Little Steps: Day 11 – Trees are our Greatest Observers

Day 11: 1.36 miles / Total miles: 6.9mi / Days left: 168 / Time: 1:03:04 min

I felt a little more confident today in a lot of ways. A little more energy. A little less paranoid.

I was mentally ready for this trail today.

But first, I had to drive to the trailhead. I havent been to this particular location since I was a young kid. And I was in a school bus.

So I remember nothing.

Part of being a scout, is observing your surroundings. Taking mental notes of where things are located so that in the case of an emergency, you are aware of what is available near you.

This is a skill that I am realizing I need to teach myself from scratch.

How often do we pay attention to our surroundings to only forget it all moments later?

I dont know about you, but that seems to be the running theme in my life. I pay attention, but I dont actually pay attention.

I see something. I make a mental note of it. And I have zero recall abilities.

So the purpose of today’s hike, was to observe, and take mental notes, of what I drove by on my way to and from the trailhead.

I placed a great importance on needing to remember the route.

I may be headed to a location that is in the NW hills in the Portland Metro area. It is not in the middle of nowhere. There is civilization all around. But what type of civilization? Just houses? Is there a place to eat, a church for sanctuary, any sort of emergency personnel?

And my second purpose was taking a mental note of what the path to the trailhead consisted of. How hard would it be to walk out of this hidden forest in city? What direction would I need to go? Is there a river to follow? Are the roads safe to walk on if needed?

I am happy to report that I made some great observations. And I employed a few tactics.

And then I completely forgot everything.

Ok not everything. I do remember that there is a restaurant called Skyline Restaurant at the 4 way flashing red light.

If I get lost in the woods, I am sure their food would be delicious.

And I have passed numerous houses. They are the big fancy schmancy houses. If I get lost in the woods, I am curious (skeptical?) if they would help me.

There are some apartments. And farther away from the trailhead to the SW is a shopping mall that has a couple banks, a gym, a grocery store, a few restaurants.

But that is about 4 miles away from the trailhead. I think. Maybe more. Maybe less.

I am terrible at this observation thing.

The road is windy. And narrow. There is barely room for a person to walk on the sides. Definitely not safe around the curves. And off to the right as I am driving towards the location, there is a drop off to a small river.

I finally arrive to my destination. At least my parking area to get to my destination.

And there are cars. Everywhere.

I start to panic. Where am I going to park. I cant leave now. I have never parked on the edge of a busy road, with 2 wheels in a ditch. What if I cant find a spot. What if I get stuck.

I turn in to the entrance, and I see 30 min parking only sign after sign. Yeah…that’s not gonna work for me. I can barely do a mile in 30 minutes.

And then a spot magically appears out of nowhere with a 2hr only sign. Poof! There it is.

The clouds have parted and my panicking can release its grip.

I put my wallet and keys in my pack. Put it on. Start walking. And then remember that I forgot to lock the car.

Details.

So off the pack goes. Search for keys begins. And I lock the car.

Now I can start.

Wait no. Where is the trailhead?

I see the visitors center and the wildlife building in front of me. I am looking for the Jay Trail. My AllTrails map says the trail begins maybe 200 ft (300? 400? I am terrible at this) to the right of me. But that looks sketch.

I quickly scan the area. There are no signs for the Jay Trail.

But I did find a map. Finally. I don’t take a picture because I have the same version already downloaded on my phone. And then I study where I want to go.

I start moving.

First stop, I meet a Raven and a Turkey Vulture named Ruby that is throwing a temper tantrum because her trainer is making her fly with her leg strings again after having them off for 3 months.

I would too Ruby. I would too.

I get back on track and I start moving forward.

Downhill.

Down a very large hill. A. Steep. Large. Down. Hill.

Ugh. It is a loop. So this is going to be a very big uphill.

I finally hit the bottom. Walk across a couple bridges. And then I see these trail signs.

I am looking for Jay Trail.

I have never seen a trail sign like this. I awkwardly struggle with trying to figure out which way is which. I am used to arrows pointing the way. Not a name plate that is sort of kind of angled in the direction of a trail.

Does this mean the Jay Trail is off to the right? Or left? I am so confused.

I look at my maps. And I literally take an educated guess. Process of elimination.

Hoping. And praying. I am practicing my observation skills that the Creek Trail loop is shorter and located closer to the start/end point.

So off to the left I go.

And then I see another trail sign.

I am so thoroughly confused. My map shows that the Woodpecker Loop is right after the Creek Trail.

So I continue to the left. And I say a few more hopes. Eh, it doesnt matter in the grand scheme of things. It just means more mileage.

So I start walking. And I am climbing. And climbing. I hear the cars in the distance. For being in a valley, in the mountains, it is awfully noisy. It is located right next to a well traveled road.

Not sure what is louder. The cars or the birds.

Wait….I havent heard any birds yet.

And then I realize I havent heard any birds yet because my heart is beating so fast it is begging me to let it jump out and run for the hills.

It is just my heart and the cars on this trail.

Why oh why would they put the trail this close to a road? At least if I keel over, a passing motorist might see me. In my green sweatshirt. In the middle of a green forest.

Crap. I cant die here.

That would be so embarrassing. I am camaflouged.

I see a couple of trees I can hide behind.

Yes….I hid behind a couple of trees. To drink water. From my water bladder. Which my daughter drank the remainder of the night before. After I told her not to.

So my bladder is empty. Heh.

Thankfully I have backup. I was semi prepared. But too exhausted to take my water bottle out.

All my blood has vacated my brain and is flooding my heart. THUMP THUMP THUMP.

I am not thinking logically. I just need to focus on my breathing.

And then I remembered I have trekking poles that my mom is letting me use. Those might come in handy!

Maybe they will pull me up the hill.

I look at my watch. I have only gone .31 miles.

And I want to curl into a ball, hide in this tree. And die.

.31 miles equals 53 miles right? ….right?

But I camaflouge. So I have to keep moving. I round the bend. It looks like the hill is going straight to the sun.

How high is this mountain? What am I doing?

Oh great….now I have to crawl under a tree?

Oh phew. I am just short enough to go all the way to the left and not have to bend. In any direction. At this point, my lungs have fallen in love and may run away with my heart, jump over the barbed wire fence by the road, and elope.

I reach another switchback.

It keeps. going. Up.

I quit.

I quit. I quit. I quit. This is torture. I just cant. Why am I doing this to myself.

And then I see it. A glorious bench. Put there just for me.

I convince myself that I can die when I reach it.

Take off my pack. Lay down. Close my eyes. And just be done with it.

I finally reached it! I plopped down faster then you can say plopped down.

I was not happy. What am I doing to myself?!?

I look at the view. This is why I am doing this.

I stand back up. I turn around. And I see the name plaque on the bench. Call it a sign…heh. Call it fate. Call it a coincidence. Call it serendipity.

Whatever you call it, going uphill is not going to kill me. But it will help me reach the summit.

After I took that brief moment to remember why I am torturing myself and reset, all was right in the world. Sort of.

The trail was more of an up-down-up pattern. A tad narrower. And a lot quieter.

I focused on my breathing. The birds replaced the cars. My heart and lungs made amends with my soul.

I like this type of trail. Narrow. Barely there. It takes up less of nature. It is easier to become immersed in nature. Signs of human made creation is limited on a narrow trail.

You have to be thoughtful with each step on a narrow trail.

Placing your feet in just the right sequence to keep you upright.

Once my breathing calmed, my heart rate slowed, I began to enjoy the views as I walked. This is why I am doing this. These views.

Unlike anything you see in the city.

I learned alot from the scenery.

Flowers bloom. They wilt away. They hibernate during the hard seasons. And they return at just the right moment. Right when the world needs a little more color. A little less monotone.

They magically appear. We take flowers for granted. We forget about them when they disappear.

But trees. We cannot forget about them. Trees, like all plants, give us life. They are there. In our view. Taller than our houses. Wider than our cars. Full of moss and leaves.

Birthing branches and limbs longer than the horizon.

Trees provide us shelter in the sun, wind, and rain. They are always there to hold us up when we need something to lean on.

We chop them down and cut them up to build our houses. The forest recedes as we encroach.

But the trees are always there. As rains pour.

As winds shift.

As sun beats down.

Trees soak up whatever we give them.

They see our movements. They watch our lives unfold. They remain silent as we grow louder.

As they grow, their rings continue to accumulate. Each holding another layer, another page, another chapter, to the stories they have witnessed.

Trees are our greatest observers.

It is time we observe them.

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