For our last adventure of this trip, Mom and I finally realized a dream that we’ve had since we discovered this place last summer. Ever since I won Second Dog at the Running with the Bears Half Marathong, Mom and I have been trying to run on the trails up here. This was my third time up here, and Mom has been here four times, but until today something always kept us out of the woods. Today we had to drive 8 miles up a mountain on a dirt road without the help of The Witch to get to the trailhead. Car trails are always risky because we never know when the trail will be too difficult for The Covered Wagon, but this dirt road let us through, and at the trailhead we found a secret campground next to a lake. That’s the cool thing about these mountain places, sometimes you think that you’re so far in the wilderness that you’ll be lost forever, and then you find a toilet or a campground that shows that someone took the time to love this corner of the earth enough to build a place to poop in.
The trail ran around the lake that was so clear that we could see fishies swimming inside. “I wonder how fish get up here above 5,000 feet…” Mom wondered.
“That’s easy,” I said. “They’re mountain climbing fish. Like dirt roads are trails for cars, rivers are trails for fish.”
“You’ve seen some of those rivers. How’s a 1-inch fish going to swim up something like that?” Mom asked, incredulously. Sometimes she can be so dense.
“Haven’t you been paying attention on all of our wilderness expeditions?” I asked. “You can get up anything with four wheel drive.” But Mom is a suburban person, so she doesn’t know about four wheel drive and nature.
After the lake we climbed up the side of the mountain. The mountain was made of one enormous rock, covered in other big rocks that had fallen off of it. At first it looked like we were just climbing wild up the mountain, but when you got close you could see that someone had made steps out of the boulders. Even though all the different kinds of steps that we had to take were too varied to run, we had an easy time getting up the side of the mountain. “See how easy hiking can be when there’s no snow blocking our trail!” Mom said. “Imagine everything we could have seen if we started this trip a few weeks later…”
“Oh, look! There it is!” I said, running up to where the mountain got closer together and the rock hid under some trees, and the trail hid under some white dirt. But this white dirt wasn’t as serious as the stuff we’ve hiked through earlier in the trip. It nibbled at our feet, but mostly we could walk safely on top of or around it.
Once we were in the trees, Mom got really antsy and insisted that I stay close to her.
“Don’t worry, Mom. I don’t think that there are any other hikers up here today. It’s a Tuesday.”
“I’m not worried about hikers. There are cats that hide in these trees. They jump down and before you know what’s happened, they’ve grabbed you by the head are dragging you into the bushes to eat you up.”
“Oh! I love cats!” I said. “They are great fun to chase! I hope one drops on me.”
“Not these cats…” Mom warned. Mom gets so scared of the silliest things.
After running through the trees that were on the back of the mountain’s head for a couple of miles, we popped out on the forehead of the mountain. We could walk around see a menu of other mountains to climb in all directions. I could tell that Mom was starting to get that anxiety that she gets when she tries to climb all the mountains at once, so I jumped in to the rescue. “Sit!” I told her. So she sat on a rock right at the edge of the mountain.
“Now put your hand on your dog,” I told her. She put her arm around me and started scratching me behind the ear and banging my chest. I licked the salt off her face.
“Okay, now don’t look for the roads and trails,” I whispered in her ear. “Just look at all the mountains at once, as part of one big picture.” I could feel her getting a little anxious, so she held me a little closer and started to relax again.
“See how those other mountains are what makes the top of this mountain beautiful?” I said. “That means that you are doing all the mountains at once. See? You did it. You can relax.”
“You’re right,” Mom said. “We can’t be on top of all the mountains at once. It would be very sad indeed if we ran out of mountains to climb.”
This place had tried to keep us away, but sometimes you just need to come back enough times to show that you really want to be there. We were like Meatloaf on the porch in Fight Club, but now that the mountain had let us in I could tell that it was going to let us back.
“Let’s see if we can finish this trip in a relaxing way and get back in time to miss rush hour,” Mom suggested.
The Witch in Mom’s Phone gave us a gentle reintroduction to the world. Rather than taking the highway, she took us for more than 50 miles through a back mountain road that turned into a dirt road for a handful of miles. We fell so steeply out of the mountains that the Covered Wagon shuddered, but eventually we reached the hot, dusty farms, and bit by bit I started to recognize the places that we were driving. Finally, we got to our stuck house, where Mom unloaded our adventure out of the covered wagon. After Mom had showered all the wilderness smells off of her, we were back to our old life by the time the sun set.
Oscar the Explorer