The Hills Came Alive

I could feel it; I just knew. It was in the air. The atmosphere was ripe. I was filled with anticipation. There was no preventing anything. It was just a matter of time. But, I digress.

Let me begin at the beginning.

Some of you may remember we got on the wrong trail last weekend–it was a most delightful mistake–and ended up on Bachelor Mt. trail instead of Coffin Mt. trail. If you love mountains and wildflowers, have another look; it won’t disappoint.

So, this week we knew exactly where to find the trail head. The lump in my throat thickened the closer we got. What had I gotten myself into? Look at this cliff:

coffin_view of top from road_july 2016Me: “We couldn’t POSSIBLY be going up THERE, right?!

The husband: “No.

Me: “Oh, good.” (To myself, “He’s lying.“)

Part of me was relieved, since this, the lookout below the red arrow, was our destination (and it couldn’t be higher than Mr. Nasty Cliff). Right?

coffin mt trail_july 2016 (90)So far, so good. We started out, and it was, as expected, a lovely trail. My lungs noticed right from the start (they’ve always been quick) that it was just a tad bit uphill. No worries, I told them. I’ve got this one. I also went into rescue mode in case I were to pass out from sheer exhaustion (or anger).

  1. Should I pass out, they can simply roll me down the hill, it’s quicker than hiking down.
  2. There were signs of humanoids on the trail. Good to know if help is needed.
  3. The husband can yell very loudly project when necessary.
  4. Since this lookout is “manned,” there could be a place to land a helicopter.
  5. I can always begin divorce proceedings.

I was all set. The husband told me it was a mile and a half up to the top. Fine. I can do anything for a mile, right? Right.

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near the trail head

The flowers once again were amazing, bright, and cheery, and they kept me going. The Bear Grass was lovely.

coffin mt trail_july 2016 (23)Beautiful flowers sprouted everywhere the eye could see.

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Then, we stopped cold; neither of us have seen anything like this Queen Anne-ish, maroon stemmed gem. Any guesses?

As we continued to ascend, the trail started to change. It opened up and the mountains came alive. Our glorious Mt. Jefferson photo-bombed this tiny cloud. The peak dead center here is Bachelor Mt., last week’s “mistake.”

coffin mt trail_july 2016 (46)The trail was lovely, and my fabulous floral friends continued to cheer me on.

coffin mt trail_july 2016 (31)But, that nasty peak I saw in the beginning was getting dangerously close, and I was not seeing the lookout tower anywhere. Right about here, my “Are you SURE we are not going up THERE?!?” was met with a firm “NO!

coffin mt trail_july 2016 (45)Me: “Fine,” I said with a little more emphasis than the situation warranted. I’m sure it was a lack of oxygen. I kept hiking. That’s when I spotted something familiar. Can you see it?

coffin mt trail_july 2016 (37)OK, I’ll zoom in for a closer look. How about now?

coffin mt trail_july 2016 (43)Vertical, moving human-like structures.Then we heard them. Yep, there was life on the mountain.

We discovered two ladies who know how to hike. They stop and take lots of photos, and even walk off trail to sit and soak up this glorious view. We eventually passed them–not in a million years would I have predicted that would happen–but we beat them to the top.

The husband redeemed himself (by not having lied to me) as we continued to round this mountain, versus climbing to its top. Although, as you’ll see, our destination was higher than this nasty peak (bless my tolerant lungs!).

coffin mt trail_july 2016 (45)And there it is, the lookout at Coffin Mt. trail (and old Nasty Cliff a comfortable distance behind me). I was feeling a little less testy better already.

coffin mt trail_july 2016 (54)The steepness of this hillside and how this trail got its name kept gnawing at me, and I couldn’t keep the two ideas separate. The husband reassured me the name was NOT from those who perished trying to make it to the top (but hadn’t). Uh, huh.

coffin mt trail_july 2016 (57)But, there, in all its glory was the “manned” lookout oddly devoid of living souls as we know them (I did not look too closely over the edge and I heard no cries for help).

A few more steps and, aaaahhhh:

It doesn’t get much better. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that I was giddy with relief that I made it to the top, I might have given him the glare when I realized the yellowing peak below–the one with the power poles–is lower in elevation and sits this side of the top of Mr. Nasty than where I stand taking this picture. Lucky for him, my energy reserves had been depleted.

coffin mt trail_july 2016 (73)

Can’t say I’ve ever eaten lunch on a helicopter pad, but that we did. The lookout station was closed to visitors. We could not have chosen a more perfect day to hike this trail. By the time we headed down, seven other idiots hikers had made it to the top.

As we descended, I began feeling that old familiar feeling of elation, gratitude, satisfaction, happiness, and pride that I, once again, made it to the end without falling on hiked one of Oregon’s magnificent trails. With one last look, a farewell to our new friends, and lungs filled with mountain air, we began our descent.

coffin_near the top_july 2016
lookout is at the top of this cliff to the left

When the trail opened up, what with the air, the smell, the trail, the flowers, the oxygen or lack thereof, I was powerless to stop myself. I just had to open my mouth:

And, “that’s it,” folks.

The Delightful Mistake

In all the years we’ve been hiking, we’ve never seen a more beautiful trail bursting with wild flowers, and we’ve never experienced the following.

The week we visited Hawk Mountain Trail, Mr. Hospitality told us about Coffin Mt. Trail, asked if we’d been there. We hadn’t, so this was the weekend, and we found it to be absolutely lovely. Everywhere the eye could see, there were clusters of flowers, and just when I thought I’d seen them all, a new one would appear. It was a photographer’s delight, and I could not get enough.

WARNING: AGING RANT  Turns out, I didn’t get enough. As you know, seeing the screen on a cell phone in bright sunlight is difficult, and if you turn for a better view, sometimes you miss your shot. It’s kind of a crap shoot; what I get is what I get (’cause I am not yet ready to haul my “real” camera on the trail). I wear contacts for distance and when I try to see anything up close, I need magnifiers. And, it ticks me off. Combine that with the screen and sunlight issue, and my love of flowers, and I’m lucky to get a clear, good up-close shot.

There were so many flowers and everywhere I looked that apparently I stopped “every two seconds” for yet another shot (according to the husband. I figure that’s the risk he takes for bringing me along). It got to the point that I could not remember (guess that qualifies as another AGING RANT) if I’d actually taken a shot of a particular flower, and figured I had….so did not take another. (Should have.)

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a type of Lily

The trail was breathtakingly lovely.

Succulents and just about everything else greeted us along this trail.

bachelor mt trail_june 2016 (42)

But, the trail seemed to keep going and going, longer than it was supposed to go. Just about that time, I looked up and saw these signs. And I said, “We are on the wrong trail.

The husband whipped out his map to confirm, and a very nice couple happened along just then to confirm we were, indeed, on the wrong trail.

THIS is where we were supposed to be, the top of Coffin Mt. Trail.

bachelor mt trail_june 2016 (91)We were, however, on Bachelor Mt. Trail. Far be it from me to point out a mistake of that nature; I am what they might call directionally challenged. So, I looked at the husband and said, “Well, this was a delightful mistake,” which I meant with my heart and soul. Look at this trail once again:

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And, that’s just the trail. This stopped me in my tracks (it probably isn’t lost on the husband that when I say “Would you LOOK at that view!” it’s code for “I need a break”).

bachelor mt trail_june 2016 (89)

We had no idea we would be able to see Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Three Sisters, and Black Butte from one vantage point. To the north, I’ve zoomed in on Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood, and that is glorious Mt. Jefferson directly in front.

After huffing and puffing our way up–5,970 feet elevation–on a mostly uphill trail, we were treated to Oregon’s magnificence once again, a mistake I’ll gladly repeat.

Next hike: Coffin Mt.Trail (we hope).

Hospitality on Hawk Mountain Trail

On an almost 99 degree day this past weekend, this was our escape (and reward).

Enjoy!

One of Oregon’s finest trails, this is off of Rho Ridge trail in the Mt. Hood National forest. It’s also one we’d never hiked.  It’s about 4 1/2 miles, and only slightly challenging for me (due to fussy feet. I’ve finally discovered some pretty workable hiking boots made by Hoka. They offer lots of padding in the only place I need some). The biggest challenge was the heat and because much of the trail was in full sun; otherwise, it was a lovely hike.

At the top we met a most hospitable fellow. That’s him on the stoop. He brought out the bench inside the cabin so we could rest our weary feet (and avoid the ants crawling over the only shady log in sight). Turns out, we live not far from each other. We offered him part of our sandwich and orange slices, he offered us chips and the use of his AC unit (a bucket of fresh snow acquired downhill). We laughed as he scooped out a handful and let it melt over his bald head.

Lunch break was spent comparing hiking stories on trails we all know well. We’d all hiked Pechuck, Table Rock, Bull of the Woods, and others.

The only real danger was the threat of my husband breaking into song, or maybe running out of water, but thank the hiking Gods above, neither happened. This view below, and incredible hospitality, was our reward.

hawk mt trail_June 2016_3 (6)

The Grandfather Tree

Hiking has been a life-long love; the woods are a wondrous place, ever changing. I can hike the same trails each year and leave having recognized much, but the trail and flora and fauna have changed. They move. They bend. They morph. There is life.

It’s my happy place and it soothes. I never tire of its abundance or beauty.

Have you noticed the immediate sense of peace that engulfs once among the trees, once under its gently moving canopy? It stills my heart, wraps me in calm. I soak it up.

There is so much more.

Sometimes it’s a distant caw-caw-caw, or the sound of silence–my favorite–and the stillness it offers. I often stand motionless, waiting. I am not sure what for, maybe a prolonging of the moment, for the peace to enter and dance its way through me, waltzing to the other side, washing, cleansing, leaving me refreshed.

The woodsy aroma envelopes; its freshness is instant. It’s the power of the absence of exhaust fumes, of melting plastic, the chemical fumes; I breathe. My lungs open, and fill, and I welcome health. I breathe again. And, again.

My mind has cleared, my body charged. I am open to discovery.

A rustling at trail’s edge leaves me wondering what creature have I disturbed or frightened. Sometimes I witness a hurried escape to safer places, but often not. Squirrels and birds abound, but snakes and other critters–scary bugs to many–may appear. They, too, have their place.

There is much to absorb. There is much to appreciate. Much has been offered.

The fallen trees remind me of a book I once read to my children, a book about the cycle of life. Its premise is that although a tree has fallen, it still has purpose; it offers life. It becomes the home of fallen seeds, provides the safety and resources needed for germination. It gives life and offers shelter to the plants and animals in its immediate surroundings. As an elder, it becomes the grandpa tree. Over time, as the base and shelter of the fallen tree die, as grandpa decays and withers, life above continues.

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My favorite grandfather tree

I often wonder what others think about the grandfather trees, whether they notice or continue walking. I wonder if they think, “If this tree could talk, what would it say?” or “What has it seen?” The history lover in me walks back in time, listens and watches for the parts, piecing it together, ever curious.

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One moment

The woods are full of lessons, fresh discoveries. We can learn much about life, cycles, moments in time, and above all, appreciation. Sometimes, all it takes is one moment.

It’s only January but I can’t wait to hit the trail.

Do you hike? What will you look for?

 

The Grandpa Tree, Mike Donahue (see link above).