Out here there are landscapes that can swallow a man, whole. If I drive a mere twenty minutes out of Hood River I can be on deserted logging trails; single lane paved (or gravel) roads that coil through the mountains. If something bad happens when I’m out there, say I hit a deer (which I’ve seen), get a wheel stuck in a washout (which I’ve driven through) or run out of gas (which I almost did on the drive out here), I’m walking home. I don’t carry a phone, and even so there’s no cellular service in a cathedral of granite.
Usually when I run off on my adventures I forget to grab a map, which historically has been my favorite book, the Rand McNally 2003 U.S. Road Atlas. It would be wise for me to grab more detailed maps of Oregon and Washington, and perhaps the Mount Hood National Forest, and put them in the Dragon’s glove compartment. It would be wise to leave a note to my roommates detailing my travels. “Went to Lost Lake: If I don’t return, avenge death.”
These are all good ideas, but I find through the years I have grown complacent with my physical surroundings. When I lived in Duluth I never thought twice about running up the Shore for a little jaunt, as no matter where I ended up I was never more than two miles away from something. No ill can befall the soul in the cradle of the Midwest, and I have transplanted this attitude upon my Pacific Northwest existence.
But there are dangers out here. Mount Hood kills people. Mount Adams kills people. Rainier kills people. I spent some time hanging out with Dedrich and his family last night (I was walking from my house to Little Florida and when I rounded the corner of 22nd Street, someone kept calling my name. Turns out these guys live right around the corner from my house, and had grilled food and salad and ice cream that needed to be eaten) and they had all lost friends to the mountains. It is rare you find someone who has lost loved ones to the BWCA.
Today as I was practicing my waterstarts I watched some barges chug along the Washington side of the River. One kiter got particularly close to a barge, which sent the operator into a fit of honking. Since the operators don’t have ten-foot megaphones for broadcasting obscenities they need to make do with other forms of forceful communication. I also noticed that they paint smiley faces on the sides of barges, too. I think they’re all masochists.
Trains run on both sides of the Gorge, and trains run often on both sides
of the Gorge. Kyle told a story about a friend of his who got caught between two trains cooking in opposite directions. While the draft kicked up from all that motion has to be scary enough, this poor guy got stuck in there while holding his kite.
While derigging today I watched a snake slither under my car. My first reaction was to try to catch it, but then I remembered some blurbs I read for a few popular launch sites in the Gorge: “Dangers: Strong current, strong winds, train tracks, rattlesnakes.” I’m used to garter snakes and other animals that don’t want to kill me. This particular brand of snake was brown and didn’t have a rattle, but I wouldn’t put it past these guys to have their rattles surgically removed just so they can hang out with the in-crowd of non-lethal snakes. They’re called snakes for a reason.
And summer has just begun. Be careful out there, kiddos.