Tag Archives: trail recap

Mt Hood Meadows: a dramatic recreation

I’m alone on trails a lot.

And the aloneness is bigger the higher up the mountain I go.

I mean this literally but I think it is true of all our journeys, the ones that lead us up the corporate ladder or deep within ourselves.

At some point, maybe we all have to break from what we know.

Stand alone on our mountain tops.

Our soul so round and full it seems to press against the sky but the body of us, still an insignificant speck on shaky talus. Meant for ridge lines only wide enough for one person to traverse.

The truth is, sometimes it really bothers me. I am blessed with great friends and a fantastic husband but to do the things I want to do, there has to be a drive and a passion for it and their passions lie elsewhere. Plus not everyone thinks sore IT bands, hours in the heat or rain or cold, dehydration and double digit miles are a good time. Apparently. So up the trail by myself I go.

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I am alone on trails a lot.

And it is the fullest and freest I ever feel. The most complete. The most comfortable with myself. There are no labels, no schedules, no expectations.

I am not even a separate body on the trail, I am just as much the sky and rock and water as I am anything.

The ‘I’ of me disappears because it is meaningless, a construct I have to act out during business hours. Does that mean that I found God?

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Both of those experiences are true and real. Both are ones I’ve had many times, sometimes within a mile of each other. Hell, 5 minutes of each other. Both have been on my mind since I did the Hood River Meadows excursion. It’s right at 10 miles and starts at 4k-ish feet up the mountain and climbs another 2000-ish from there. You see wild flowers and waterfalls, cross mountain streams and spend a good deal of it on in the sun on the Timberline Trail.

It is the epitome of why I moved here.

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But you don’t really get to decide how your body and brain are going to respond on any given day on the trail so I spent my morning conflicted- lonely and free, unsure and completely at home.

It’s been a week and I still haven’t resolved how I feel about the time I spend by myself on the trail. The trail has given me enough patience to just be conflicted and know the answer I need will come soon enough.

But if you decide on this particular hike, I’d like you to not be conflicted about where you are so I offer a few extra details not included in the link I used above:

  1. When you cross the bridge at Umbrella falls, the trail will appear to go straight ahead or to your left. Go left. The path straight ahead just allows you a better look at falls from above.
  2. As noted in the link, you will soon cross a paved road and pick up the trail on the other side. The trail entrance is small and inconspicuous (and had a car parked in front of it when I was on it) so it’s easy to miss. It is just to the right of the gated parking lot and has a pole in front of it. It will kind of look like an animal trail but it’s the right place to be.
  3. When you come down into Clark Canyon (that’s the talus-y, grey, rock strewn moonscape you’ll hit about 6 miles in) the trail will peter out at the creek. Look for the set of cairns that I assume give you the approximate place to cross the river (like most of the rivers and streams you will cross, there’s no bridge). I actually crossed a little downstream from that area. Use your best judgment.
  4. Once on the other side of Clark Creek, look for the pile of rocks with the stick in the middle of them and then look to your right to see the trail climbing up the ridge. Yes, ‘look for the pile of rocks with the stick in them’ is an official direction.
  5. Once at the top of the ridge, you’ll see Newton Creek on the left. The directions on the website said I would turn off on to Newton Creek trail but I didn’t turn off on to a separate trail once I crossed at Clark Creek. I was just on Newton Creek trail. To be fair, this point is the one I am least sure of because runner brain was in full effect by that point.
  6. Regardless, follow the trail with Newton Creek on your left and it will soon connect with Elk Meadow Trail which will take you back to your car.

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Trail Stats:

Trail head

Length-10 miles

Elevation gain-a smidge over 2K feet

Bathroom sitch-porta potty with no toilet paper. Prepare accordingly.

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The Kings-Elks loop that didn’t happen: apparently crying in the woods is a thing I do now

It was about the third switchback, not even that far up from the Kings trail head when the tears started.

My dog is dying.

We are almost two years past the cancer diagnosis and the surgery that took her left front leg. We knew then that we were borrowing time and it seems to have caught up to us. Cancer in her remaining front leg has metastisized to her lungs. The vet said we’d know when it was time and all that’s left for us to do is keep her comfortable until then.

I’m already sick of crying and she isn’t even gone yet.

For anyone who thinks that because there aren’t any tall peaks in the coastal range surely no trail could be that challenging, come hang out with me sometime. The trail up Kings gains 2500 in only 2.5 miles making it’s grade somewhere between this shit is ridiculous and kiss my ass hard.

I’d originally set out to do the loop from Kings to Elks mountain, a total of eleven miles and about 4000-ish feet of gain between the two mountains. It’s on my bucket list of stupid hard crap to do and right about now, I’d really like to experience something physically uncomfortable enough to get me out of my own head.

I don’t think there are enough switchbacks in the world to do that right now.

With every pounding heart beat, I thought about Keely’s journey. From skinny, starved, abused shelter dog on the kill list that I met in December of 2007 to cancer survivor in Sept of 2015 to where she is now. Her life has been unfairly difficult. And I worry, always worry, that we haven’t given her enough good moments in between to make up for what she’s had to go through.

Dammit, now I’m crying again.

The thing about the trail, that I’ve heard plenty of people say, is it’s a metaphor for life but I think it’s a little more than that. I could escape my life pretty easily if I wanted to. We humans have found so many ways, many totally legal, to distract us from ourselves. I think the trail is a fun house mirror of life that you can’t escape. Even if you decide to bail a few miles in, you’ve got to get back to your car somehow so you are forced to face every crappy thought your scared little brain throws at you. It’s not pretty.

And that’s why I like it. Because it doesn’t give me easy. I’ve had too much of easy and never gave me anything but an ache for what was missing. So I go out there and find stupid hard things to do because then I can live completely in myself and every time I’ve face the scared, mean, angry parts of myself and managed to get back to the trail head, I’ve also found a little more empathy and compassion and forgiveness. Peace. I could use some peace right about now.

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But my time with Keely is shortening by the minute.

So I decided to shorten the hike and only get to the top of Kings and back so that I could spend more time with her, even if that meant just listening to her snore. One day in the very near future, I am going to desperately miss those snores.

Right about then was when I looked up and noticed the 2000 ft elevation sign nailed into a tree. That meant I only had about a mile and 1200 feet of gain to get to the top of the mountain. The last time I was there, it was raining and the entire area was shrouded in mist which gave the sense that the ground just dropped away to nothing once you get out of the tree line and I wanted to see what it looked like when it was clear. I can now comfirm that is absolutely true.

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At the top I said a prayer to the winds for peace. Not for me. For her.

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And then I went home and sat in the sun with my dog and didn’t miss the trail for a minute.

Trail stats: (Kings trailhead to summit only)

Trailhead

Difficulty: So this is funny. Tillamook state forest calls this trail ‘challenging’. Oregon hikers call it ‘moderate’ which is complete bullshit because they also called Cape Lookout moderate and having been on both of those trails, I can assure you, they are not even remotely the same grade. I’m sticking with my personal grade of ‘this shit is ridiculous’.

Distance: 5 miles round trip

Elevation gain: 2500 feet in 2.5 miles

Bathroom sitch: chemical toilet at trailhead.