Monday, April 12, 2010

Wallace Falls Hikes and Bowling Alleys….

Weekends run by pretty fast – last week, Pensacola, then Jacksonville, the Calgary, then Vancouver, officially stopping by every time zone in the lower 48 – and the lower Canadian Provinces (I don’t really know if there is a different time zone in Alaska, but I will keep this on my list of things to Google when I get somewhere there is internet connectivity) – with my body not quite catching up to figure out where I was, but staying on the natural circadian rhythm that I always seem to have – I sleep when it is dark, I wake up when it starts to get light – and in between, I doze off when I am tired – generally on Sunday afternoons after eating chicken wings and Velveeta Cheese Dip loaded down with Sausage and Rotel canned goodness – but the weekends, no matter what I do to prolong them, move faster than a normal workday – strange how that happens.

See, most weekends, I am with Cadence or the kids – I don’t do weekends by myself or just hanging out with the family, or taking some peaceful free time alone – I just don’t do that – not because I can’t (okay, so honestly, I can’t do that) but because I like to fill that time with those people – they are what I enjoy – and what takes me out of the mindset I carry during the work week and to a place where flip-flops and shorts and t-shirts and doing the dishes later are okay. This weekend, I was up North, and, given that the Seattle weather was warm, sunny, and free of rain – was a great weekend to do just about everything outside – until the sun went down – and then it was just as good to do those things inside –

Friday nights were a big deal at the Harris/Bennett household when I was growing up – we lived in a little house off of Merrill Road, on Dalehurst Drive – a baby shit green and white house with Terrazzo floors and those shutter type windows that were really high up on the walls – we had a normal backyard and could play in the street with little or no fear, and with exception to the groundings for playing “firefighter” and determining it was a good idea to spray water all over everything in the storage shed – life was pretty straight forward and easy. Friday nights, they were the easiest. That was bowling league night – and occasionally, we got to go to the bowling alley with my folks – this was when you could smoke, drink, and bowl all at the same time, and for a ten year old, the bowling alley was a mystical place filled with noisy laughing adults and video games and greasy good food and cold sodas and candy machines. I don’t ever remember bowling those nights, but I do remember wiping nacho cheese and chili from my face and the leathery tough skin of overcooked hot dogs – those were good times – easy good times. So when Cadence said “Let’s Go Bowling” this past Friday night, it stirred up mixed images of the dorky Kingpin nature of the sport, (let’s admit folks, sometimes we think we are just too cool to enjoy bowling), and those images of how much fun I had as a kid hanging out with my brothers and sisters at the bowling alley. For Cadence, saying yes was important (hell prying me away from a $3 table of Three Card Poker is like getting a crackhead away from free drug Fridays) – but it was important for me as well to say yes and head to the bowling alley for a few hours, I figured I could do anything for a few hours. Surprisingly enough to me, the bowling alley was not filled with dorks and deadbeats – it was filled with folks laughing and playing together, and a few of those really serious bowlers with their own custom painted bowling balls and hand sewn leather bags, brightly lit, no loud music or raucous truck stop types – just a bowling alley with a bar and a café and pulltabs and beer – and bowling. We were put in Lane 6, next to four guys, who for the past 17 years, have bowled together once a month while their wives played bunko – they were a mix of good and bad sportsmen – but it did not matter – they were out bowling, and the devil may care attitude of those guys in their early sixties rubbed off on me – it was fun to be out somewhere different, somewhere not so pretentious or stuffy, just a fun evening. The first pitcher (not to be outdone by the second or third pitcher) of beer was cold, and the glasses were frozen just the right way – it matched perfectly with the mini corndogs, the cheese fries, and the mozzarella sticks – all fried goodness that provided the right amount of fat and sustenance to get through the grueling banter between Cadence and I. We bowled four games – each one progressively more competitive, each of us increasing our level of smack talk, smiling in between the comments, offering hollow condolences for a bad shot, secretly (and openly) making it a point to show that one was a much better bowler than the other – funny – our scores got progressively worse – going from somewhere in the 140’s to the final game high of 77 – but by that time, we were deep in conversation with the bunco husbands (Rock was one of the guys, the other names, I forget) and busy pissing away our jointly contributed twenty bucks on pull-tabs (to no avail). I can’t remember laughing that hard and feeling that good at something that did not have a million people surrounding you or bright lights, or loud music – it was just two folks, enjoying a game together – playing. No need to go on anymore – except to say that I hope Cadence saw the same smile on my face that I saw on hers – a little kid with a really heavy bowling ball doing the absolute best to knock over as many pins as possible – no worry in the world about how cute things were or how perfect things were – just laughing and playing and talking – and enjoying the bowling alley.

Waking up Saturday morning was easy – with exception to the rugby knees and elbows creaking a little bit from throwing a fourteen pound ball down the lane approximately 88 times – but we were going hiking. There was a lazy sense of urgency in what we were doing, sleeping in until ten thirty – I had to get the rental car back from my Vancouver trip, we had to get the supplies ready, and we had to motivate to get out into the sun. Things at first, admittedly, were slow because of my pace – I was, once again, half hearted about going up a mountain for 5.5 miles, and driving to do it – don’t get me wrong, I love hiking. I love being outdoors. I love how beautiful the Northwest is – I was just feeling the digestive lack of efficiency brought on by four pitchers of beer, cheese fries, mozzarella sticks, and the bowling ball. The coffee helped, the Starbucks always helps – I think they add meth to that stuff, because no matter what kind I buy for my coffee maker, it just makes me pee – Starbucks makes my heart beat faster, and my body want to sweat. That helped. I don’t think folks appreciate how much work goes into planning a weekend, at least I never thought that the folks around me never really spent much time saying “thanks” for making things happen and getting directions and finding the right spot and having it all laid out for the doing – that is what Cadence did for the hike – she actually found a moderate to difficult hike that was a good second hike for the year (the first was at Red Rock outside of Vegas – a short 3.5 miler through the desert on a windy hot day through the rock formations) – and good preparation for the next hikes with Gabe up in the Northwest over Memorial Day weekend. Cadence does things like that – not because she believes she has to – but because she wants to – she gets excited when people are happy and DOING things with her – and her efforts, I suspect, many times go unnoticed – but this time they did not – thanks Cadence – I appreciate the hard work you put into finding that place-

We made it to the airport, logistically figured out how to get me from the Rental Car deck to her car, and were on our way – I don’t remember talking too much on the way there – I am sure we did, and it probably covered one of the many topics that we normally discuss, future travel, schedules and weekends, frequent flier mile balances, hotel perks, homemade dinners, music, - who knows, I was happy I was not driving, she was happy we were driving somewhere, and that was damn fine enough for the both of us to not go into more serious discussions.

Although we had expected to get to the hike a little earlier, we pulled up about mid-afternoon, and were able to get a lazy parking space right next to the trailhead – and the bathroom – and signed in for our trek at about two o’clock in the afternoon. We hastily sped past the sweaty boy scouts who were waiting on the rest of their troop mates to get down from the falls, and made our way down a power line corridor to the trail – buzzing overhead –

I made Cadence wait to tell me the story of her Grandfather, and her father’s trip to Burma and Myanmar to dig back in that past – how his plane was shot down, he was turned over by the villagers to the Japanese for fear of losing their lives, how he had broken both of his legs, and died in that hospital. We talked about the amazing stories of that generation that go untold, and how, just now, they become more prevalent as we look at the technological advances and how much we are able to discount or not be able to relate to something so primitive as villagers, or propeller aircraft being shot down – and how much things need to be written down about these histories – that they are important, not just to Cadence’s father, but to a slowly disappearing generation of heroes- and that somehow we have a responsibility to honor their lives with our memories – we talked of going to India together to see the final resting place in the Village of the Airplane – and then, we turned into the woods, along the river…

Wallace Falls is nestled somewhere past Goldbar and Sultan and Startup down highway 2 in Washington State – it appeared to be a pretty popular place, we passed all types on the hike, but there was plenty of trail space and plenty of nature for everyone to view – the river itself clamored and pushed its way through heavy rocks and at the shoreline made metallic sounds against the smooth worn pebbles. The hiking was easy at first – the Northwest has a way of carpeting the trails with soft cool leaves and pine needles, and the shade provided by the hazy green forest made it perfect for the blue green ferns carpeting the forest floor and hikers alike – nothing too strenuous, just a stroll. Families congregated along the river banks, and snacked on lunches, taking caution with the smallest of them – to prevent them from experiencing the first snow melt of the season, older couples relaxed at smaller falls and lower elevation – not interested in pushing to the top, but more interested in finding peace at the bottom – and they appeared to be able to.

We came to the first set of falls – the Little Falls – a twenty foot high waterfall – hidden in the woods, on that proverbial “road less travled” but clearly marked by an Eagle Scout’s project – we stopped, took pictures, did the early hike routine – and giggled a bit –

The switchbacks started about another half a mile up the trail – we went from 200’ of elevation to about 900’ of elevation in a little over a mile – not too strenuous, but for some strange reason, it seemed like all of the gains were made in short bursts – those uphill parts where your knees start to complain, and your back hurts just a little, and your legs burn as your lungs try to keep up with the oxygen being spent – we took breaks for water, breaks for pictures, breaks for a kiss or two, breaks for the bird watchers rudely plugging the trail talking about the whimsical nature of the whatchamacallit bird. Most of all we took breaks, I think, to slow the afternoon down – to enjoy the conversation, each other, and the weekend in the outdoors – the fresh air.

The Lower Falls sort of sneak up on you as you push up one last uphill – there is a little yert and covered area – and it looked like this is where most of the families with young children stopped, and prepared to move back down the path – I snapped the photo above, sent it to my son, drank some water, but did not spend too much time – I was there to enjoy the hike, not to listen to children play Nintendo DS while they wolfed down Oreo’s and Doritos and asked their Dad if they could leave yet – I don’t think my kids were really ever that way – Christy and I both love being outdoors, and the kids pick up on that – they hike in Colorado every year, we spend time at the ocean, if anything, their complaints are with not being outdoors enough – and I certainly prefer to hear those complaints than to listen to spoiled children complain about being taken away from their PlayStation for an afternoon so they can get a little Vitamin D in sunshine form (versus Flintstone Candy Flavored Vitamins) – I don’t mind busy trails – just busy picnic sites.

We moved on – the Middle Falls was close – and probably the most difficult part, at least in my opinion – we moved away from the river, deeper into the forest, and the rockiness of the trail became a little harder to navigate, and a little harder on the knees – making all the more reasonable for us to stop on the occasional wood stump bench and drink a little water or share a granola bar – or just laugh at how that the first real uphill of the season is more challenging than the last of the season. The rocks were slippery and formed deep stairs that required you to push yourself to the top, not too many switchbacks, these were just straight uphill pushes, with the occasional break for passers coming down (and we, most times, were more than happy to yield to them) – my heart, in a few places nearly pounded out of my chest, not quite used to the hills, but happy to be on them – Cadence close behind or leading the way in some places – enough for me to make it over another hill – the middle falls were not too spectacular – but it was awesome to see the bowl of water at the bottom carved by years of melting snow and falling water – a huge log, like a stir stick in a cup of coffee sat upright in the splash formed by the falls, refusing to give way or break under the constant strain of the water.

Finally, the Upper Falls- and a precarious seat next to the loud crash of water – although the fastest incline of the entire hike, it was mostly switchbacks, we went about 900’ in less than a half a mile, but zigzagged through old growth trees and fern gardens back and forth – many of the folks we had passed never went much further than the Middle Falls, and they did not get to realize that the hard work had been done, the rest was more rewarding, and the quiet view of the entire valley with the trees swaying, the water fall as a constant backdrop – they missed that part – but Cadence and I smiled as we sat together and ate our lunch of cold pizza and granola bars and dried figs, and poked fun at each others selection of lunch foods (guess who brought the cold pizza) –

Getting to the top was good, healthy, and what those hikes in the preserved parts of Washington are for – being outside for a day, soaking up the smell of damp forest, looking at the green blue fern carpet and the yellow green of the moss on the trees – it made the course all the better – and the company didn’t hurt either.

Until the next hike,


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