Nature Writing

Chronicling nature is one of our specialties.

Sun sets silently on the mountain's Douglas-firs. Andrea Lynn/The Cotton Wolf Company

Secret Trail to Old Growth

By Andrea Lynn

The mucky livestock smell is still here, even though the mule trains stopped climbing this trail more than 100 years ago. It is .9 miles, possesses an average grade of 13 percent, and takes about 20 minutes to ascend at a good clip. A brisk pace, even a run that forces an eruption of earthy sweat up under the wind breaker, is best. It’s easier to manage the trail’s steep grade at a quick pace, and it is effective use of the adrenaline that always flows more abundantly when considering the bear population in these parts. Snug running shoes or hiking boots are necessary to make this trip successfully.

Two dewy noses are tucked into black cotton tails, hiding a few feet away in the brambles near the trailhead. The fawns appear with their mother almost every morning to enjoy the insipid tender ends of the new canes that will hoist next year’s crop of blackberries into the caramel sunshine. This year’s crop is already so ripe the berries smell like cotton candy, their warm leaking juices overrunning the plump berries.

Stepping softly past the fawns and onto the rocky trailhead, the flora of the conifer forest captures the musty aroma put off by the bright green mold clinging between stone crevices. The luscious thicket canopy is always moist, even though the ranger’s fire danger sign in the shape of Smoky the Bear warns of extremely parched conditions. 

The grand trees, more than 200 years old, are the watchmen of the path. It is necessary to suck in breath to pass around them, turning sideways and placing one foot directly behind the other. They are no doubt put off by the dust bombs that occupy space at their hems; pungent parasites. It is difficult to pass by these fabulously playful forest fungi without pausing to crunch one open. It doesn’t take much. A gentle stomp will do the trick, and the burst as the fungus opens recalls the scent of an overly toasted campfire marshmallow. A quicker pace is needed once the fungus dust rises; the stalking cloud of spores is noxious.

Halfway up is the steepest, murkiest part of the ascent. Hooves and four legs would be helpful here. The tight hairpin in the trail mixed with the altitude and steep grade pulls any remaining oxygen out of the lungs. A lost stream sprung from an unseen underground source somehow scampers alongside the trail, wetting the ground impatiently. Slipping and sliding to gain traction, a wet bottom is the inevitable outcome. About 400 yards to the top, the trail’s end still seems a year away. The skeleton of the mammoth fallen cedar blocks the path. Climbing over its chest takes a while; no one wants to disturb whatever lives inside near its foul, sulfur-drenched heart.

Musky incense in the air indicates the end of the ascent. The intoxicating myrtlewoods line up clandestinely behind the pines that guard their secret, and the upper meadow whispers hello, the soothing wave of the foxgloves a chorus in the briny breeze.

Rarest Bird

Tranquil Hike to a Heroine

By Andrea Lynn

 

The flock groused in the distance. They called to one another as they scampered and pecked, individual bodies morphing into a single fluttering beast moving along the wet ground in unison seeking safety beneath the thicket of brambles. When protection could not be found on earth, the sky became sanctuary.

 

Only she remained.

 

Almost stoic, but probably more so the look read determination. Her countenance was quiet, strong, resolute. She protected them with peace, with her body. The rains came and the wind whipped. She sat. Her eyes were piercing, watching. She didn’t flinch. Even when danger posted itself just beside her, she silently stayed.

 

It was the split second when her life hung in the balance that instinct told her to fly. Maybe she mourns; nature should grant her solace - freedom from feelings of sadness and loss. She has nothing to regret; nothing to question. Her duty was fulfilled with courage and grace.

 

Now grace fly her to her new beginning.

 

Old Cedar Board

 

By Andrea Lynn

 

I can only see half of your tightly wound circles now. Partial rings wrapping to nowhere, they were once an elegant interior. You still smell sweetly acidic when the temperature gauge out back makes it to 80. When I catch a whiff of your scent you send me to places far away and I feel safe. I think we needed four-inch nails when we put you in place. You remain solid, but your face has cracks and your ends have slivers. You’re missing a nail? Those still in place appear to have damaged your grain over time, hurting some of your ringlets, sending them farther apart. My right shoe always gets caught on your knot. Not the little one off to the left, but the big one in the center. It protrudes farther upward with every change in temperature as you expand and contract, always adjusting. You squeak now. The high pitch bothers my ears, but I always smile when I step on your sweet spot. The familiar sound soothes me, grounds me in the day. You are always here, in the same place greeting me each morning as I begin my descent into a day’s drama. There will be fresh sawdust on your surface tonight, visible evidence that the carpenter ants have taken up residence once again. They are probably elated that the crumpled dry leaves are settling in beside you to decay in winter’s fog. You are damp, and they can more easily chew their way deep inside your rings, building their nests with fine organic insulation. You will be hollower by spring, and your squeak will grow louder. My knees will take comfort in the increased volume of your creaks when the days are done and I ascend upon you, my reliable friend, last step.

 

 

 

 

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