Thursday, July 6, 2017

On Top of Wind Mountain

My hikes are getting longer and more strenuous, but the rewards are greater.  There, I said it.  Happy, now?

I recognize my travel buddy is using psychology to get me to go on his training hikes with him.  This is his approach:  "If it starts to get too much for you, just go back to the car, fix yourself a cup of tea, read a book, and I'll be back down in an hour or two."

But then I start to climb.  I tell myself I can do it.  It's not that hard.  I go slow.  My heart begins to race and I start to perspire.  Should I go back?  I rest.  And then I keep on going.  My heart pumps even faster.  Now should I go back?  I rest again.  Then take off.  Not down.  But up. My steps are nearing a crawl.  When I reach the top (a half hour behind my travel buddy) he greets me with a hug and a big grin. "I'll get you to the top of Mount Adams yet," he declares.
The hike to the top of Wind Mountain is only about a mile and a half so it's a three mile round trip hike.  Easy, right?

Well . . . sort of.

There are fallen logs and massive roots to climb around and narrow rock-strewn paths to maneuver.  One slip and down you tumble. And all the time you are going up and up and up.  There's no break.  The elevation gain is 1,171 feet.

But there are plenty of excuses to stop and rest.  Like flowers to photograph.  

What's the point of racing up a mountain, I ask, when there's so much beauty to behold?  Slow down, man.
The big reward, though, is definitely reaching the top.  Not only is the view spectacular but it is also a Spirit Quest Site for local tribes and has been used for this purpose for possibly a thousand years.  Youths seeking their spirit animal come up here to spend the night.  Hopefully a vision or a dream will come to them and reveal their guardian spirit.  This spirit remains with them all their lives.

I am happy and surprised that we are even allowed up here.  There are piles of rocks shaped into altars, evidence of the hard labor it sometimes takes to summon the spirits.  We can't help but talk about our own spirit animals.  Us.  Non-tribal.  And yet, so in tune with nature.  My spirit animal, the Blue Heron, has indeed followed me through life.  From Florida to Baja to here in Oregon.  It's uncanny, but whenever I am down in the dumps, there she is, letting me know that everything will be all right.   
My travel buddy, however, isn't sure what his spirit animal is.  He is still on a quest.  He has some ideas, but is reluctant to commit.  I suspect his animal is a bit elusive. It is hiding in the shadows waiting for the right moment to appear.  Like the snow leopard or Bengal tiger.  I can't help but tease him, though, when a chipmunk nearly jumps into his lap.  
We remain up here for a long time, silent, lost in our own thoughts.  Life is one long quest.  Some of us will be lucky enough to find what we are looking for; others will keep on searching until the very end.  Sometimes, I suspect, it is difficult to know when we've actually found it.  Recognition is as difficult as climbing a mountain.

Wind Mountain is a 1.907 cinder cone located on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, near Stevenson.

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