I survived our 1/2 circumnavigation of Mount Hood. I’m plum exhausted and chilling to the new Mates of State album, eating Hot & Spicy Cheez-Its, sniffing Nag Champa and trying not to fall asleep.
My nose, neck and arms are sunburned. I had forgotten that I’ve been working an inside job the last few months and have lost my bronze Hook armor. My boots absolutely munched my feet to pieces. The bottom of my right big toe is missing, my heels are shredded and I have countless other blisters pocketing my toes. It makes sense, considering. We rode hard this weekend. Twenty-two miles of hiking between 5,000 and 7,000 feet over two full days, with god knows how much elevation change. Charging above the timberline and through snow fields, alpine meadows and old-growth forests.
I realize now that those awful feet of explorers, with their huge raw wounds and oozing holes, are just a matter of degree. Eventually you reach a point where you just stop caring. The pain becomes part of the challenge; a morbid ballet played between the will of man and the fury of nature. You bite your lip and charge on not for the benefit of your body, hardly, but for the enrichment your soul. You realize that you need the intensity, the colorful agony that reminds you that you’re alive, that the atmospheres of a billion worlds are being pulled into your lungs and circulating red beneath your skin. It’s a brutal worship of sky and earth, body and soul. It is under this terrible strain that we can truly discover ourselves.
And at the same time the sheer beauty was enough to pop your skull. Rugged and graceful, gritty and elegant. I watched spiders drift up the mountainside on silken threads. We spent saturday night at 7,000 feet atop Gnarl Ridge. We watched the sun set on forested hills and mists gather in valleys. We watched as the sun fell behind Mount Hood and cast its shadow beyond the hills and into the deserts of eastern Oregon, a huge dark tooth spread out across hundreds of miles of countryside. And we could see the edge, the line where the sun met darkness in the barren and dry wilds of Oregon.
Mars dominated the heavens long before the sky grew black, and stars slowly popped out and filled in the growing darkness. The Milky Way stretched out above us and we decided against setting up the tent. Satellites sailed silently over our heads, their strange patterns summoning explanations of conspiracy. The wind picked up. At first we thought it was indicative of bad weather approaching, but as the sky stayed painfully clear we realized it was the just air on the mountain channeling through the Newton Creek valley. Mount Hood’s icy breath chilled us until dawn.
And then. Heather Canyon, Mount Hood Meadows, the White River and finally, after a grueling ascent, Timberline Lodge. 180 degrees of Mount Hood complete. Celebration with beer and burgers at a rough bar in Government Camp, the premier lawless snowboard town of the Pacific Northwest. If you don’t ride, and if you don’t smoke, and if you don’t get in fights, you have no business here in the winter.
And if you get the two-for-one drink pin at Charlie’s, it will pay for itself over a long weekend.