Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Memories that take you back, and move you forward.

A few years ago I had the honor of taking a hiking trip with my mother that we never could when I was a kid. We hiked Mount Mazama in Oregon. Now Mount Mazama is known for it's most prominent feature, but I would cheat you if I didn't let you into the whole process before we get to the eventual reward of visiting that great feature...

It was summertime, July to be specific, and we arrived on the mountain in the late afternoon. I had carried all of the camping gear I needed in a single now considered ancient Coleman Peak 1 external frame backpack on my trip from Texas. That old Peak1 pack is a tried and true testimony to the quality that was true of most if not all camping gear vendors back in the 80s and 90s. The pack was huge, featuring a cavernous interior volume, and plentiful attachment points on the outside of the pack for everything needed for a weeks vacation touring the pacific northwest in varying conditions. While heavier than ultralight internal frame packs, the external frame did such a great job of distributing the weight inside the pack that it was a pleasure to carry, even with loaded water bottles, and liter bottles of white gas.

The summer heat that was so oppressive to me in the Texas coast was completely absent. In its place was a variety of temps ranging from pleasantly warm 70 or so degree F highs, but the shocker for me came in the middle of the night.

During the day, Mom and I hiked around the mountain, several well marked nature loop trails from the state campground offered good vistas, and a chance to share thoughts on the state of things, and enjoy the beauty of the location together. At one point along the hike I heard a group of college age hikers down one switchback from where we were, they were moving easily along the trail, and having a great time. What shocked me was the elevation gain. I hadn't realized, well honestly I hadn't paid attention too much to the up and down stuff. My day pack had everything I needed to get us out of trouble if I had to, but thankfully, all of it, well all of it except for a couple of granola bars, made it back to camp with us!.

 If you look closely you can see the pale ribbon that is the trail at the switchback.

As the day wore on, the years since I had moved on from home, to college, to career just seemed to disappear with each telling of how this, that or the other family member is doing. And retelling of years past when the grandparents were still alive. But along with the years, daylight was also disappearing, thankfully we made it back to camp with some of the most beautiful light streaming above and through the trees...
The play of light and shadow is beautiful on Mt. Mazama at dusk.
Mom and I shared a tent, my Sierra Designs Sirius 3, 3 man backpacking tent. I used my Large 3.5" thick  Big Agnes Insulated Air Core mattress, and my Slumberjack ultralight 35 degree sleeping bag. Now when camping in cool / cold weather I always sleep in sweats. So I was nice and toasty overnight, I had the foot box vent wide open and the hood open. This tent kept heat in exceedingly well.

Sadly, as the night wore on, one or two too many campfire hot chocolates were wanting to be let out, so I climbed out of my sleeping bag, and slipped on my boots, unzipped the tent and received a wonderful surprise.

White, fluffy, and peaceful, a layer of snow coated the entire campground, including the fly / vestibule of the tent. Moonlight was plentiful, and there was almost absolute silence. I step out, zip the tent up and walk over to take care of business.

On my way back, I could just, well feel the pressures of work, mortgage, family relationships, the whole thing, the good, the bad, and the ugly as it were, just felt like they were on a different planet. Replaced by absolute calmness, absolute clarity, and absolute peace... I stopped, brushed the snow off of a log, and just sat and soaked it all in...

The next day required automotive travel. We didn't have a backcountry permit, so hiking from the campground to our destination wasn't an option then. So up the windy, narrow mountain road, praying no large trucks tried passing us the other way...

I must admit, okay brag, that the view at the final destination is well worth it.

The crystal clear blue water has a purple / gray hue in the photo merely due to the cloud cover of the day. The steep cliffs into the caldera were simply amazing...

A more recognizable view, the island seen in the lake is Wizard Island. have you guessed the name of this feature yet?

If you guessed Crater Lake, you got it spot on.

It is trips such as this one, and many others with stories yet to be told, that keep me wanting to go out again, to find out where that trail goes, to paddle down that bayou just a little further, to see what is just around that corner. What beautiful secrets for the eye, the heart, and the soul are out there hidden from the view of the masses?

No matter what mountains, beaches, deserts, plains, or what have you are available to you, I encourage you to go out, and to go, seek out that beauty, and find your own "road less traveled"!

-- Outdoor Dave...

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