Mom and I have been turned back by white dirt many times, but there were only 2 trails that we still regretted not finishing after all this time. The first we’d conquered on the first day of our vacation when we found the Devil’s Punchbowl. The second was the whole reason we had come back to Washington.
Now that I had climbed (or almost climbed) so many mountains all over The West, I understood more about what made this trail so special. I have never seen a trail anywhere in the Whole Wide West that has so many great features at once. Spiky mountains are hard to find because they only grow in a few hard-to-reach places, but these spiky mountains had a road that went right through them, and a town nearby with a Starbucks, and a McDonalds, and a big grocery store. Just enough people and dogs came to the mountain to keep the trail free from trail-eating bushes and poisonous reaching plants, but not so many that we felt like we were in a city. Other trails with great views of spiky mountains are scary and have dangerous heights, or rocks to climb, or river crossings. But the trail we were returning to was safe, and even though it squeezed my legs to climb it, it didn’t threaten death. Best for Mom, we hardly had to climb through any forests before we could see fantastic views of the rocky mountains all around us; For nearly the whole hike we could stare at them and be inspired. Best for me, squirrels and chipmunks and all kinds of other critters loved this mountain as much as we do, and they came in huge critter crowds to build their homes in the bushes and rocks along the trail.
I let Mom hike alone while I mostly beat my own path through the bushes, dropping in on squirrel families having brunch and chasing chipmunks along the dry, white witch bone logs. Without any dangers or problems to solve, Mom and I hiked peacefully and uneventfully for hours, each thinking our own thoughts. I don’t know what Mom was thinking about, but I thought about how I’d never met a squirrel I didn’t like, and how cool it was that they are always down for a rousing game of tag without even needing to be taught the rules.
It was hard to recognize the spot where we had lost the trail in the white dirt last year because where there had been white dirt before, now the ridge was covered in bright grey grass and wildflowers. Right around the spot where I think we had turned back, the mountain flattened into a big grassy table with a pile of rocks decorating the center and staring off the edge of the mountain like a gargoyle. That gargoyle was the true summit, which someone had named Fourth of July Peak. When we got up there we were disappointed to find that the climb on the rocks to the tippity top was too steep for humans who are afraid of heights and dogs that can’t do pull-ups, and the very top rocks blocked the views of the spiky mountains from the second-to-top rocks. But they were the same mountains we’d been looking at all morning, so it didn’t matter much.
Even though the trail was the same, we were very different. Mom had just claimed her independence and was still recovering from her revolutionary war when we were on this trail last year. Last year we hadn’t found our Forever Job yet, and so many things had changed that it seemed like even the mountains might disappear if we took our paws off of them, so we had to run fast to have as many adventures as we could before even the wilder-ness was taken away. This year Mom and I work together at a Forever Job, and even though we can’t spend every day in the wilder-ness, it is still there when we check on it every weekend. Now that Mom has The Old and a bum sewn into her knee, we can’t run as much as we used to but even that has turned out to be a good thing because we’ve found more adventure on the trails that are too rugged to run. We never would have found those adventures tif we’d stayed in the places where there’s nothing to trip on and the mountains aren’t too steep for running. Things aren’t perfect yet, but if we didn’t have any more problems to solve then there would be no adventure in life.
Oscar the Yankee Doodle Dandy