It’s an unpretentious name for a lake in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, Gifford Pinchot National Forest that’s been on my hike list for a while. After all, it’s just a public water source; undeserving, apparently, of a name like The Enchantments or something.
After six miles of forest service road above the tiny mountain town of Packwood, Flutterby and I arrive just before 9am to an empty parking lot with Mt. Rainier looming across the valley against cloudless blue.
It’s an easy 5 mile hike in to the lake, just 600 feet of barely noticeable elevation change, and I don’t really need my trekking poles, but I use them anyway. Really, I do need them. My joints are aging, they distribute the abuse; nevertheless, I am hurting by the time I get back to Flutterby. Ten miles is a long hike for so early in the season. And there is hiking on snow, and several blown down trees to scramble over.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’m a slow hiker, I’m okay with that. I hike alone, who cares what my pace is. I don’t. Two, two and a half miles an hour gets me where I want to go. Of course I brake for photo-ops. I remember my mother’s frequent stops on family hikes for picture taking and plant identification. Drove me and my sisters crazy. And now I’m as obsessed as she was. Thank goodness for digital cameras. And solo hiking.
Snow melt has been recent along this trail, as noted by the flattened but not defeated ferns. (Is everything a metaphor for my mother’s old age and death?) The snow under the trees, and in patches on the trail the last maybe mile, competes for season’s rights with the lush green moss and budding shrubs, where death meets rebirth. The creeks are full as they tumble down from the top of the mountain, trickling across the trail where I rock hop across.
I look down at my feet to dozens of heart-shaped rocks. My mother collected them, so I look for one to take home and add to hers. But once picked up and examined, they merely look like rocks, so I leave them lie.
I arrive above the lake, sparkling and clear, Herself reflected right in front of me. I stop breathing for a minute.
When my breath returns, I continue up the trail that skirts the lake for a while, stopping when a serious blow down over a wide creek helps me decide I’m done. I go off-trail over to the lake where I sit on a log and eat my lunch mesmerized by the mountain. The blue sky. The clear lake. The green green. “Stellajoe,” my father would say to my mother, “how would you like to live in a place like this on a day like this?” I would! I do!
I sit on the log for an hour with my notebook and pen, writing a beginning of my part of my mother’s eulogy. I cry again for her loss and for my gain to have been her daughter; in gratitude that my parents migrated to this land where I can always find them in places of beauty.
The only people I encounter all day are a party of four that passes me on the way back, and their dog named Grace; and a party of two I meet an hour later, and their dog named Grace. Grace has walked with me for the past two weeks since my mother entered her final bit of the journey, when grace walked her home. I carried her with me today.