It is hard to imagine the warm glow of summer while sitting inside on a cold December day. The low sunlight dances outside the window casting shadows of the few bare leaves that still cling to waving branches. They too will soon scatter like used thoughts. It is also hard to believe that summer will again return for an all too brief spell to bathe us in nature's glories, reborn again and in mere moments lost again, except in memory. We cling to these memories; in the damp Northwest it's the only thing that keeps us sane.
leaf holding a piece of sky
Let the winds dance, let the crystal cluttered leaves remind us of our own multi-celled nature and the fleeting time of our own age. Let's talk about Linney Creek Forest Camp.
Linney Creek Camp is a bit of a conundrum to me. Like many other discarded camps in this post industrial, post clearcut age, it lies near forgotten and at the very edge of our known world. It's a long drive to get there, and isn't really that spectacular - lying shrouded under our familiar deep canopy, swallowed by rhododendron jungle. It was most likely constructed in the Civilian Conservation Corps age of the early 1930s, "make work" projects to save young destitutes from themselves and the society they were unwittingly thrust into.
The road in is long, narrow, rocky and arduous, and due to its high elevation is only accessible for a couple months out of the year before the deep winter snowpack wraps her secrets as presents only to be opened under summer skies.
Constructed in the age of steam by a de-armored WWI tank, an atavism even in it's day, this sometimes treacherous road goes nowhere, ending at this unremarkable place, by Cascades standards at least. The facilities surely included a familiar outhouse, signs, fireplaces, and picnic tables, but all that remain is a flat spot surrounded by the silent trees. Effort was apparently made 20 or so years ago to return notoriety to Linney Creek: a campground clipboard tacked to a tree, and signs proudly announce trails that no longer exist, faded calico print from another time.
end of the road
But I court history like an ugly lover, and am not interested in this modern remake. I am looking for the relics of the older age, and specifically the old trails that predate our foray into mechanized madness. Like capillaries, Mt. Hood National Forest is rooted in ancient routes. Most are lost and forgotten and soon to be erased from this age like everything else.
After much hard work searching for these insane miles in Aztec jungle, I am turned back time and time again by Rhododendron Hell, growing 20 feet and higher right out of the old mountain's routes. Discouraged and bloodied, I am never dissuaded, God knows why. And then without warning, I discover old blazes heading west over these tangled ridges. What a feeling of excitement! And then it becomes clear that these trails haven't felt a foot in many decades.
marking the way
Following and flagging this vague route is very difficult and takes many hours to travel just a short distance. It is well blazed, but hard to pretend it's 1925. Time has moved on in spite of one man's passions.
Randy, or maybe an elf leading the way
And then, just as quickly we lose the old trail like a half blind hound. Tired, we return to camp for the welcome solace of beer and a nice fire to enliven the night. But I dream of horsemen and their bones. In the shining morning I am eager to search and stumble again, to open fresh wounds and nearly break my legs again and again. Why must history exercise a sadistic streak?
A fisherman was born on this trip. Randy, here fresh from the baked streets of Los Angeles has discovered the peaceful joy of waiting for fish with baited hook and line. He is now lost in swimming thoughts and useless to me. Luckily, ancient woodsman Don is here. We will find that damn trail. And we do.
angel from another age
Not to be deterred, we hack our way through the now known section of trail.
We then climb up, up, up, and over. We stumble through tangles of huge trees blown down in furious winter storms. We squeeze through thick tangles of brush like a constipated man seeking sure relief. I fall through gaps in the tangle and nearly break my leg, again. But the blazes are like the sun, fierce and guiding. The old tread somehow survives and guides us ever further west and over a saddle. I am exhausted but wholly delighted.
Imagine! A man has not ventured this way for 30, 40 years, maybe more. The forest sleeps, oblivious to our dreams and reconstructions. The trail is still there, but only survives as a dream. It will take much work to make passable again, a route to and from Nowhere.
This present generation has the unfortunate task of containing, reviving our history at the eve of it's erasure. But how much can a couple guys with hand tools accomplish, following inaccurate maps from 80 years ago?
Then the next new season unfolds. The deep snows melt and new seeds take sprout. These old lines on a map become ever fainter. Our own hands will in time wrinkle and fade, leaving these new dreams as autumn leaves. They too will blow away, to be replaced by the next, and so on into infinity. It's how it all must be.
But some things never change.