First Steps: Olympic Mountains (Part 2)

August 5, 2016


Thunder at my first alarm—sleep in. All around, peaks receded into white ceiling. As I hit First Divide, clouds clear and sun again begins to fall through. Meet a ranger seen yesterday, now heading back to station. The lightning was the first she'd heard in three years—for a moment we share memories of stormy summers in the prairies now far east. Under the weight of a pack, old homes even farther away. But just ahead, Home Sweet Home Camp. Flowers' fields flatness astonishing on these steep slopes. Fighting off new nostalgia, trailed back into ancient shade.

old growths' great elders.
still youngest firs remember
before, after us


Thick in berry brambles, legs & feet aching, homeward dreams prickling mind like down's tip through pillow. Years ago floods washed streambanks out into steep ledges above rocks, danger growing with fatigue. Still another two thousand ft. climb to camp. Rising into clouds returning. Hope to sleep at Lake Lacrosse, but there it's thick with cloud, misty rain so slight the lake's still glassy, unrippled. The only evidence for it the fog's soft absorbing glow & the sparkling cold across my skin. Wind lifting and dying, blowing strange wispy formations across the land, oceanic droplets suspended on the cold air, stolen from gravity by sun & breeze. From this rain there is no shelter; I turn around to camp below the clouds, another three hundred feet lost to Marmot Lake.

Misty night, somehow
the few gentle stars above
alight without warmth


Mosquito-swatting breakfast, will broken & resolve resolved, pack filled for home. One last thing. I walk lightly with shakuhachi only to the pass, scramble the wetgrass hill for a view of clouds breaking over Mt. Duckabush. Play a song of promise to the mountains: the impermanence of defeat. Bandana soaked in the snow-fresh cliff-falling waters, body and mind hardened for the long hike home, reverse last two days in a few hours. Above all, thinking of you. Photos disappointing, but a certain release in having accomplished so little. Not the fruit, but maybe the blossom.

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