Instead of going down-map from the Devil’s Punchbowl Mom and I drove up-map to Washington. In the morning we kept driving the Covered Wagon came to rest at a trailhead that was so close to the freeway that they were practically touching. The trail was called Dirty Harry Peak. Since Dirty Harry stars Clint Eastwood and The City, I knew this would be a manly and rugged mountain that would need a brawny renegade dog to climb it.
I didn’t remember Dirty Harry starring any Muppets but, it must because the first couple of miles of the trail were dressed in that nappy moss that Muppet fur is made of. The trail looked soft and gentle, but without the moss softening all of the rocks, and logs, and trees, and stumps, the trail might have looked much more rugged and hard like Clint Eastwood usually does.
It may have looked soft and Elmo, but the I could feel the soul of Clint Eastwood in my muscles as I climbed. The trail was the kind of leg-busting steep that most trails can only hold for a minute or two, but Dirty Harry squeezed our legs and didn’t let up for miles. Most people would need to join a Jim to take such big steps for so long, and Mom was heaving deep breaths like we were on a run. Another way that I knew this trail wasn’t for sissies was because every once in awhile there were holes in the trees where you could peek through and see what the mountain was really made of. In those holes, I could look straight across the valley at steep and craggy mountains with giant rotting stumps of bare rock bursting out the top. Next to each one of those peek-a-boos behind the curtain of trees was a sign with a drawing of a stick-human falling off a cliff to show what would happen if you didn’t give Clint Eastwood the respect he deserved. The mountain seemed to be saying, “Go ahead, punk. Make my day.”
After awhile, the trail turned and the trees opened up a bit, so that the hot sun poured down onto the trail, and bright flowers grew in the sun, and little streams sparkled across the trail. Some mountains are layered like wedding cakes, and I could tell that we had entered a different layer of the mountain that was even steeper than before. We kept climbing at a steady pace, and while I was stoic and hard like Clint Eastwood under the hot sun, Mom was starting to melt. Sweat dripped off of her like wax off a candle, and she smelled like a dead thing. Every time we turned a corner, I hoped for her sake that it would flatten out, but for mile after mile, it never did. Mom kept looking up the mountain for the place where there was only sky behind the trees, which she said had to be the top. There was sky behind every tree, and more climbing hidden behind every corner.
Just when I thought the mountain would go on forever and Mom would collapse next to me at the next shady spot in the trail, we turned one last corner and the trail went flat. The area was still crowded with trees, so we weren’t positive we were at the top yet. In a peek-a-boo with a view of the mountains humping off into the distance, I found Jim Henson sitting on a rock having a drink and a snack. “I know what you’re thinking, punk!” I barked at him. “You’re thinking ‘did I hike six miles or only five?’ Now to tell you the truth I forgot myself in all this excitement…”
“Hi, buddy,” he said, holding out his hand for me to sniff.
“…But being this trail will blow you head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself a question…” I continued. My butt was happy to see him, but I had started my tough speech, and I really wanted to finish it.
“Sorry,” Mom said, calling me over to celebrate with her. “I had him on leash but he kept stopping to snap at bugs, and it was driving me nuts.”
“‘Do I feel lucky?'” I barked, even though no one was paying attention to me anymore. “Well do ya, punk?” I finished. That’s when Mom came up the trail behind me, fiddling with the leash around her waist.
“I think he’s going to jump!” I said. “Maybe you should put the leash on him just in case.”
“Aw, leave him loose,” the man said. “There’s no one up here but us, and I don’t mind.”
We explored the different peeking spots on the summit of Dirty Harry Peak with our new friend, Jim Henson. At this peek-a-boo we could see the doomy mountain across the freeway. At the next one we could see rows and rows of pointy grey mountains with a smudgy white one in the distance that was Mt. Baker, where they make the delicious pastries for all the Starbucks in the world. And at the last one we could see the giant glowing white trapezoid of Mt. Rainier, which makes all the rain that falls on Seattle. Because the peekaboos were small and decorated with cliffs, and because Mom was too embarrassed to make me wear costumes and pose for pictures in front of a master of disguise like Jim Henson, we mostly used our eyes to take memories of the views instead.
As we walked back down the mountain with Jim, he told us about the real-life Dirty Harry that the trail was named after. This Dirty Harry wasn’t a tough City cop, but a lumberjack that didn’t believe in environmentalism (which is another way of saying that he was a bad guy). He used his logging machines to take all the trees off of that mountain, and didn’t leave any behind for anyone else. “That’s why all the trees around here are so young,” Jim explained. And also why Mom kept thinking she was almost at the top when she couldn’t see the treetops. So that’s why there was so much sun, and there were no Muppets on the second half of the mountain: Dirty Harry had killed them all!
“I don’t understand how any machine could drive up something this steep,” Mom said, thinking about all of the steep mountain roads we’d climbed in the Covered Wagon. “Let alone drive back down with a cargo of something heavy and hard to get around corners like logs.” So Jim, who had worked for a logging company when he was just a puppy taught us all about lumberjacks. I thought they were all big, furry St. Bernards dressed in flannel with axes and oxes like Paul Bunyan, but that’s not how it works at all. There are the people who build the roads, the people who pick the trees to be cut down, the people who cut down the trees, and then still more people who take the trees to the spot where they’re picked up by trucks, others who load the trucks, and still more who drive the trucks to the market so they could be turned into cabinets, and furniture, and elegant accessories for hipsters, and even the guy that’s got to drive wee-wee-wee all the way home. I thought that being a lumberjack would be a great job for a strapping and adventurous dog, except that it would mean being a bad guy. So I decided that Mom could be the lumberjack, and I would just be the ox.
Oxcar, the big blue Lumberdog