This past weekend my husband, two boys and I headed to the Mt. Hood National Forest to camp. The mini-van stuffed full with a tent, blow-up mattress that had a not-so-slow leak, a grill, propane, swimsuits, food, pots, pans, cooler...
We got a campsite along the Salmon River, an icy tributary of the Sandy that meanders down the mountain, tickling over rocks and fallen trees. Sean knows this spot well. He has camped here almost a dozen nights. He gallops down the trail, over uneven rocks and splashes his feet into the water, throwing his arms back and squealing -- his balance certain.
"Careful," I tell him, in the middle the current runs quick and the rocks get larger, more intense. He puts his arms into the water and then dunks his head -- his red hair slick and dark. This is where Sean is the happiest -- away from asphalt and traffic, people and expectations. There is nothing here except thick firs and cedars, blackberry bushes, lush ferns and the rush of the river, his body keeping time with the rhythm of water.
At night, we sit around the campfire, Sean roasting his marshmallow over the heavy flames, the fire licking his melting glob, turning it to a black bruise. He doesn't mind. His lips and fingers sticky with sweetness and ash. He is delighted.
The sky turned into inky blackness. We could see very little but shadows from the fire and the citronella candle burning on the picnic table. The kids and I made our way into the tent, the mattress slowly depleting of air, a mushy sheet of plastic covered in velour, not protecting us from the rocks and sticks underneath the tent floor. My husband slept in the mini-van -- his hip sore and the sight of the dying mattress completely unappealing. We slept soundly, the river rushing with fury and muscle.
In the morning we drive to Lost Lake, a gorgeous alpine lake, crowned with gigantic firs -- the jewel in the middle -- a perfect view of Mt. Hood. My husband and the kids rent a canoe and I went on a hike around the lake.
What I like most about Mt. Hood is the snow that ices it's edges and points. The glacier is resilient, not giving in to the unrelenting heat from the sun. Never surrender. I wish I could have such perseverance, that I could hang on so tightly, the proverbial David battling Goliath. How does it remain so undisturbed by hot, piercing sunlight? In the valley the weather tops ninety degrees, but the mountain remains frozen like held breath.
When I am tired and feel like giving up, I want to remember that view -- the north side of Mt. Hood -- like rippling muscular shoulders with the brightest white snow -- sturdy and dependable.
9 months ago