Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hiking to the sky

The stars aligned this summer. Unlike the rest of the West, we remained smoke-free. No big fires loomed over us. Thunderstorms were minimal. Day after bright sunny day dawned. While too many of them were spent at work, there were still endless possibilities on weekends. It was also the perfect mix of solo and togetherness. I had worried a little when a long term hiking partner had broken up with me--was there something deeply wrong with me? But I quickly found a group of great friends to hike with.  Sometimes you have to let things go and not know the answers why.

I've hiked the trail to Legore Lake a few times in the past nine years. Each time I wonder why I do it. It gains 4,500 feet in four miles, and they aren't any easy four miles. They consist of a) steep, eroded pebbles; b) a steep boulder field; and c) an uneasy scramble up a talus slope. I wouldn't have done it at all unless a friend was going too. So upward I slogged, hoping for a good outcome.



This trail is one that the tourists generally don't attempt. T and I catalog our many falls along it. "I'm on an every other year cycle," she confided. "Enough time to forget the pain but remember the joy." There's something wise in that somewhere.

I started out before the 30 year olds, certain they would catch up to me, but they didn't. We encountered each other at 9,000 feet, a few dark clouds whipping by, too cold to swim. We were overlooking the highest lake in Oregon. When I first arrived, a bighorn sheep and baby were drinking from the outlet stream. The answer to crowded trails is to find harder ones.

There's something both marvelous and ominous about being at such a high elevation. You are acutely aware of how close you are to the sky. You feel the breath being exchanged between the canyon below and the lake above: cold air sinking, warm air rising. It doesn't feel like a place you are meant to stay long.



So I didn't, heading back to the hardest part of the route: the descent. The 30 year olds didn't have trekking poles, to my deep amazement. But then, when I was 30, I didn't use them either. I slipped and slid down the goat trail and through the boulder field. Even Ruby whined a time or two there.

Before too long, though, we were hurtling downhill, bound for saner elevations. I'll be back--maybe in another couple of years.

I'm sad summer is ending; it's been so perfect. I can't say there is anything different I would have done with this one. I did just about everything I wanted to do. I guess that's a good way to end it.

9 comments:

  1. So good to feel as if the summer was just what you wanted, and mostly accomplished what you planned!

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  2. You have such wonderful places to hike where you live! I don't think I could tackle Legore Lake (it would probably kill me!) but someday I'll get out your way and explore the trails.

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    1. I hope you come here. My point and shoot photos don't do it justice.

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  3. In Utah I have a hike like this ... a painful-for-me route that I want to complete every few years or so to "remember the joy" — Lone Peak. I first summited this mountain in 1997 and can vividly recall every attempt since (I honestly doubt there are any I've forgotten.) It's nice to have such spaces in our lives.

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    1. I will feel like I'm old when I start giving up those kinds of hikes.

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  4. Thrilled for you that your summer treated you so well. Just love your 1st pic.
    My group [all seniors] often wonder why others cope so well wothout poles.

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    1. I remember when I first saw them, I thought they were just for old people. Ha. Ha.

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  5. You deserved a good summer!!! Glad you fit it all in.

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