Friday, March 26, 2010

"A jaunt in the forest" or "Tell me again, why did we come this way?"

My mountain boy husband and I took an uncharacteristic hike in the mountains Tuesday. (Actually, he invites me to go with him every chance he gets, I just can't always go with him: clothes to fold, meals to make, books to write, symphonies to compose, War and Peace to get the idea.) Anyhoo, I had no more excuses.......I mean it sounded fun to take a little hike on a beautiful spring day. So away we went.

The day started like any other school day. Hectic. It usually begins with a cup of coffee and gains frantic momentum in the ensuing 2 hours until I screech to a screaming stop into the school parking lot; kids and dog hanging out of each suburban window.

But this day, after dropping the kids off, my ever adventurous spouse and I ventured off into the wild. After a 1 1/2 hour drive, we stepped out of the SUV into a place that doesn't see humanity very often. It's wonderful and a little eerie to listen to the buzz of silence after the long drone of the truck motor. (I like calling the suburban a truck. It makes me feel kind of tough.)
We pulled our YakTrax over our hiking boots and slopped up the trail, working our way toward what we thought might be a nice view of the western slopes of Glacier National Park. The snow was mostly melted where we were walking, but every now and then, I'd let my guard down and the ice would surprise me with a slip and I'd give an awkward jerk to right myself before falling on my pride. (I read a farming article one time where the author called those feet-up-in-the-air falls "Charlie Chaplin's". Perfect visual description of most of my falls.)

Now, before I go further, I have to explain a little about my spouse. My mountain boy husband never stops or backs down from a goal...... or hike.... until he has accomplished his mission. He has dragged, I mean, lead me, on some great adventures. Sometimes, during the midst of the quest, I have found myself grumbling and snorting about our direction. But I have always, I mean always been glad we made the journey. One time, before we were married, he took me for a "walk" that encompassed forging a small but raging river, the river bank itself and a steep, impressive, little hill in Oklahoma. I should have known then that I was in for big ride. But I was in love; am in love, and that's what you do when you are in love: forge the waters. And sometimes grumble and snort.

Back to Tuesday. We found that the trail did indeed bring us to this amazing precipice that jutted over the wide expanse of the Flathead River and gave us snowy views into Glacier National Park. I could hear the river broiling below and the breezes tickling the leaves of the trees above us. It was magical. Until, my husband says "why don't we go down to the river to explore?" I just stood still with my eyes closed, my hands in my pockets, smelling the woods and feeling the gusts blowing up the valley; pretending I didn't just hear what I thought I'd heard. He nudged me with his elbow and asked again, "wanna go down and check out the river?" This time I opened my eyes and looked incredulously in the direction he was indicating. I actually had to squint to see where he was pointing. It was a long way. He thought we could save some time by going right over the edge and carefully picking our way down the mountain to the river. I closed my eyes again so he wouldn't see them bulging. (Maybe if I ignore him, this mean man will go away.) I offered to back track around over the trail we'd just come and meet him at the rivers edge but only because I didn't want to slow him down. I was trying to be thoughtful. No. We'd only brought one canister of bear spray and it had been really warm and maybe the bears and other carnivores were moving around the forest and we'd probably better stay together. Dang it.
So down the cliff we ventured.

My mountain boy went first to pick out the best way to skid down the trail with all our parts intact. We slid over icy soil camouflaged as safe steps. There were rocks that I thought might act as stairs but instead betrayed me by catapulting my body several feet before I could catch myself. Small pine saplings bent under my death grip as I lowered myself down the mountain. I encouraged my husband to go way down further ahead of me in case I lost my grip and took us both out in a great tumble. He thought I was being funny, having a good time, laughing in the delight of the adventure. I was, in reality, being very afraid, joking in the face of terror, giggling in almost hysteria. I made the trip mostly on my fanny. My big, fat, wet fanny.

After days of slipping and falling we made it to the forest floor. Compared to the trip down the mountain, post-holing over the field through the snow to the water was nothing. My legs were trembling with fatigue by the time we got to the rivers edge. But the view was breathtaking. This time we were looking up at the snowy peaks with the wild, north fork of the Flathead licking at our boots. I sucked in my breath with the beauty. How could I deny this great adventure? He was right again. It was worth every step.

After we'd had our fill of marvelling at the western slopes, and my watch was reminding me we had responsibilities shaped like kids waiting for us after school, my mountain boy took pity on me and lead me up the other trail out; the long, wide, gently sloping, road back to the truck. We contently walked hand in hand up the road most travelled, contemplating our day out loud to each other ........ until I slipped on the ice and did a "Charlie Chaplin" ......almost took him down, too. Tell me again, why did we go this way?

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