Thursday, April 30, 2015

Two Lake Sunday

As I picked up J. and headed up the Middle Fork, I felt slightly anxious.  I hadn't hiked with her before, and I knew she was a long distance hiker, having hiked a lot of the Appalachian Trail, most of the PCT, and part of the Arizona Trail.  I felt responsible for picking a good trail, but it's a challenging time of year for hikers: it feels like summer in the valley, but up in the mountains there's still five feet of snow.

I decided on Skiumah Lake, a trail I'd always vetoed for hiking alone because it seemed so "beary": brushy, narrow, and in a known grizzly area.  But I had bear spray and a hiking companion, and it was supposed to be near 60 degrees.  How bad could it be?

We hiked up the trail, intermittently yelling "hey bear," covering three and a half miles rapidly, only slowed down a few trees across the trail.  But we were complacent, because up ahead it lurked, where the trail was obliterated by snow and the fateful words were uttered "the lake must be right over there"...The Bushwhack.

I have no pictures of this brushy nightmare, because I was focused on the bruises I was acquiring from falling through the soft snow onto hidden stumps and logs, and the fact that every step of the way I expected a bear to pop up next to us.  However, the slightly hysterical laughing at how ridiculous we must look probably chased any self respecting bear into the next county.

Finally we made it to the lake.   It was worth it.
Looks pretty innocent from here.
I decided to take J. to a clearer trail next so she didn't think I always made such crazy decisions.  We hiked into Stanton Lake, always a winner.

Still, there's something about an arduous or unexpected adventure.  It makes the day even more memorable. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

This story is not about me

If I'm a part of it, it is only in some ghostly, peripheral way, much like an extra in a movie, part of the background.  I choose my words carefully here, because I write not for sympathy or to be a character in the play.  There are people far closer than I who feel this absence like a hole in their hearts.  Any sympathy should go to them.

Yet I have to say this.  I considered L. a friend, even though I hadn't seen him in years.  We fought fire together in Alaska in the '90s, and we knew each other the way firefighters know each other.  We watched the sun circle the horizon during the far northern midnight and saw fires spring to life just days after rain.  We fought off mosquitoes and then when the white socks came out, wished we had the mosquitoes back instead.  We cut spruce boughs to beat the flames into the wet tundra and knew we could trust each other with our lives.  We were not related, but we were all brothers and sisters.

He died yesterday in a four wheeler accident on a village road.  From all accounts, his last day was happy, but that's who he was, a man with a smile on his face, a genuinely kind person.

In my mind I line up all of those who are lost.  All the pilots, so many of them.  The ones lost in fires and accidents, and the ones who decided to take their deaths into their own hands.  And then there were the ones who let drugs and alcohol do it for them.  If there's another side, there's an amazing fire crew over there.  No flames would get past them.

When someone you knew long ago is lost, it feels like you lose part of your past.  Since Scott's been gone, I am the only one who remembers the day he hiked up the Desolation Lookout trail as I came down, looking intently at a flower guide and smiling at me.  There are flights I took next to pilots who are no longer alive, looking at skies I feel I have to remember because nobody else will. This is the responsibility of the living, to try and keep all the colors of memory from fading to black and white.

L. and I only talked on social media in the last few years, liking each other's pictures and occasionally commenting on an interesting status.  From the looks of it, he lived life to the fullest.  Goodbye to another brother in fire.  You have some good company over there with you now.  Rest in peace.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Back to the lookouts

Snow is melting fast off the high country, faster than usual.  Spring seems to be at least a month ahead.  Last Saturday raced over to the park to hike to a fire lookout, because you as you might know, I love fire lookouts....I just can't quit them.

The gate to the trailhead was open, cutting off four miles of road walking that I was expecting.  Again, this is really early.  At the parking area, I saw a couple groups getting ready to start hiking, one with small kids, so I charged onto the trail, not wanting to have to try and pass them later (does anyone else do this, or am I just weird?) 

The trail was snow free and I made pretty good time.  The first mile follows an old road and is pretty flat...

... but the last 2.5 miles gain 1850 feet.

The trail climbs this hill in a series of three long switchbacks.

In 2003, the Roberts Fire swept across this hillside.  I vaguely remember hiking this trail years ago when it was covered by a lodgepole forest.  The hike is very different today and can be very warm without the canopy.  Most of the dead trees have now fallen.

I arrived at the top in an hour and 10 minutes, which I didn't think was too bad (Iceland volcanoes, here I come).

The lookout, built in 1929 and unstaffed, gazes serenely out across the valley.  Since it is a historic structure, the Park Service will keep maintaining the building, but a person will probably never live here again.  We can come up here and stand on the catwalk where the lookouts once stood, looking for smoke in the hills, but eventually we will leave.  The building will stay, through the storms and sunshine.  There are so many stories written here, if we could only read them.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Life Lessons from Cinderella, the movie

I have to admit I was a little reluctant to see the movie Cinderella, because I thought it would just be for kids.  However, once I started watching it, I realized that there's a lot you can learn from a fairy tale.  It might even apply to real life.  What, you say? Glad you asked.

1.  Go explore in the woods.  You might meet someone interesting!

2.  Be nice to everybody.  You never know who might turn out to be your fairy godmother (or your boss).

3.  Be nice to animals.  You might want them later.  Maybe not as a footman, but maybe as a friend.

4.  Pretty people can be ugly on the inside, whether they are stepsisters or not.

5.  When looking for a solution, look at what's around you in new ways.  A pumpkin for a coach? It worked!

6.  Don't chase the prince.  Don't ever chase the prince! He should chase you.

7.  Never underestimate the power of a good pair of shoes.

8.   If there is a "one", don't let them get away.  Search the whole kingdom!

9.  Make some noise! It might change your life.  Cinderella sang a song, but this could be a speech, a poem, or just standing up for yourself.

10.  Take the high road.  You don't need to forgive the evil stepmother or the evil ex, but you don't need to be like them.  Let them go.  Life will catch up to them.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fitness Center or Gym?

Years ago, upon being offered a job on a hotshot crew, I joined my first gym. It was small, member key operated, and rarely visited by its management.  There wasn't a cardio machine in sight, only free weights and dumbbells, leg press and curl machines, and a Smith rack. It was frequented by serious bodybuilders.  The gym's only concession to aerobic fitness was some sort of step aerobics classes, attended only by women who favored leotards.  Occasionally the bodybuilders would peer longingly at them through the glass door that separated the fitness room from the weights.  I saw no other women in the weight area.  One of the bodybuilders took an interest and showed me some basic lifting moves which I still use today.  Sadly, he turned out to be the jealous type and I ended up having to avoid him by going to the gym during different hours, but by then I knew what I was doing.

Since then I have belonged to many workout facilities, from the fancy one in Central Oregon where women would run on the treadmills in full makeup wearing sports bras and booty shorts, long hair flowing, to a tiny one featuring Singing Woman, Angry Running Lady and Inappropriate Shorts Man, but which had the best Pilates teacher ever.  There have also been a succession of employee gyms, management's concession to remote locations, which usually had rickety benches, dim lighting, and someone's collection of Rage Against the Machine CDs.

Now I belong to a fitness center.  Recently the flooring was being redone and they moved some of the weights into one of the gymnasiums.  Going in there, I instantly felt comfortable.  I knew why.  It looked like a real gym.

My fitness center has four pools, one of which is the same size as my house.  Racquetball courts.  A kids' play area.  Acres of machines.  Several gymnasiums and class areas. Two snack bars that sell smoothies and other food, including chips (I don't have anything against chips. But who eats chips at a gym?).  It is also always busy, because I live in a resort town where a lot of people don't have to work.  Group classes are mostly during the day, presumably for the same reason.  It's expensive because of all the extras.
Uncharacteristically empty
I'm thinking of quitting it and joining a less expensive one, but I can't decide.  I don't miss having to lurk around waiting for the one good elliptical, like I've had to at other gyms.  Even if a lot of people are lifting, I can usually find a corner and dumbbells to use.  At smaller facilities, one hoarder can take up the whole weight area.  But I miss the no-frills gym atmosphere, where there's not a lot of socializing and people are more serious, where whole sections of the facility aren't dedicated to the latest workout fad.

Any thoughts? Which would you choose?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Wilderness therapy

Sometimes I, with a few other people, travel places to help others deal with their grief and pain after traumatic events.  It's not part of my job; I volunteered for it in the memory of those who didn't get that help and suffered because of it.  I can't say more about this because the process and participants are kept confidential.  It's worth it, but the next day I always feel a little strange, as if the world is a little unbalanced.  A team member once told me it was because we take some of these people's pain onto ourselves.  It feels like an emotional hangover.

Since I don't celebrate Easter, a hike seemed in order.  I woke up to a skiff of new snow, but remained undaunted.  The sun was out after a few days of rain, and nobody was at the trailhead.

Some sections of the trail were snowy, while others were clear.

I came to a flooded section and sensed doom, but found a way around it.

There are some cute bridges on the trail.

The lake was still frozen.  I sat on the rocks and listened to birds and wind in the trees, all those sounds that keep going on whether we are here to listen or are in some place beyond hearing. 

Some people go to church for solace and peace; others go to yoga class.  I go to the woods.