop off between car and road. He tells me this is his favorite hiking spot. “Two years ago the road was not like this,” he says. If the road gets improved (which seems unlikely), I will go back. If not, I’ll move on to other trails. I have weekly summer hikes all laid out until mid-September with two weeks free for make-up dates or additions. Only two are trails I’ve hiked before. God, I love where I live.
What a day, what a way to forget the horrors of the world for a few hours and bask in the beauty of the way it was intended to be. Thank you, thank you to all that was, is, and will be that my legs can carry me to places like this for now. I think of my parents, who surely never came here, but would have loved it. I carry them with me always.
When I get home and showered, I sit on the deck with an Alaskan amber and the western tanager makes a return. A young one this time, it’s the second I’ve seen since my mother died, and only the third time I’ve seen one in the six years (I missed my anniversary last week, BTW) since my return to the PNW. It sits on the railing post, head cocked, observing me; like it’s looking right into me. Hopping two posts closer to the feeder, it turns toward me again. “Hi, Mama,” I say. It looks a moment longer then flies off, passing the feeder that clearly wasn’t its interest.
My sister is a mostly solo shopkeeper; she doesn’t get out much. I’m a solo adventurer, so I don’t often ask if she wants to join me. Okay, never. But it was her birthday and she had shop coverage. I asked, she accepted. Being the locally world famous person she is, she had to be back for City Council meeting, so we couldn’t go far. We decided on Kalaloch beach on the OP, followed by lunch at Quinault Lodge, in the rain forest.
We don’t adventure the same. When she goes somewhere with a friend, they leave home at 11ish in cute outfits, have lunch somewhere, dinner later, and there is usually shopping involved. I leave at 6 in hiking pants, with a granola bar for lunch in my back pack, and there is always a latte involved.
But she wanted to go on one of my adventures, not hers. I promised to take her on a favorite hike when the wildflowers are blooming—we’ll see if that happens—but for this day we agreed on the beach. And she offered to be ready by 8:00 at the latest, after I told her it had to be early enough not already to have had coffee. She outdid herself, and I picked her up at 7:30. With lattes in hand, we headed northwest to the iconic Hwy 101.
It’s a familiar beach: we went to Kalaloch and Ruby, the next beach up, often as children. In later years, Kalaloch became our parents’ favorite, perhaps because of the cabins on the bluff. They took visiting grandchildren there, and I took my mother there several times in the years following my father’s death. I wrote about it here in a visit a few weeks ago just after her death.
This time I remembered to ford the creek and go north to see the so-called “Kalaloch Tree of Life” or “Root Tree.”
The Sitka spruce is a wonder, seeming to live on air after the ground eroded from under it. It should be dead; it should have collapsed long ago in the wild winters on the Olympic Peninsula that tosses drift logs around like toothpicks and permanently bends trees. No one understands how it survives, nor can I find anything that says how long it’s been like that. One “he said, she said” story, indicates at least 35 years.
We made cairns, filled our backpacks with round stones, agreed that although we love the OP beaches, it’s really the stones and driftwood we go for, not the surf and sun, and returned to Quinault for smoked salmon BLTs (Rebecca’s without the B) and beers on the deck of the lodge by the serene lake.
On the way out, we stopped at the Willaby Campground where I made a reservation last week for camping in July, not at the favored lake-side sites, but at the only site available for more than one night until mid-September (I suspect I caught a cancellation). I had cancelled the one I made months ago in the Gifford Pinchot, having checked it out in my own birthday adventure last week and found it seriously lacking. The new one is nearly perfect. I’ll be back next month, after Camp Gigi! Stay tuned for that!
Rebecca and I agree if we ever have to live together, which would challenge us, we should just travel. We do that well. But I might have to stop for shopping more often. She did buy a t-shirt in the gift shop. Adventure on.