Yesterday I was out exploring a new place along the Twisp River and realized something really incredible about coming north to work in the Okanogan country–1200 miles of trails I haven’t ever been on.
For the last twenty-five years I have worked on the same ranger district and grown intimate with several hundred miles of trail. That’s a long time to get to know every twist and turn, every ridge and draw, every brush patch and swamp. I can pass a log I cut in the 1990s and notice how it’s decaying and settling into the ground. Or the place where Petri ate the grub, where Jarrett missed the junction and ended up going the wrong way, where Jen sang her a capella version of “I Can See Clearly Now” while we cut back vine maple after a rain storm. Several hundred miles of memories lie at the southern end of the North Cascades. But here in the north North Cascades there are only memories yet to be made.
There are familiar, home-like elements here. The wild creek roar of snow melting in the high country. A pink calypso orchid in the shade. Douglas-firs and ponderosa pines anchor roots in rocky fractured ground. Cottonwoods leaves reflect the bright May sun, still tender and bright spring green. Filaments of spider web catch light and I marvel at the delicate strength. Some people don’t like spiders but I have always been amazed at their ability to persist and even thrive in the woods. These shy creatures mind their own business. They belong.
It’s good to hike. Much of my work time is spent working out logistics and ramping up for another season of trail work. Part of the job is helping set up an irrigation system, take care of 19 horses and mules, buy batteries for radios and make sure the crew has all the first aid supplies they need. This all must be done so that there can be more hiking.
There are 1200 new miles, way more than I will be able to cover in the few months that I am here. But maybe I can get to a couple hundred of that…