Late August 1999, and the trail is crisscrossed with windfall. Above treeline, it is covered in deep snow. My pack is heavy in preparation for the fire lookout being locked and shuttered, in case Wolfgang and I need to camp out after we top out.
I frequently throw off my pack, slinging it over or shoving it under the otherwise impassable toppled trees and limbs — gargantuan, rainforest limbs having been amputated by harsh winter weather — now resting horizontally, almost strategically, across the heavily wooded trail. There is much of this heaving and ho-ing. It takes an hour for each of the four miles along with the 4,500 feet of elevation gain.
In the headlamp’s narrow beam, we literally claw our way up the last icy chute. Up high, on the tippy-top, the lookout is neither shuttered, nor occupied. Wolfy and I doggedly (which is easy for him) climb the three flights of steep and rickety stairs and I un-batten the hatches. No padlock on the door and we are in!
Making hot water for tea. Eating crackers and cheese. Wolfy crunching his crunchy dog granola.
Time to crawl into the sleeping bag I have rolled out onto the small bed. How many others have flopped onto this lovely, tattered mattress? Dreamed? Made love? Laid awake and watched the stars? A storm rolls in and out. Another storm rolls in and not out. The wind kicks up its heals. The lookout sways back and forth, back and forth, pacing along with the gusts. Big, dark, rainforest clouds weep big, heavy tears, ratatatat against the lookout’s shingles and glass.
Daybreak and it is still socked in. A good day to read, take a nap, write a little. I make an entry in the lookout’s logbook and date it 26 August 1999, because it is. My entry includes a poem, a few sentences about the continuing storm and of my dog and gratitude.
Wolfy and I saw our logs another night while tucked into this lofty loft, and awake to a sky as blue as we have ever seen. I haven’t crossed paths with another humanbean since before pulling off at the trailhead’s modest pull-off two days ago.
On our way back down, three-quarters of the way down, we meet a trail crew working their way up with saw, pulaski and shovel. The crew leader considers me hearty and I am offered a job on the spot with the USFS working trails. I never follow up on this, but maybe should have.
After my pack is back in the Jeep and Wolfy hops in, I turn the key. Space and Time roughly take a hold of us and hurl us back into the continuum.
Someday I will return. I promise.
Late August 2011, and the trail is sparsely crisscrossed with windfall. Above treeline, scattered patches of snow cling to short stretches of the trail and slopes. The remaining snow isn’t very deep. My pack is heavy in preparation for the fire lookout being locked and shuttered, in case Arrow and I need to camp out after we top out.
There is no need to throw off my pack and sling it over or shove it under otherwise impassable trees and limbs — I am able to circumnavigate off-trail a few switchbacks, avoiding the few clusters of windfall. Yet, it takes a considerable amount of time for each of the four miles along with the 4,500 feet of elevation gain.
Up high, on the tippy-top, the lookout is neither shuttered, nor occupied. I doggedly climb the three flights of steep and rickety stairs and I un-batten the hatches. No padlock on the door and I am in with plenty of daylight remaining! It takes several attempts over the course of a couple of hours to coax Arrow up the steep and rickety stairs. Once I have him on lead, he sheepishly makes the climb and enters the lookout. Trust. A sheep in wolf’s clothing.
Time to crawl into the sleeping bag I have rolled out onto the small bed. How many others have flopped onto this lovely, tattered mattress? Dreamed? Made love? Laid awake and watched the stars like I am about to do? After the sun sets gorgeous on Grandpa Koma Kulshan, there is no moon, only countless, countless stars in an octopus ink sky.
Daybreak and the sky is as blue as we have ever seen. A good day to take a hike and write a little. I make an entry in the lookout’s logbook and date it 27 August 2011, because it is. My entry includes a poem, a few sentences about the sunset, the stars, the sunrise, and of my dog and gratitude.
I haven’t crossed paths with another humanbean since before pulling off at the trailhead’s modest pull-off.
In the early hours, I can see where a good-sized black bear had padded tracks into the snow surrounding the lookout, before the snow froze solid in the starlight. He had walked from the ridgeline toward the base of the lookout, and stopped. Then, instead of retracing his original paw-falls, he V’d back into the trees nearby. From the lookout above, the pattern made by the tracks he left behind looked just like a boomerang.
And I had kept my promise.
Tamarack torches fool my eyes into seeing
Saffron on jade.
The sun, circumspect, moves behind
a five month fortress of grey
Sterling on slate.
Rifle shot smacks his deadly lips.
More terrifying than thunder.
Midnight soot on my elbow
I smell of burning trees,
It is more terrifying than thunder.
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