Up before the sun on Saturday morning, not intentionally but you make the best of it. Hobble downstairs stiff and sore, your feet hurt, your back hurts, you have your typical morning headache, you slept like crap but hey you do know that you are alive!! Make your way to the miracle maker…. ( most people call them a Keurig but not you…) it’s set to come on at 5 AM on it’s own, but that’s still more than an hour away….turn it on and, put in the second to last Starbucks Tribute Blend K-Cup …. you feel a sadness that there’s only one left, but it’s OK you still have 6 boxes of Tribute VIA that consoles you….Grab your mug, put it under and hit brew….and the miracle that is coffee appears in your cup. Taking the cup you head to the back porch. It was a beautiful night and the pre-dawn birds are just starting to chip, you hear a robin chip chip cheerioing like a proper British Lady who’s had a few pints too many. The cheep cheep cheep cheep of the chickadees, the squeaks and chirps of the swallows….. the temperature is just right for your robe. One hand holding the mug of coffee, you cup the other around the rim, putting your nose to the brim breathe in the earthy steam rising off of the dark, soothing liquid… your first sip is a tentative slurp off the top to get the herbal flavor across your tongue and to make sure it’s not too hot….perfection in a cup…
Sitting back in your lawn chair, drinking your coffee, you take in the predawn quiet, but you realize it’s not so much quiet as it is peaceful. The sounds of life without man’s “noises”. You secretly pretend that it’s post apocalyptic times but everything still works there’s just no people except you and your loved ones….no terrorists, no evil aliens, no funky diseases just you and nature and your friends and family…no wars, no pollution, no abuse..no negativity at all….. peaceful…. you sit and quietly sing “Imagine” by John Lennon, so quietly you’re not so much singing as just imagining the song is there in the air around you, it’s easy if you try…
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will live as one
The sunrise isn’t far off, the sky is brightening up, your 1st cup of coffee is gone…and the first dilemma of the day hits you…. do you take the last Tribute K-Cup? It’s your favorite….. or do you save it for another day??? It’s decided you choose Sumatra as your next cup. As you start on your 2nd cuppa joe, you give yourself permission to come back to reality. Power on the laptop, check email, check Facebook, catch up on your words with friends games… check the news and weather, the news stinks… the weather well, some would call it fabulous 80’s today.. you would call that way too hot… your spouse tells you that’s because you never wear shorts but that’s not it…. you grew up in the hot and humid Midwest and South, shoot you lived in Exmouth, Western Australia for 3 years where it was 120 in the summer and no less than 70 in the winter…. all in jeans and cowboy boots…. or full military gear…no shorts…. unless you’re at the beach or camping. Been there, done that and settled in Western, Washington where it’s moderate temperatures most of the year… so if it’s gonna be that “hot” you better consider getting out early and getting your walk on……
It’s a personal challenge to you to be 6’2″ and 266 pounds and still have ninja like skills… but you take that challenge seriously, you’ve used it to sneak up on deer and elk for archery hunting…you’ve used it to sneak out of the house as a teenager …it’s an art that’s for sure…and you employ those skills to get back upstairs without waking your wife, who doesn’t need a wink of beauty sleep, but you do want her to be well rested…you’re so good even the dog doesn’t wake up! You have an awwwwwwe moment quietly to yourself as you see her laying there sleeping so peacefully with your dog laying next to her with his head on your pillow…you really want a photo of that to enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of the moment but you know better…. so “click, click” in your minds lens as you capture the mental image of ones you love to store in your mind when you need it, which is pretty often….. you force yourself to leave the beautiful view so as not to disturb them and make it to the master bath , stealthily close the door, turn on the light in the closet and get dressed. You put on your typical jeans and tee shirt, pull on your socks, take your morning pills, turn out the light and sneak back out….. your next dilemma of the day is to wake her and tell her what you’re doing or just leave a note…… lately you’re not in the best of health so you decide you’d better wake her briefly to tell her what you’re doing, or face some wrath if you’re not back before she wakes up…. honey, sweetie… huh what? what are you dressed for? what time is it? … shhh it’s 5:30 and go back to sleep I’m just going for a dawn hike, I’ll be back soon ..you crazy…ok but be careful, are you taking Duke? No, not on this one, I want to explore some new trails and he’s still tired from yesterday’s walk… ok..Love you… Love you more… a quick kiss and downstairs you go, pull on and lace up your diesels….( you call your hiking boots diesels because – dees’ll get you here and dees’ll get you there, dees’ll get you everywhere!) , grab the camera , stick a bottle of water in your back pocket, clip your trusty Leatherman, flashlight and buck knife to your belt and head out the door…….ah crud… you forgot your cell phone… go back and grab it, only because it has a GPS tracker app on it so your wife can track you due to your health issues…. ok now hit the pavement. Up the street, dawn is just breaking ..
“morning has broken” is running through your head….. you get to the trail head and into the woods. The fresh aroma of spring is in the air, temp is in the 50’s – just right for a hike. It’s still a little dark on the trail, you are surrounded by douglas fir, cedar, maples, cottonwoods all with new growth, you can almost hear them reaching up to the sun…stretching their limbs, the new leaves unfurling to take in the sun. Releasing the pure oxygen touched with each of their scents….you’re wrapped in their life giving beauty and drawn deeper into the woods. You come out of your nature trance as you come to a road that you have to cross, checking both ways, there’s not a soul in sight, that’s nice….. cross and back into the woods…. another mile and you come to one more road, next are the railroad tracks… you go down the hill and even though you know there aren’t any trains, your life has taught you to look both ways and even feel the track to be sure there isn’t a final light at the end of your tunnel on the way for you… you debate putting your ear to the track just for old times sake but figure if you get down there you might not get back up….so you cross over the tracks and head up the hill on the other side. You’re soon surrounded by old grow the forest.. trees as big around as a corn silo from the midwest.. moss all around them, no way to tell which way is North by the trees here… you wonder how many critters live up in those high boughs…. it’s hard to leave behind the magnificence of old growth, except you have the hope that you’re going to get to the bog, the stream and the lake where you ran into the river otter when last you were here…. you part ways with 100+ years of beauty and move down the trail to the clear-cut where the high tension power lines run… all the way to Canada… power generated by our dams and delivered all along the way up and into Canada… you can feel the electricity in the air as well as hear the crackles and pops… not much wildlife here… just the blackberries, grasses, weeds and scotch broom (noxious and invasive plant).. it can be pretty at times, but it grows so fast and dense that it takes over…
(View facing south-east from the powerlines)
As you make your way across the clear-cut you see a black bird high up in an old snag. You guess by it’s size and the neck feathers that it’s a Raven. You love seeing Raven’s in the wild as you know intimately how smart they are, that they are self aware and problem solvers… and they are believed to be the creator and the trickster… in your heart you know how special these birds are..so special to you that you honestly don’t think of them as “birds” , you think of them all as friends….(even though you know if you keeled over right now it would come eat your eyeballs) you raise the camera to your eye, zoom in and your suspicion is confirmed, snapping a few photo’s you say hello dear friend, thank you for watching over me on my hike…and allowing me to photograph you.
(The Raven at the edge of the tree line high up in a snag)
You cross the man-made swath of land and reenter the forest. It’s daylight now, 6:30AM slightly overcast but warming up quickly… you’ve already got sweat on your brow. you walk down the trail a bit and come to a stream running in a draw under the trail…you look closer at the trail and think..this must be an old railroad track or something and make a mental note to research that…. but for now, you need a break…. stop and enjoy the sound of water running through the forest , take out your own bottle of water and grab a sip… between the two of them it makes make you have to pee..go figure… good thing you’re a guy… the world is your urinal… you find an animal trail that leads down towards the stream and find a tree, take care of business and break time is over..
(The stream from the trail looking southwest)
(The animal trail you “went” down and the stream on the other side of the trail – North East)
You leave the Bob Ross like “happy little stream” with the happy trees over there and the happy bushes and ferns over here…. and you head on down the trail… the trail that from a distance looks like a tunnel…. to you it’s a tunnel to tranquility because you know what lies on the other side… to some that haven’t been there it may be a tunnel of trepidation or even even fear… but not you…
about halfway through the “tunnel” there is a small offshoot trail… you know this is the way you want to go based on smell alone, even if you didn’t already know this was the way to the “Black Lagoon” where you met Mr. Otter before… you can tell. You’ve got a decent knack of direction and a sense of where you are in the forest in relation to known points…it’s a downhill narrow winding trail that takes you to the edge of the lake, back through the wetlands and forest, twisting an turning. About a mile later you hear a KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK ……..KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK ooh a woodpecker is close! Could be a downy or a hairy, probably is a Northern Flicker you’ve heard them in the woods this morning calling and knocking far off… but this is close! Well no matter which kind it is you want a photo!! Into super ninja birder mode!!… Watching every step, you go off the trail, make yourself invisible to sight and sound….you locate where the sound is coming from… a standing mostly dead (“There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive” ~ The Princess Bride) Douglas Fir…..but dadgum scots broom is in the way of where the KNOCK KNOCK KNOCKING is coming from…. WAIT…… you see a flash of red… could it be a Pileated Woodpecker?? nah still probably downy or hairy no way you’d get this close to a Pileated….and it probably wouldn’t be that low to the ground…only 4 feet up the base of the tree… Here’s what you see at first:
so you need a better angle obviously….. Ninja Skills re-engage!! sneaking over and around logs and brambles, brush and branches you make your way to a large Cedar about 20 feet from the subject… you sneak the camera out from around the tree and snap a photo , bring it back to you and you see the object of your desire…. it’s a blurry photo of a Pileated Woodpecker!!
HOLY CRAP this is soooooooo cool…… ok calm, ninja, calm ninja…. sooooo cool….so you get on the ground and say a quick prayer to Mother Nature to please let you see this amazing bird in action… wiggling, quietly, slowly creeping your way around you put your head out around the tree and you see him…pounding away at the tree, chunks of tree are flying off and he’s seemingly oblivious to your closeness , his focus is intent on getting to the bugs and goodies in the mostly dead tree..that’s what’s on his mind at the moment…. you inch the camera up and grab a few photos, thinking he’s bound to notice you at anytime and be gone in a flash and laughing at you like Woody Woodpecker… you’re actually able to get some decent shots…. you are THRILLED and even though you could sit here all day, you have bugs crawling on you and a spider on your arm… go on now little spidey you’re tickling me…. You creakily get back to your feet, can’t stay still for too long or things lock up on ya…. back behind the tree , brush off the dirt and put little spidey friend on a leaf and wish her well.. there’s no way at this point that the bird is still there… but sure enough he is..you’re now in full view so you raise the camera and grab some video of him going to town on the tree……carving out his rectangles…
you silently wish him well and you hit the trail back towards the bog and lake………..TO BE CONTINUED…..
Will you see the Otter? What other wonders await you on the morning hike? Do you want to know?? Did you make it home? Did you get lost in the wilderness for days??? If you want to finish the walk let me know in the comments below….