Snow or rain or illness or injury or daylight savings time do not interscede and at last my friend and I make the hike we have been meaning to make. The dog comes because that is what dogs are for.
We start early in half-cloud that suggests sun but is not yet sun. The forecast calls for 61 and I think about the first springlike hike being possible, but Sequim is a long way off, and I take boots. It’s only sensible. Tire air pressure is confirmed and we go, getting to the ferry line with minutes to spare: good timing already.
Friday night was abbreviated for me, not much more than the nice high of figuring out something at work, the bus home, and a call to confirm seven a.m. the next morning before going to bed. Still I didn’t sleep well–I haven’t been recently, and not sure why. Dread buildup from the guy I worked with leaving takes a while to dissipate, and the weekend feels packed, even if it’s fun. Being on others’ radar is gratifying but takes up me time. The result is the Saturday morning like those in college where Friday was late but not that late–study is possible and mental faculties are sharp, though a little buzzing at the edges. The trip across Bainbridge and the Hood Canal is picturesque and uneventful. We have grown accustomed to the dog’s whining bouts.
The Lower Grey Wolf River trail popped up on the Washington Trails Association website because it met the criteria: woods, not much gain, dogs okay (“stock okay” would imply dogs–if a horse can go, why can’t a dog?). Previous aborted attempts have allowed me to achieve a level of prepared competence I usually don’t have: directions to the trail, directions how to drive there and back, and thought-through timing so I get back when I need to. We have sandwiches and water. A hike like this is more a determined nature walk than a backcountry adventure, but competence helps.
Ample snow covers the road this first week of spring. We suspect we’ve taken a wrong turn and I back out to turn around when the snow scrapes under the car. Getting hung up on sand in Hawaii was enough in one year for me.
We find the right way and go down, down in first to the first river. Then, up, up to rocks across the road.
The rocks are slight enough and the car rolls over them. We go down the the Grey Wolf itself, up a little hill, then keep going past a trailhead that isn’t far enough ahead to be ours, according to the directions. Encountering more snow we decide it’s a great trail.
My friend’s dog is a greyhound, which is code for signalling her dog is a neurotic but happy mess with a constellation of special needs. With only slight fur doggie gets cold, so he has jammies to wear. These plus the pink doggie sherpa pack and the plaid collar provide sufficient fashion affront to repel any bear or cougar. He doesn’t whine on the trail, though. He likes the woods.
The trail wanders into the woods like a deer path, or trails kids wear: the shortest route behind strip malls and through wooded lots to school, the 7-11, the bowling alley. From the trailhead signs we find this is the trail we want after all. The signup sheet is wet and mold-spotted. The air is muted with sharp cold, heavy damp and pressing clouds.
As we walk this all eases as the light grows. The trail is messy with fallen trees, the forest full of snags and snapped branches; it has been a blustery winter over here. We navigate over and down and up again as the sun strengthens behind clouds.
It’s a good walk. The incline is the right amount of work for my friend who is getting back into hiking after a long hiatus, and the dog will be tired out and not whine all the way home. The trees are quiet, but in spots there are birds. My friend points out cougar prints, deer hooves. I am incredulous that cougars are so prevalent, but she’s studied them. They could be all around and you’d never know they were there.
Reaching the river, we have lunch. The dog is scolded for tireless attempts to eat our food. The water rushes. When the wind doesn’t blow it is bright and warm enough to be perfect, coat unzipped, sitting on a log before an extinguished campfire. Someone has built a shelter for their kindling and bigger sticks out of blown-down boughs and fern fronds. There is a pair of blue lawn gloves under there too. It is dark and dry, like an animal’s house. It’s the kind of thing we would make out in the backlot woods when I was a kid.
It is only two hours to drive here, with thirty minutes on the ferry, and the world is transformed. My mind does not so much chatter as run on automatic, full of the modern world’s sensory overload: constant prattle, color and movement, money’s incessant yammer. The river and the trees are all but invisible until I look through them, their roaring deep noise that is the first silence. Hearing it the other wanders off for something small and shiny. Once it leaves I have the time, at least a little. I can be here now.
All this lies under Seattle, or was there before the white man came. We now escape to places like this because we could not keep what was already there. We take our leave to go what was already there but could not be left intact. Or, those of us who have the work to have the money to buy the things made by the work which destroys the world to escape the artificial to the undestroyed world, at least escape for the brief period we can survive away from it, at least while there are some undestroyed bits. I wonder about this. The radio is always talking about housing starts.
On the way back the sun is full out. I take my jacket off; the dog pants in his jammies. Out on the road sun beams down like a summer afternoon and there is the always strange sensation of never really knowing what season it is here: it is always green, and when it is bright it is very bright. The sky rolls down to the mountains in a great exhaled arc, and the water is blue and calm. I can barely stay awake and give the car back to my friend.
Waiting for the ferry, I turn my phone on. Voicemail, texts. That world has been cached. I answer some, proceed, launch sequence start.
Summer could be here, on the ferry, though the wind is cold. It is so bright, and Saturday still.