Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Snow Covered Lava Bed

Getting to the Big Lava Beds in Washington's Gifford Pinchot National Forest is not easy but we persevered and finally found the obscure forest service road taking us there.  We had been warned by many locals and many guidebook writers to NOT venture too far in.  There are no trails. People get lost.  Compasses do not work.  The lava is treacherous to walk on.  There are pits everywhere.  Okay, okay, we got it!

The guidebooks also describe this vast expanse of lava as a tortured landscape.  Not so much when it's covered with snow.  In the winter it turns into a dreamlike vision of a frozen wasteland.  It is so quiet all we could hear was our hiking boots crushing the ice beneath us.  We didn't see a single creature; not even a bird.

The ebony stones of lava peeking through pristine white snow is magical.  And odd.  And creepy.  Were we in Hawaii?  Or Alaska?  I understood immediately the reason Sasquatch stories abound around here. These mythic beasts are said to live in the tunnels below the lava bed.  Just one more reason not to venture too far.

  We were very careful to walk on the one and only road that penetrates this bizarre landscape.  Even so, we marked the way with twig arrows.  There were water-filled pits and long trenches on either side.  Scorched logs from last summer's fire, criss-crossed our path.  As tempting as it was to enter the lava beds for a closer look, we didn't dare.  The snow hid many pits and sharp surfaces.  The ice was treacherous enough.
Turns out we walked a lot further than we intended.  We both had a moment of panic when it seemed like we weren't finding the way out two hours later.  We weren't disoriented; only puzzled.  Had we really walked that far? 

The place drew us in deeper and deeper as if it were casting a spell over us.  

A tortured landscape?  No.  An enchanted one?  Absolutely.

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