Silver Lake Mountain goodbye
Birds scream in vowels on this Sunday morning.
It’s probably not just a Sunday thing, probably more a spring thing — about this blue sky and 60-degree day. Still not easy put into pen and ink, but hear me out, these birds are putting the “EEeeeiieeE” in “SprEEeeeiieeEng” here at the base of Silver Lake Mountain.
It is 11 a.m. Here there is: one other car and club moss erupting from the leaf litter. A click beetle looks confused — crawling into leaves, barreling into leaves, among other things flight and leaf related. There’s groaning, settling, sunshine, therapy.
Here’s where the wet leaves are — that have spent months buried, now mashed into an overdressed salad of muck. That’s the trail. You’re morally compelled to walk through. I’m serious. It’s mud season. To do the right thing you have to get your socks wet.
There’s no such thing as just walking, doing the job of getting to the top. If you avoid the muck you erode the trail sides and contribute to the hurt. My whole job here, at the paper, has been to walk down the center and bring the argument, I think.
Either “this is how things are,” or “this is what’s happening.” I spend most of my day hiking around talking to people and asking questions. If you’ve ever argued with me, thank you — then we print it. It being an argument, e.g., “this is how things are,” sometimes someone disagrees — e.g., “This is not how things are.” Maybe it wasn’t club moss or a click beetle. Fair. Most of reporting seems to be admitting that you don’t know and asking someone who does.
But that doesn’t include dudes in ceramic jars. Always ready tell us that it’s all crap. The cynical types who see the entire world in their own reflection. Everyone is out to get theirs, and everything else is lies. Anyone who might ignore that truth is stupid or in on it. Who seeks out information to disagree with it from the jump? Avoid these stove-touchers. Yikes. Stick to the center of the trail …
Not to say criticism isn’t warranted. Just up ahead, there’s a trapezoidal rock with a handsome crewcut. All bushy green moss. With a whole flower sprouting alongside, a spring boutonniere, which I’m excited to describe!
Because my last one of these, maybe rightly, was called “disturbing” and depressing. So let me be giddy like I’m trying to sell you essential oils! Turmeric supplements! Pyramid schemes! Be your own boss!
This is my last one of these. When this runs, it will be my last day at the Enterprise. I’m still happy, have I mentioned that, I’m happy, I’m having a very good day. Good day haver — me. Thank you.
The key to mud season hiking might be to go slow. This mountain is short and safe, climbing anything taller than 2,500 feet is contributing to the hurt. In the cleft of a hardwood tree, there’s a conk about the size of a cereal box. Most of the fungal exterior is crispy and dark, but the underside is tan like animal crackers. And the underside is leaking.
This amber fluid is drooling out in evenly spaced droplets. And hear me out, I did bring water, I promise I did, but whatever is dripping here, it could be good.
The trail narrows through some mud, again. There are some kind of bugs … interested in me and what I’m doing … I don’t know what black flies are and I hope to never find out by playing hard to get. Trees transition to pines. The ground is slippery with dirty orange needles, but there are gaps where someone got bored and didn’t finish coloring the whole earth in. A creek off the right side of the trail is talking.
Lots of snags up here, woodpeckers and fungus holed up so many trunks that remind me of the pores on my nose. Trypophobia.
Someone has stacked rocks in a clearing, and I want to know if that is allowed, Mr. DEC. Are we allowed to stack rocks in the woods?
Figure the top is near because there’s ice now, but it’s old and pitted and pored like the mountain is molting then melting. If our own dead skin turned to liquid as it replaced itself, basic hygiene and the maintenance of our interior spaces would be … worse. Pause while I puke by the trailside. Resume because I held it in. Believe it because I’m a staunch conservationist and would never litter. Is that littering? I don’t like thinking about how much litter I’m carrying around inside me.
Pierced a balsam with my pencil to get at its resin to calm on down. I’m terrified of breaking tree laws but I found an old tree with a branch near the side of its trunk jutting from its side – the kind of tree that, if you drew it, I’d say, “That’s not what trees look like. Haven’t you ever seen a tree?” But I sit down.
There’s a topographic map left behind on one layer of the tree. I think it’s the cambium, anyway, because the pattern here differs from the layer beneath, which looks like normal wood grain. I do not know why that happens. Further down the limb, “HADEN” has been carved. I do know why that happens.
If you’re thinking, “that’s not how things are with this cambium,” feel free. I’m just doing my job. Presenting arguments about tree patterns.
The only other people on the mountain are coming down, and one asks the other, “How long does it take to cook bacon and eggs?” Which is a remarkable question to have lived into adulthood and not know the answer to, but hey, maybe they’d think the same of the gaps in my own wood lore.
The trail transitions to rocks, almost like stairs. Whoever laid the stones in had definitely seen or heard about stairs in their lifetime, but didn’t want to be too derivative of the overall vibe and energy of clean right angles. There’s a good view from here. Two lakes immediately below, one of which, I assume, is Silver Lake. Beats me.
I’m full fruit cop from here on out. A number of mottled orange peels are scattered all along the trail. I’m the only thing standing between this park and ecological devastation via citrus debris. Whoever does this — shame. You’ve broken tree law, you know it, I know it. I’ll forgive a couple of stacked rocks but never this business with fruit.
And all of sudden, without a scramble or serious effort, here is the summit. Mud season hikes are short. Holding yourself back is key. Licking the bottom of every mushroom is optional, don’t do that. Someone has carved a large hand print into the dirt up here. Arcane symbols are painted in bubblegum yellow and blue paint over the rock face.
A canoe drifts back and forth across a small bay in the right-most lake below. An orange bug I can’t identify travels large circles on the rock face. All parties seem to know where they’re going. I might go, I might stay, but I’m going to sit here for a while and be quiet, OK? Goodbye!