First Steps: Olympic Mountains

August 3, 2016

Early, never early enough. Trailhead quiet save the talk of car-campers waking across the road, voices soft as morning light. Sky clear, but weather report said expect storms. Permit box empty & worry of crowded trails growing, double check gear & out.

Skokomish – deer steps
down on the sandbar, nowhere
to be but right here

Eyes, feet set toward Nine-Stream, named, like most streams here, by explorers. Good trail, well traveled—the old road of those first white-skins, a path hoping for the mountains' heart. The peaks are sandstone, not granite like the Rockies. It's softer—box canyons carved even in thick forest. On a summer day, the wet of winter's rain's still obvious.

One thousand saplings
spring from mossy windfall trunk—
time's branches endless

Easy trail to Nine-Stream, arrive still early afternoon. I soak my feet beneath cold falls, take a few photos, decide to press on. Beyond the trail grows wild, winding up mountainside through fir and devil's club. In the high forest unseen birds (learned later, the varied thrush, Ixoreus naevius) sing a collective melody in solid pitches, wondrous sound surrounding.

Trail-beaten, weather worsening, arrive at Two-Bear Camp below the pass. A few hours til dark, so slip between trees and lightning strikes up to the pass, where for a golden moment the sun breaks through, then plunges down behind cloud and mountain and sea. Myself clambering back down the slick trail. Dinner in the wet dark.

First night's forlorn dreams--
pillows, dinners, warm bed next
to you.


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