Staggering along dead tired, less than halfway up Black Butte on this warm sunny August afternoon, I kept hearing myself mutter, “Whose damn idea was this anyway?” And through my parched lips the muttered answer came, “You, you idiot.”
It always seems like a good idea to climb Black Butte when I’m coolly sitting at the kitchen table of our Metolius river cabin, reading the Bend “Bulletin” and having a breakfast of blueberry pancakes at the eminently reasonable hour of noon.
It doesn’t seem like such a good idea when we arrive at the trailhead. A glance at the sign reminds me that though the distance to the top seems short, “seems short” has a different meaning when it is all a steady uphill. And what is with the X through the “2” and the etched-in “3”?
Somebody is trying to send a message to me. Is it really two miles that feels like three miles? Or is it really three miles that feels like whatever three steep, hot, dusty, sunny miles feel like? Or is it two miles if you’re under 50, and three miles for the couple currently reading the sign? I haven’t taken a step on the trail and already I’m lost.
Things didn’t get any better when I quickly realized that Laurel is in better uphill shape than me. My male ego (is there any other kind?) refuses to admit that she is in overall better shape, but when it comes to striding up the side of a mountain, or climbing the stairs in a shopping mall, she leaves me gasping for air, staring at her eminently starable backside receding into the distance.
This was my view for most of the hike up, staring at tiny dots of a fit blonde woman and her not-yet-exhausted canine companion far above me on the trail. They waited for me to catch up now and then and I’d unashamedly lie, “Been stopping to take lots of pictures.” Also, to relieve the pounding in my chest and the sweat pouring off my forehead.
As is usually the case with mountains, I forgot about all my griping and moaning on the way up once we reached the top. “The tougher the climb, the more beautiful it is at the top” is a semi-cliché that nonetheless holds true in so many aspects of life.
I am fascinated by the cabin that the people who man (and/or woman) the fire lookout on the Black Butte summit live in. This is my fantasy, to live on the edge of civilization, perched on the edge of a mountain, marvelous views in every direction, sustained with just the bare necessities of life.
Which, when I think about the situation more realistically, would include for me: satellite television, computer and Internet access, rental DVD movies, air conditioning, daily mail and UPS delivery, easy access to organic health food, an athletic club, bookstores, and other conveniences. And that’s only the beginning of my “bare necessities” list. So this cabin fantasy likely will remain just that, a fantasy. But I still spent a lot of time today staring at this can’t-beat-the-view home, imagining myself living a really simple life.
Laurel met an overly tame chipmunk which evidently is filling the evolutionary niche of Animal Sustained by Treats Provided by Hikers Sitting on Black Butte Summit Bench. Naturally the always prepared Laurel had a perfectly healthy chipmunk treat with her, some unsalted nuts. The whole time we were feeding and taking photos of the chipmunk, Serena, wonder dog that she is, was fruitlessly looking around for chipmunks in some rocks thirty feet or so away.
We kept whispering to Tame Chipmunk, “hurry up and get your treats while the dog thinks you’re over there.” I succeeded in getting a close-up of our new friend that is the stuff dog’s dreams are made of. View it and weep, Serena.