Lilies and an Amphibian

Fritillaria lanceolata

Yesterday was what it was; today was quite different. Blue sky, and clear over the crest. No clouds at all, no wind. We worked one valley west of where we’d been the day before.

Kachess Ridge trail is one that stands out in my memory, even though all the seasons on it blur together. I could not tell you what year it was that I camped in the upper meadows, or the time I came face to face with a mountain goat kid on the trail. Or the time I hiked down with John and we cut log after log till nearly dark. Or how many times I tried to put a sign up at the Silver Tie Trail and some renegade kept taking it down. How many times I’ve lugged a chainsaw up or down it, cut brush, cleaned the drainage dips, hammered away at narrow rocky switchbacks. My trail eye is usually activated, and I keep in my mind all the places I’d like to make better. One of those spots was a big step along a rocky outcrop. There was a doug-fir snag on the outside edge, and one of its big roots created the step. An awkward place for horses and mountain bikes, since the consequences of a a misplaced hoof or wheel would send them over the steep bank.

I was surprised to come up to that familiar place today and find the snag tipped over across the trail. After all these years, it finally came down. Rick sawed it, and we pushed the heavy chunks down the hill. As we cleared the debris, Brian found a small Long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum) hiding under a piece of bark, and tucked its yellow-striped black body in a damp seep. I took the opportunity to clamber up on the outcrop to look at plants. After all the rain, the wildflowers are flourishing, and rocky places often have unusual combinations. The chocolate lilies are starting to bloom. Their subtle coloring does not contrast with the woods and rocks, but get close up to see how striking they are. They are not really brown, but a sort of mottled purple and green. When lit by the sun, the center glows yellow. I could let my gaze fall into them while I perch there on the soggy ground, the muddy knees of my work pants and sweaty shirt drying in the warm sun.

My big conflict these days (and always) is between allowing myself to fall into a wordless wondering reverie, and the driving sense of duty to pick up the tools and see what work lies ahead on the trail. What would life be without some sort of tension?

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