Sunday, November 17, 2002

Misty Mountainside

Just got back from a misty mountainside. B and I hiked the Falls Creek Falls Trail in Washington this afternoon. Here is it the middle of November and it is still pleasant enough to hike--temp was about 50 degrees. It was pretty much overcast and the trees were all dripping but it wasn't actually precipitating. There are some huge old-growth Doug firs and some pretty elderly cedars. Tons o' moss--on boulders and cloaking tree branches. It reminded me of a book I'd like to get some day called "The Elfin World of Mosses and Lichens." Isn't that the greatest title? I have no idea what the names of any mosses are, but I can tell there are a bunch of different kinds. There are endless natural history learning opportunities out here. Anyway, it was tres atmospherique, walking along next to roaring, bouldery Falls Creek and then rounds a bend to see the very impressive, but unimaginatively named, Falls Creek Falls. It's several hundred feet high and quite wide. The water crashes down into a hollowed-out "punchbowl" at the bottom. When we got up high there were a bunch of low clouds floating along the top of the valley. Very Pacific Northwest.

One of the great things about hiking this particular trail at this time of year is that there are larch trees on it (the larch ... THE LARCH [for any Monty Python fans who might be reading this]). Apparently larch trees, which are conifers, don't usually grow this side of the Cascades. John and I had hiked the trail back at the end of June and looked in vain for larches; but then again we had no idea what we were looking for. I have since learned that larches are one of the few conifers that loses its needles in the winter. The needles turn a lovely golden-orange in November. I learned this at the fabulous Hoyt Arboretum. Well, there was no problem seeing the larches scattered here and there. In fact, you could see them way off in the distance they look so brilliant against all the green. So that was cool. Also cool was the fact that this time I did not misidentify the side trail to make the hike into a loop. Last time John and I ended up bushwhacking up a very steep ravine, which was no fun.

The only downside to the hike occurred as I found a convenient tree at the end of the hike and discovered, too late, that someone had been there before me and did not know how to shit in the woods, i.e., had not dug a hole and buried their poop. That shit is now on the bottom of my left boot. I tried to get some of it off, but didn't really have the right tools. Which would be? A high-pressure hose I guess. Of course, I have turned off the outside water and packed up the hoses. I will deal with it tomorrow. I had my trusty Birkenstocks to change into, which was fortunate because we stopped off at Charburger, an Oregon Trailish sort of family restaurant right on the Columbia River. I have wanted to eat there ever since we stopped there to use the washroom on a Sierra Club hike a few months ago. The decor is a weird combination of framed arrowheads, paint-by-numbers portraits of stoic Indians, and lots and lots of guns and pistols. I don't quite know what they're going for. We both had burgers. We had to make a trip to the "chuck wagon" to get condiments. Pretty funny and, of course, we both had slices of pie. The burgers weren't great but the pie was and the experience was worth it. I got that weird feeling of being on vacation on my own turf again. Love it!