March is a very special time in our part of the Northwest.
For the most part, the snow and cold rain are over. We are able to escape our square cocoons, blow the roof off the house and escape into the wild. What a feeling!
Granted, this miracle appearance of the sun is no guarantee.
In most of the Mt. Hood National Forest, winter's cloak is still many feet thick, obscuring the high country for a few more months. This is not the case in the dry eastern part of the state, in the sagebrush rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains. This is our Mecca, our Promised Land of winter's deliverance.
Imagine! Sitting outside!
It has become a tradition to seek out the March sun in the Badger Creek area.
Eva and I leave Portland early in the morning, negotiating a sea of clouds and rising on thermals of golden sunshine. What will be waiting for us at camp?
Each year, our Badger Creek camp is different. There are always new places to explore, crazy extremes of weather, and a new assortment of hearty campers.
Usually it is too cold for kids, but this year Eva decides she's tough enough. True to form, she delights at the ever forming clouds as she romps about the camp like a maniac.
This year, our camp is along an old logging road down an insignificant ridge.
The trees are thin due to the near reach of the desert, and the cleansing hand of fire.
But, like most forgotten places near Mt. Hood, it too holds its secrets.
Of course, the old maps are pretty silent on the subject, until that nagging curiosity changes dotted lines into something tangible.
Old roads are really old trails, some times.
But what is this? The gloom has parted?
We sit speechless, as somehow the skies light up like a Caribbean summer and the temperatures begin a steady climb, 70, 75....80 degrees Fahrenheit!
But this is still March, despite the weather. The days are getting longer, but night still falls pretty quickly.
Who knows what awaits us the next day...
And yet, somehow, another beautiful morning.
This hunch turns out to be true. The upper 1/2 mile of the old trail is lost to a now old road.
But it is still an incredible day in the lodgepole pines.
Although the upper trail is pretty much gone, there are other artifacts left to rot for decades, as forgotten as the old men and their trails.
There is still an afternoon to bask in this fleeting light, to go back to camp and enjoy a beer and good company as the evening falls.
There is never enough time. I watch my daughter sprout up before my eyes, and my hair turns gray like sudden snowfall. I wish to hold time in my hand, trap it like a moth. But it is designed to run free, a mercury waterfall without pause. We grow, change, evolve, decay, and return.
Through, and often in spite of our best efforts, we complete our countless journeys - with heavy hearts, and hearts as light as air. Together, we celebrate, as much as we mourn.
After another day of boundless beauty, it is time to return again to the responsibility of those 4 walls.
Back to cleanliness, to order, and all other civilized virtues.
Away from the hot sun, and a return to dripping moss.
I will camp for the rest of my years, and I swear it will never be enough.
These days are the greatest gift of my life.