On this anniversary of the birth of the great Charles Dickens, it seems only appropriate that I have a story of two opposite outings which I undertook on consecutive days. First, I must apologize for the undue delay in posting. I’ve had a raft of technical and personal challenges over the last couple of months which have thrown me off my stride.
That, in fact, was part of the inspiration for both of these expeditions. On top of my recent college transfer/unenrollment, I also lost my father to pneumonia and old age just before New Year’s; my part-time job just after; and a dear uncle only a week or so ago. I flung myself headfirst into career-search mode, only to have my first good prospect pass. My Dear Wife advised me to take some time for myself to re-focus, so I thought a solo hike in a nearby park would be just the thing.
She was right; which, with an alarming frequency, she is. Some dozen miles north of here lies Kamiak Butte, a mass of rock that emerges from the hilly plains like an ancient stegosaurus. I had gotten it into my head to hike there a few days before, and Monday was the day for it. I stuffed some essentials into my daypack, rustled up my trusty hiking stick, and headed out for adventure-or at least some fresh air and exercise.
As the rock formation runs along an east-west axis, the north and south sides can present very different aspects. This day found the parking lot empty and the northern side encased in crusty snow, under which lay a bed of ice. Perfect for snowshoes, which I naturally don’t have. Hmmm…what to do…I’m going to need some more traction. Good thing my hiking stick is made of wood, and I had a good pocket knife with me; I carved the end of the stick to a decent point that would get a bite in the ice and snow.
Glad I was of the solitude; I could actually hear myself think, hear the wind sigh in the trees, hear the snow crunch under my shoes. Nothing against people, mind you; but I do seem to get my fill rather quickly these days. On I hiked, as the trail switched back and forth through the forest on the cold north face of this ancient part of the earth.
After this ascent through the woods, the trail crosses the spine of the hill near its low eastern end and emerges onto the southern face of the butte. (It’s not a proper, flat-topped butte, I know; but that’s what it’s called, so let’s just go with it.) The view, impressive in its own right, is also a dramatic change from the shelter of the evergreens:
Notice the change in vegetation too: from tall pine and fir to scrub and sage, and plenty of bare ground from southern exposure. In summer, there is no doubt of the high desert climate here, and one is grateful for a hat and extra water. This day, though, with snow on the ground and a stiff north breeze, emerging into the sunlight and space was like waking from a nap on a bright afternoon.
Next: An Unexpected Visitor