Simple Gifts

I believe I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world; the Snoqualmie Valley. I get to see amazing things everyday. It's time to celebrate that. (You can view pictures in larger format by clicking on them)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Ramble on the path less taken (long entry)

I had no plans except that it was a beautiful day, I had to get out and I might drop off Katie's grad present. I put Led Zepplin on the stereo and enjoyed the beauty and rhythm of the drive. I got to Katie's and there was Josh! What a happy surprise. They were back in town after a long trip but I had just missed Katie. Josh recommended I visit Tolt-MacDonald Park so I headed off with a grin pondering that I would soon get together with my good friends and hear about their adventures in Montana. It might have been a good if I'd also been pondering my route. I realized I was on the wrong road altogether and had almost hit Seattle suburbia. D'oh! I thought about going to the dog park at Marymoore since I was close but there would be crowds there and I've been curious about Tolt-MacDonald Park for a while. I turned around and found Tolt Road which took me back the way I should have been going. It got me out of traffic too. Summer season is here and people are coming out to my lovely valley to enjoy the beauty. I can't blame them but I like to escape the crowds. I was back into the sense of adventure, following a new, less traveled road. I climbed up Tolt Hill and then headed down the other side. I was expecting views of the valley but I got another lovely surprise. I got to see Mt. Rainier. I miss 'the Mountain'. That's what we always called it. Growing up in the shadow of the Mountain, it becomes something more than a feature of the landscape. It's a point to navigate by both spiritually and physically. As a kid, I kept my where-abouts by knowing where the mountain was. At my old synagogue we even had a blessing we would say each day that it loomed out of the clouds.

And perhaps my head was in the clouds because I did a bit more wayward driving before arriving at the park. The first thing I saw was the 50 ft suspension bridge - way cool! I knew Coal would have serious doubts about crossing it. It was quite crowded in that part of the park and I was wondering if I'd chosen the wrong place to visit. The wild areas were on the other side so we headed across the bridge. Thank goodness there was a solid strip in the middle (most of the bridge had slats with spaces between where you could see the river below) or else I never would have gotten my cowardly mutt across. As it was, it was a slow walk with him carefully sticking to the solid part. The bridge does move about a bit. Placing each paw with care, he was not happy when people came from the other direction and passed by him. He actually had to move off the solid part for a moment!

The first bridge is the suspension bridge.
The second is the Tolt road where I saw Mt Rainier
And between the bridges is the too crowded beach

After we braved the hazards of the bridge we headed down the trail away from people. Quickly enough we left the sights and sounds of people behind. Cool forest and bird song were familiar comforts. I love the enclosed feeling of the forest. Even in the shade it was hot. I avoided the first few side-trails to the river moving farther from the possibility of people. Then I began a serious search for a river path. We entered a meadow area and there was a path of beaten down plants heading in the right direction. Coal was doubtful and he often has more sense than I. I am always amused when someone wants to go running joyously through a field. I think in general that's something that only people on TV do (the opening to Little House on the Prairie) or it's something you only do once. It just isn't that easy. The ground isn't level, the plans wrap around your legs. Even with the path it was work and the path got smaller and the sun got hotter. Coal stopped walking for a moment and gave me 'the look' reminding me of my foolishness. My reward was seeing a very quick garter snake.

Coal pushing through the meadow path
that he did not enjoy!

The next few side trails had steep banks or people and we were both getting desperate for the river. It had been nicely isolated but now I was sharing the trail with others in the same predicament. I turned back, leaving the people. I remembered there was one path I skipped because it was long and narrow. That path was back a ways and I was worried about Coal and heat. One of the side trails I'd just skipped because of people was now vacant and we headed down. The bank wasn't too high but steep, muddy and slick. Still I figured that's why the other people had left so quickly and it was worth the risky climb.My old arthritic dog had no problems, I took a fall. It would have been fine except I put my

hand down to keep myself from sliding all the way down the bank. All my weight was on that hand, which had landed firmly on some thorny blackberries. (Sorry, I couldn't resist adding in a picture of my damage.) My fall had a good side because some other people came along. I told them, quite honestly, that it was steep and I'd injured myself and after they were sure I was alright they went away, leaving Coal and I to enjoy the cool river. I didn't see much but I heard a kingfisher and osprey and got the picture of the suspension bridge.

The river was too deep for Coal to really enjoy (he doesn't swim, cowardly mutt) and the steep bank meant there was no place to sit and relax so we moved on. I found that path I'd skipped initially. I headed down the dense path. (I took the picture of the trail to show just how thick the vegation was). There were points were I was pushing through thick brush. Of course, I've had all kinds of adventures on trails like that. I've come out scratched, bitten, stung, wet and muddy. But those aimless rambles tend to be some of my happiest moments. It's not about a destination, but discovery. In my small way, I'm living out my childhood dreams of being a great naturalist and journeying to exotic places. And this time there was a reward! We found a lovely beach and spent a lot of time there. Just Coal, myself and the sound of the water and the confidence that the solitude would remain. The river was more rapid there and I mostly watched the light and ripples dance. I wasn't sure what I wanted when I left that day, but I think that was what I was seeking; that magic moment when the river mesmorizing and times seems to go away.

"Water is magic"


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