I’m writing this one on the pine top of the Wildwood Bar. There’s no one here but me and Dyl. He’s tending bar. Ashley, the owner and proprietor, is upstairs taking care of some business with the bar maid. B.B. King is playing out of four speakers. We are two happy men. Lord life is good.
THE UNABONGER told us that upon entering Seiad Valley bypass the store and post office and head strait down the road a mile more to the Wildwood Lodge. This is advice directly contrary to the instincts of every hiker. Handfuls of blackberries on the side of the highway were not satiating the either of us. Coming upon the store in a down pour we were drastically disappointed to find it closed. In need of some food we remembered back to his advice. After a failed attempt to call the place for directions, we sullenly set out in the rain in hopefully the right direction.
It looked warm and inviting. About ten people were sitting around the bar with a couple more shooting pool. Noticing our hesitation upon seeing the closed sign a woman on the porch told us, “He didn’t notice the last two people that went in there.” Dyl sauntered up to the bar and declared, “We heard thirty miles back on the trail that you make a mean pizza.” Ashley, the owner and proprietor, put his hands on the rail hung his head in dismay and offered up a wide grin. “So, you two met THE UNABONGER.” We laughed in realization of THE UNABONGER’S wake of destruction “The cook,” he told us “is drunk.”
“That always made the pizza better when I was cookin’ it.” Dyl volleyed. With my privileged seat at the bar I could see Ashley stumbling around the kitchen violently chopping up vegetables and hand tossing the crust. A true pizza Artist. Though cutting a clean cut image with his close cropped hair and red polo shirt, Ashley had clearly out drunk every long haired biker hippie redneck in the Wildwood Lodge.
The pizza was absolutely exquisite. We told him we didn’t care as long as there was no meat. I’ve never eaten a pizza with carrots and turnips and beets on it before. Certainly not the fresh from the garden out back variety. People gradually meandered off or were thrown out by the bar maid who was putting up a good second to Ashley’s belligerence. He told us we could camp out in the yard. We thanked him and returned the favor by asking if there was anything we could do for the two of them. “Yea,” he mumbled “get on this side of the bar and we will get on that side.” Once behind the taps, I asked him what he was drinkin’ and he flatly replied, “Diet Pepsi.” I got him his order from the fridge and served it up. “Beer gets so fuckin’ old.” He stuck out his tongue in disgust. A man that knows what he’s talking about. Dyl and I began to clean up the bar. The bar maid walked out to her car with Ashley. They hung out a spell before coming back in and heading right up the stairs. We were left to hold down the fort. Stuffed in a little nook behind the bar was a yellow afro wig. I tossed it to Dyl who promptly put it on.
We swept up and put all the bottles in the bin and all the dishes in the kitchen. Dyl was wiping everything down so I went back to the sink and began to run the water for dishes. A chorus of yells erupted from somewhere upstairs. Ashley immediately appeared stark naked and dripping on the stair well. Seeing my good intentions he laughed, slapped his leg and quickly explained to me that running the sink cut off all the hot water in the shower. I apologized and gave up on the cleaning to sit and write all of the above.
The bar maid and Ashley returned and lit each others cigarette. She dragged on hers staring intently at the yellow fro wig on Dyl’s head. “You can’t wear that wig without strippin’.”
“Bar tradition.” Ashley was grinningly backing her all the way. Dylan, unbeknownst to them, has quite a history of getting naked in public situations and was free of his cloths in no time. He wandered around the bar and they went back out to her car. Momentarily, Ashley was yelling for him. “Hey! Get out here. You gotta’ stand on the double yellow line of the highway!” Dyl stood and even cartwheeled to the dry clapping and whoops from a group sitting at a picnic table in front of the neighboring trailer park.
He went to put his cloths back on. The bar maid drove off and I set about to making some phone calls. Ashley has put on Jethro Tull, CRANKED it, and is rocking a mean air guitar. Not ten minutes had passed when Dyl all wide eyed came up to me, “Ashley told me there were two beds upstairs, that we were welcome to stay, and then he just drove off.”
Those Marble mountains were beautiful. I had no idea they even existed. Now, I will never forget. The walk has reaffirmed some things for me. There are beautiful places on earth that not too many people know about or go to. For the first time since before I was too naive to know better, I think there are plenty of beautiful people on earth too. Lots of ’em. At a campground six miles up from Seiad a woman made us some sandwiches. Someone else gave us pack food. Ashley, in addition to leaving his home and business in our hands merely hours after meeting him, made us a pizza when his bar was closed and he was obviously in poor shape. It was a damn good one at that. We are close to Oregon. The border is our destination. We will go to Hyatt Lake to get Dyl’s birthday cake from the P.O.. We may, though, hitch there so we have time to get to Johnny Cash playing on Dyl’s birthday in Jacksonville. I love life so much that I have to hold back sentimental tears for things that are happening to me right now.