Monday, July 18, 2005

So Much Better Than Chicago

I know I’m prone to frequently trumpeting the charms of living in Oregon in general and Portland in particular. And here I go again. Get a load of this: Mount Hood! Looming hugely right in my face this afternoon as I ambled through spectacular technicolor wildflower meadows on the McNeil Point Trail.

This is without a doubt one of my favorite hikes in Mount Hood National Forest. The first time I did this hike I had no idea what was in store for me. The hike starts out uphill through some woods. Nice...but nothing that would even remotely knock your socks off. After maybe three-quarters of a mile, you pop out of the woods onto a ridge, round the corner, and BOOM: there’s the massively massive Mount Hood staring back at you—Oregon’s tallest mountain (11,237 feet; 3,426 m) and (yikes) a “potentially active” volcano! The views just get better as you hike along the ridge, gaining elevation and closer views of Mount Hood--up, up, up into magical subalpine meadows and ending at a peaceful little pond with a side view of Hood.

Good for the soul. And a darn good bang for your effort buck. Only 6.8 miles round trip and 1,500 feet of elevation. My only disappointment was that my hiking pal was too pooped to stop (as promised) at Edgefield afterward for tater tots and a pint of IPA. We’d managed to thoroughly wipe out her hyperactive dog, too. So I got dropped off at home without the eagerly anticipated fried food and beer fix. I suppose I’ll survive.

As soon as I walked in the door, the phone rang. It was my good friend MK who lives in Columbia, Missouri. He’s a new father, so it’s not often he can steal a moment to chat on the phone. I happily delayed a much-needed shower, grabbed a beer from the fridge, and settled down on the patio for a bit of a chinwag. Of course, I immediately told him I’d just been on a fabulous hike. He replied that he hadn’t been outside in two months! The wistfulness in his voice was painful for me to hear. If I was forced to stay indoors for two months, I would very quickly become a raving lunatic and have to be barricaded in an attic, which would only make me even more of a raving lunatic. What I found painful is that MK is a person who loves to hike and walk and would brave the hellish heat and humidity if it weren’t for the fact that he does the lion’s share of childcare for his one-year-old son, whom, I guess would melt or evaporate or possibly even sublimate if exposed to full-on central Missouri in July. I guess MK was going a little crackers, though, because he mentioned that he took a “hike” in a mall, weaving a stroller in and out and around throngs of bored teenagers! That didn’t pan out too well. Well, duh!

I’m glad I’m not MK. (I’m so not cut out for parenthood.) But I will say this. Of all the people I know, no one is more suited to parenthood than MK. He’s always loved babies and kids, and when his wife and he were figuring out how to divvy up the child care, it was MK who ended up cutting back his work hours to part time and devoting pretty much all his nonworking hours to caring for his son. And he loves it. And I think that’s great.


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