Once we left the harrowing dooms, Mom and I had planned to spend one more day in Oregon and visit my good friend Tami. But Tami’s man-puppy got sick, and so she had to travel down to where I’m from to see him in the hospital, while I was visiting where she’s from. Before I tell you this story, I think it would be real swell if everyone hit the “love” button so that she will have all the extra heart she needs to be brave and strong while she’s scared.
That left us with a great, big hole in our plans to fill with anything interesting we could find between The End of the World and Reno. “Do you remember that craggy castle-looking mountain on the way up here?” Mom asked. “Let’s go visit that!”
“That thing looked like something out of an evil movie,” I said. “I bet it’s awesome!”
Mom kept an eye on the sky as we drove down through Oregon. “Those clouds look pretty thick,” she said. “I sure hope that we can see the cool stuff!” But it seemed like her worrying was for nothing, because when we crossed into California the clouds broke up and we spent half an hour staring out the window at Mt. Shasta. It looked as clear and sharp as the mountain emoji, with just a few whisps of dramatic-looking fuzz for decoration. I thought that the evil castle-mountain wouldn’t look frightening enough if they were laying on a fuzzy bed of Shasta clouds and blue sky. Luckily, once we crossed to the other side of the range, the clouds closed in like the ominous organ music in a monster suspense movie and stuck hard on the mountain above where we left the wagon.
We had to climb the height of a skyscraper up from the road on a steep, rocky trail, but after about half a mile the trail just slithered through the trees along the side of the mountain, and would have been perfect for running if the muscles in our legs hadn’t felt so chapped from the relentless dooms the day before. Instead, we walked through the trees and muppet-fur rocks, never getting friskier than a couple of hops from rock to rock across streams.
Out across the valley we could see where the trees on the mountainside went from dark to dusty white, but then everything disappeared behind the clouds and we could only imagine the monster castles hidden behind them. That is, until we turned a corner and there they were, sticking up into the sky like something sharp and deadly. The clouds hazed and misted dangerously around them, making them look vague and imaginary. Finally the trees opened up, and I looked across a narrow valley to where the mountain was throwing a thin stream of water thousands of feet down the sheer rock face.
A few minutes later, Mom pulled out The Witch and looked confused. “I thought we were supposed to get to the falls, but the map says the route ends here.”
“Maybe they’re this way,” I suggested, peeking down a narrow path that kept going straight in the spot where the trail turned back on itself.
Mom crept out on the little trail for about a wagon’s length and peeked over the edge of the mountain. I peeked around from behind her. Far, far below we could see water tumbling down the crease in the mountain. “Is that it?” I asked.
“I… uh… maybe?” Mom said.
“Well how much further does this trail go?” I asked. “Maybe we should keep going?”
“This is the Pacific Crest Trail,” Mom explained. “It’s the one that goes all the way to Canada. Or… is it Mexico in this direction? Anyway, it could go on forever and we’d never know if the thing we’re looking for is around the next bend, or if we’d gone too far.”
“Oh,” I said, thinking about how good some turkey bacon would taste right about now. I didn’t want to walk so far that I couldn’t make it back to the Covered Wagon where Mom had hidden it in the filing cabinet that doubled as the food fortress when she was inside the gas station without me.
As we walked back down, we met another family coming up the trail behind us. “Is it much further to the falls?” the man asked.
“I… uh… well I don’t know if I found the falls…” Mom said, sounding a bit foolish. Maybe she was going to explain further, but then I decided that I needed to bark at the man’s dog and Mom said I had to leave.
Once we had found the Covered Wagon again, I sent Mom into the gas station at the bottom of the road to find more snacks while I tried to figure out how to open the Food Fortress. When she got back she looked annoyed. “I saw the guy from the trail in there,” she said. “They found the falls. I asked him what it looked like and he said that there was a big pool of water at the bottom.”
“We didn’t find a big pool of water…” I said, confused.
“Yeah, he said it wasn’t long after he met us. We must have turned around right before we got there.”
Then I realized something that had been bothering me. “Oh… that must have been the curse,” I said.
“A mountain like that must have a curse,” I said. “I couldn’t figure out what it was, but it must be a curse that makes waterfalls disappear.”
“You don’t think the curse was that it makes maps inaccurate?” Mom snarked.
“Of course not. Getting lost is what you do,” I pointed out. “You do it all the time. You don’t need a curse for that.”
Oscar the Pooch