Monday, March 21, 2016

The weight of others



I'd been waiting for this day. A break in the snow and the rain, a day without work or obligations. Even though nobody I knew had been there, even though I wasn't even sure I could make it to the trailhead, I decided to go. First I had to complete a fat bike shuttle for J, and I scurried off before he could return if the conditions were too difficult on his chosen route (he ended up having quite a slog. Sorry! That's what happens when you are a scout, and don't wait for others to tell you every little part of a route.).  So it was noon before I got to the Saddle Creek trail. Looking up, I made an executive decision to abandon the snowshoes. It just looked like maybe I could make it. The road had surprisingly been clear of snow, and though I could see white-dusted peaks ahead, I had hope I could at least make it a mile.
So GREEN.
This trail climbs 2,000 feet in three miles, but most of it wraps around a grassy ridge like a rattlesnake. There's a trick to walking switchbacks, and it isn't to be impatient and cut them. Instead, the way to do it is to absorb the zen of the switchback. Think: I have all the time in the world. Notice the tread under your feet, the slow and steady ascent toward the sky. Think about things you never have time to think about. Switchbacks are for dreaming.



Soon, too soon, I was at the saddle. Only a small snowfield crowned the top. I could look way, way down and across to Idaho, and the usual thought: why didn't I bring a tent? I climbed farther, along the rim trail, thinking about hiking all the way to Hat Point. But of course I had no time for that, not today.


When I camp, I head way down to the flat valley you see far below. Actually it's not all that flat and not really a valley...
Descending switchbacks is harder than going up, because you see below you all the places you have to go. Instead I thought about all the people I associate with this trail. There was the time I hiked with The Freak of Nature, and we had to climb high into the rocks to avoid a range bull. She has been stricken with a mysterious illness, and I hope someday she can hike again. I've hiked here with T, and A, and solo, many times. I've never hiked here with Janie, but for some reason I feel her in this place. More than anywhere else I've lived, I feel history on my shoulders here. I carry the weight of others, the ones who aren't here, the ones who can't be here.

I've lived so many different places, but this August I will have lived here for seven years. I've only lived one place as long as that as an adult. I used to think that it was boring to stay in one place, and I couldn't imagine why people would want to. I am starting to get it.


12 comments:

  1. I can see why you settled down in the NE corner of Oregon. I'd love to live there too! :)

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    1. I still hate to use the word settle, since in my mind I'm a traveler, but I think that is what has happened.

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  2. You experienced one of my favourite kinds of days, solo with time to think about things and enjoying magnificant scenery. I have lived here for many years yet still discover brand new in the same old same old.

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    1. People seem mystified on the solo thing. But I find it is so rewarding.

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  3. I think if there is any place to settle down, Wallowa County is the place to do it!

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    1. You would know! We will see if it's permanent. There are other places I would not mind living. New Zealand for one!

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  4. Such a beautiful day to be out in your mountains.

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    1. And today it's snowing! Glad I went.

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  5. Hello Switchback my old friend...
    [Carol]

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    1. Haha! Don't look up!!! Don't look up!

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  6. For me I always seem to get a good song, or songs in my head when going up switchbacks. Then I think a lot and wonder if my foot steps might be stepping in the same place that the native Americans walked so long ago while wondering the beautiful mountains and canyons of the Wallowas.

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    1. Nice. I'll have to think of that next time. For some reason the song Girls Just Wanna Have Fun was stuck in my head.

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