Patrick and Kay, a couple in their 40’s headed south, told us of a place north of Burney they had dubbed the “Horizontal forest.” Fierce winds had felled groves and groves of trees. The blow downs created a dense mish-mash jungle-gym of obstacles. As we were only near Terminal Geyser at the time we sort of shelved it and moved on. Thirty waterless and reportedly hot miles on the Hat Creek Rim seemed a more immediate concern. Today some anticipation began to leak out as we began to wonder when we would happen upon the mess. As the miles piled up outside of Burney we did notice that the blow downs were bad. “Just as bad as they’ve been since Echo.” I mused. At fourteen miles north of Burney Pat and Kay’s, “Right out of Burney,” comment was safely in the past. We smugly laughed and thought about how their perceptions of how bad blow downs could be would change as they continued to clamber over them for hundreds of miles south. In the end, their description could never hold a candle to how bad the mile we high stepped, climbed, ducked, and crawled through an utterly desiccated horizontal forest really was.
Mt. Shasta sat patiently, its peak piercing a cloud bank. It was not enough to simply dwarf all of its surroundings. Someday it would vehemently blanket all the land in a torrent of ash and mud, possibly lava. For today it seemed content to sit and let our eyes feast on its massive east face. The view reminded me of pictures I had seen of a larger mountain far to the north. “I wonder what Rainier looks like when you get this close?” My question silenced us both. No sooner than it passed my lips did we both realize that we weren’t going to be finding out. At least not this round. The only views of Rainier we have a shot at on this trip will be printed on aluminum cans.
I have had three minute flashes of the intensity of emotion that would overcome me at the Canadian border. Today I had the most compelling, and fourth, such incident. It was very different than the previous one in that instead I envisioned Oregon. Great heaps of joy secretly came to me. I may not miss the upheaval after all. We have walked a leisurely twenty miles today yet I feel destroyed. Another indicator that Dylan made the right decision for us both yesterday. Hot baths and ice cream certainly won’t be begrudged.