Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Desolate Beauty of Mt. Adams

Mt. Adams is one of the Cascades, located in south central Washington.  We can see its snow-capped peak on a clear day from Hood River and it always makes us gasp, it is so magnificent.  Last week, my travel buddy and I scouted out the route to the summit.  We were surprised at how many people were on the trail--a veritable Grand Central Station of backpackers.  Many of them seemed excited, but some had that what in the world am I doing here look on their faces. One man even admitted to me that he probably wouldn't make it to the top.  "Don't worry," I assured him.  "You'll get your second wind."

"Lady, I haven't even gotten my first."

  The trail head to the summit begins at Cold Springs campground and that's where we started our climb.  I followed my travel buddy through a scorched landscape of dead trees for about a mile before we parted ways.  This southeastern slope used to be an emerald paradise but a fire swept through here two years ago with such a fury that 18,000 acres of forested land were completely destroyed.  Forest fires are supposed to be good for the ecosystem, right?  And this one was started by lightening so it was a natural event, right?

But I saw nothing beneficial happening here.  This fire did not get rid of the diseased trees; it got rid of all of them.  Mother Nature had dealt a cruel, cruel hand.

But once I got over the initial shock (and the sadness), I started to see the beauty in the trees that were still standing.  Some of them were sculptural; their shapes reminding me of creatures from a fantasy novel.  Better yet, beneath their twisted limbs, masses of wildflowers had found their way through the charred soil.  The earth was recovering, after all.  The contrast between the dead and the living was stark and oddly, a pleasant surprise.

At this junction in the trail, I bid my travel buddy a fond adieu.  He and all the other climbers could continue up a barren desolate mountain to the top, but not me.  I opted to go around; not up.  I set off to search for more flowers.  For more life. 

And I didn't see another soul.

 When we met down at the parking lot two hours later, my travel buddy admitted I had taken the better path.  "It's not the prettiest hike I've been on, that's for sure," he said.

  The summit trail is all about stamina and fortitude and reaching a goal.  I get it.  I really do, but I had no pangs of jealousy this time around.   

I'll take Beauty over Brawn any day.

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