Monday, August 8, 2011

Hiking: Take 1

posted by Melissa
Mount St. Helens and Spirit Lake
After a gorgeous weekend on the Oregon coast with friends, Jamie and I set our sights upon Mount St. Helens.  Neither of us had been there before, and it was a clear day for viewing.  The sun was out, and so I thought a hike was in order.  Especially seeing as it was already a week into hiking & backpacking month. One of my picks. (I often go back and wonder why...truly wonder why I pick some of the things I do.  More on that to follow, likely all month long.)

Mount St. Helens was majestic and impressively large.  The hour long drive off of I-5 takes you closer and closer, and night I add higher and higher.  The drive out there had my hands shaking on the steering wheel.  I would get a shudder of nervousness through my body at every edge and bridge.  "Don't look" became my motto.

After getting some great views of the once intact mountain that is now forever in everyone's mind as we try to imagine what it was like for it to blow, Jamie and I set off for the hike.  The real reason we drove all this way.  (Truth be told, mine may have been more to walk on the sidewalk up to the viewing platform and snap a few shots of the volcano, but anyway.)  We pulled off into S. Coldwater Creek trailhead and set off on the dusty, dry path.

It was sunny and dry, wildflowers were out and you could see mountain after mountain in the distance.  It was quite lovely, visually.  Then I quickly started imagining my fear inspired what-if scenarios.  I started to speak to Jamie, up head.

"What if we see an animal?" I started off with broad strokes of trepidation, it could be any animal.

Just then two large birds startle and emerge like a shot from a low tree just to my right.  Jesus christ.  My heart was racing, but I thought that maybe I got out that silly fear, and we forged ahead.  Then the sunny warmth, and my lack of fear both met their demise.  The path lead into a thick, dark covering of trees.  Bugs were everywhere.  I swallowed my re-emerging dread and kept walking.

Not ten minutes later a snake slithered dangerously close to my foot.
I let out a loud shriek, and jumped backwards.  A flipping snake.  After much discussion, we decided, yet again, to go on.  Jamie went first and right after he passes, the damn snake shot back out of the brush and stopped right there on the trail, between me and Jamie.

"the snake"
"I can't do it.  I cannot walk past that snake." I said to Jamie.

And between my cowardice and self-contempt for not being able to just do this, I started to cry.  Jamie said it was a real, big, frowny face Melissa kind of cry.  But I disagree, I think I held it somewhat together.  And you know what?  Jamie was scared too.  For real.

At this point, Jamie got a big stick and somehow, heroically, managed past the snake.  And we got the hell out of those dark woods.  Mentally, the rest of the hike back was panic ridden, with my certainty that a cougar was going to jump out at any moment.

We made it, though.  Back to the car, and finally to a nice "hike" on a cement path leading to a beautiful lake.

I do not want to be this fearful, timid person.  It just happens.  And when it does, I don't know what to do.  I panic, I want to be anywhere other than in the wilderness or up high on a mountainside.  And I wonder, not unlike other things I have done on this blog...What was I thinking?

Safely in the car and on the way back to Seattle, while waiting through hours of traffic, I was listening to a news radio program.  In the first ten minutes I heard these two stories:

-a 60 yr old man was "gored by a mountain goat" and died last year at the Olympic Mountain National Park.  His family is now suing the park on grounds of negligence.

-a man in Auburn was walking his dog this weekend, when we was attacked by a black bear.

Enough said.  Have a great Monday people.
-Melissa

5 comments:

Melissa Baumgart and Amy Baranski said...

that's a big snake! what kind is it I wonder... - Amy

Melissa Baumgart and Amy Baranski said...

My guess is a NW Gartner Snake:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Garter_Snake

Melissa Baumgart and Amy Baranski said...

yes, Amy...I know. Totally poisonous, huh? ;)
-melissa

Melissa Baumgart and Amy Baranski said...

good thing it wasn't a rattler!

Melissa Baumgart and Amy Baranski said...

seriously, a gartner snake? god we're wimps.

jamie