King of the Potato Beasts

Today was going to be an easy day, but then Mom saw a really amazing looking trail on our wish list that was on our way home. When I say “on our way,” I mean generally down and to the left. We don’t really have a plan for how we’re going to get back, so anything that is down and to the left of us, and has a road nearby, is on our way.

“Oh Oscar, look at those mountains!” Mom said, showing me the picture. “And there’s a lake, see? And a river? We can’t miss this!”
“But Mom, it starts above 6,000 ft and then climbs to above 7,000 ft. It’s going to have white dirt on it.”
“It’ll be fine! We’re way south of where we were when we came through this range the last time, and it’s had another week to melt. And rain makes snow melt even faster… Look! The picture was taken at sunset!”

As we drove to the trail, it was cloudy so it was hard to tell what the mountains looked like, but from what we could see through the breaks in the clouds they looked rocky, and pointy… and had lots of white on them. “Oh look, Oscar! They’re going to be breathtaking. Like that day in Washington… only better because there will be trees and a river and a lake too!”
“But Mom… the white…”
“We’re experts at snow now, Oscar. It won’t be a problem,” Mom said to shush me.

The white dirt wasn’t right at the bottom of the trail. It took us a few minutes to reach it, but it was everywhere. There was regular dirt everywhere too, though, and Mom was able to find a way through. I didn’t bother to be as careful, even though this was dog-eating dirt. Every time it swallowed one of my legs, I just said, “You like that?! Here! Take another one! I’ve got more where that came from!” When I had no more legs left for the white dirt to eat, I would sit on the surface like a legless potato for a second, and then burst out all at once barking, “I’m Oscar, King of the Potato Beasts, the best mountain runner in the world!”

It took a couple of miles, but eventually reality caught up with Mom when the white dirt started sucking up her legs like a couple of pieces of spaghetti. Every time she tried to climb out of the hole, sluuuurp, her leg would get sucked back in up to the shorts line. On each one she let out a roar that was a little bit like a gladiator going into battle, and a little bit like someone whose leg was being bitten off by an alligator.
Trying to be helpful, I said, “I just heard about these special shoes that let you walk on top of the white dirt…”
“I don’t want to hear it, Oscar.”
“Well I was just thinking that…”
“…I was just thinking that we’re going about half a mile an hour, and it’s probably time to turn back.”
“Speak for yourself, I’ve sprinted about a mile through the woods in the time it’s taken you to get to here from that tree over there. Anyway, about these shoes…”
“Oscar, I hate snow. If I bought snowshoes, then I would be committing to spending time in the snow. Since one of my goals in life is to spend as little time in the snow as I possibly can, then snowshoes are against my core values. See?”
“But if you had those special shoes, then you could see the lake, and the summit of Gotcha Day mountain, and all the other things that we’ve missed.”
“I’m entitled to my opinion. Stop challenging me on my beliefs!” she said, and stormed off back down the mountain.

As we walked back down, the clouds started to clear and we could see the mountains that we wouldn’t see reflected in the lake. They were the kinds of mountains that you see in jigsaw puzzles and computer desktop backgrounds: all black and white, and rocky, and pointy enough that you could see the sky on both sides. Once we got back to the highway and could see them at more of a distance we could see that they were all clumped together like a bouquet with lots of open sky and lit-up clouds around them. We stared at them while we from the porch of the Visitor’s Center as we posted my last 2 posts.

Since we didn’t have a plan for where to go next, we just continued down and to the left through the mountains for hours. Each bend in the road was more beautiful than the last, and there were campgrounds and trailheads every few miles along the road.
“How did I never know this was here?!” Mom asked. “Why isn’t Idaho as famous a tourist destination as Tahoe, or Aspen, or Jackson Hole?”
“Where?” I asked. “Those all sound like dirty words to me.”
Mom ignored me. “…All I knew about Idaho was potatoes. But these mountains don’t look like potato farms to me!”
“Idaho is famous for potatoes?!” I said. “I’m a potato beast! I knew I belonged here!”

We were very excited to find our campground for the night, and then explore more Idaho mountains the next morning. But then an hour or so before we planned to stop, the mountains quit on us.
“Gross. This is all ag country,” Mom said, squishing up her face.
“I smell cows! So many cows!” I said, sticking my nose out the window.
“Maybe, but these aren’t the pretty kind of open range cow farms. This must be the potato country.”
“We get to camp on a potato range?!” I barked. “I get to meet my subjects!” I couldn’t wait.
“There aren’t going to be any campgrounds in the potato fields,” Mom said, giving me a weird look. “I have a feeling we have a lot of driving left to do.”

We had to drive and drive to get out of the Potato Kingdom to find a place to sleep. We drove until Idaho turned into Oregon, and “Ag Country” turned back into cattle ranges, and the cattle ranges turned into something like desert. “I had no idea Oregon was so big,” Mom said. “I think that this close to the end of the Oregon Trail.”
I looked around at the bald little nubbins of hills, and the dry scrubby shrubs. “Well that would be disappointing, after all the cool things they’d seen.”
“I think they were into a different kind of scenery,” Mom pointed out. “They didn’t have snowshoes or four wheel drive, remember? Some people aren’t into adventure scenery. All they want is predictability and safety from danger.”
“Oh, well I guess you would get that here…” I said. “…except maybe you might die of boredom.”

-Oscar, King of the Potato Beasts

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