Sunday, September 25, 2011

I Can't Believe I Climbed The Whole Thing

Looking south from the mountain

I have this sense of urgency, this drive that I've got to be outside doing outdoorsy things every waking moment before winter sets in. And around here, winter lasts a looong time. I've heard rumors of it snowing during finals week in May and when we came here for a visit early last June, the trees had only just put out their leaves which makes me inclined to believe the rumors. So I've got my snowshoes at the ready, but I still want to soak up as much warmth now as possible.

To that end, the other day I decided to go out and do some sketching in the field. There's a magnificent mountain, with cool rock formations jutting out of it, fairly close to town and I had it in my head that I wanted to sketch that mountain. I knew that there was a US Forest Service office at the base of the mountain with some nature trails around it and I thought that would be a good place to find a sketch-worthy view. I walked some of the nature trails and was having a hard time finding just the right vantage point when I stumbled onto a trailhead I didn't know about. This looked promising - a trail up another mountain that was across from my objective. I wouldn't even need to go all the way to the top, I reasoned; just get high enough up to be above all the dense shrubs and small trees on the nature trail and have a clear view of my subject. Just a little hike, sketch, and come back down. It didn't even matter that I was wearing jeans and had no water with me - this was going to be a quick climb.

Not far from the start of the trail, I came to a fork. The left-hand trail was labeled "steeper" and the right-hand trail was labeled "easier". But the easier fork was headed back behind the mountain, away from the one I wanted to sketch, so I took the steeper fork to get the view. I quickened my pace, anxious to get to the perfect spot. And as the trail wound around the side of the mountain, my mountain started to come into view. But now the trail was going into forest! This was no good! Well, I would just have to continue until I was clear of the forest again. But instead of opening up, after a little while the forest became denser and I started thinking about bears and mountain lions and the fact that even though the trailhead parking lot had been full, I hadn't seen any people on this part of the trail in a while. At this point I also realized that if I wanted the view of my mountain, I was going to have to hike all the way to the top of this mountain, and since I'd come this far already, I might as well suck it up and go the whole way. So I did. And I promised myself that I'd take the "easy" fork back because I'd probably never hear the end of it from my knees if I took the "steep" route down.

Long story short, I got to the top of the mountain. The trees gave way to scattered junipers and I had a beautiful 330 degree panorama of the surrounding valleys and mountain ranges. There was even a thoughtfully placed bench on which to rest. But the remaining 30 degrees were taken up by a thick tangle of wind-twisted evergreens and my magnificent sketch-worthy mountain was right behind them.

Later in the week when I was running some errands I found that the best view for sketching that mountain is in a box store parking lot. But somehow by that point I'd lost interest.

One of the lovely views from the west side of the mountain.

The Towsend's solitaires were not being very solitary,
probably because there were lots of junipers, too.

False Solomon's seal


And look, another magpie!

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