Archive for October, 2016

First and Last Backpack of the Season: Divide Lake

Posted by julie on Monday, 10 October 2016, 12:08




Is it October? Are the windows of sunshine short and powerful and even more precious after days of rain? Then it’s time to go backpacking before that window closes for good! For our first and last backpack of the season, we hiked to Divide Lake, nestled under Mt. Yoran (yes, there were lots of urine jokes) and just northwest of Diamond Peak in Oregon’s Diamond Peak Wilderness.


My all-time favorite mountain, Diamond Peak, displaying it’s early-season mantle of snow.
The contrails were quite persistent this weekend, which happens, I’ve read, when the stratosphere is humid.

Our trip was sandwiched between a dance class and a soccer game, so, door-to-door, we were gone 24 hours. Even more notably, I don’t think we heard a single complaint, even though Elena’s grown-up-sized backpack was digging into her shoulders.


Elena pointing out the beautiful fall color of the huckleberries

The hike to Divide Lake is 3.7-4 miles with 1000-1200 feet of elevation gain, depending on your source. We forgot any real trail motivators–jelly beans or sour gummy candy–but the kids stayed motivated by coming up with silly book titles and authors. This started with Urine Lake, by I.P. Freely; my favorite, however, was Coyotes, by J.K. Howling.

Most of the uphill to Divide Lake is in the middle mile and a half, so the last ridge walk is a welcome and beautiful cruise into the lake. New snow near the lake meant damp socks, snowballs, and cold fingers! We ran into more people on this beautiful October day (five day-hikers and two backpackers) than we usually see on a summer weekend in Oregon. The backpackers, camped at Divide Lake, had shortened their trip after realizing that there’s already real snow in the mountains.

Once we found a campsite, layered up, and set up our tents, we grabbed our headlamps and headed to an outcrop overlooking the lake, where we ate our take-out burritos as the sky darkened.


Why don’t we have campfires more often?

At 5 a.m., Sylvan coaxed me out of my tent to come sleep under the stars with him. He saw an impressive 11 meteorites before falling back to sleep (We realized before we left town that the Draconids meteor shower would be in full swing, so we knew to be on the lookout.).


Managed to get the bathing suit on, even though the temperature was in the 30s


But this kid is tougher than Mom. He actually swam in the lake, despite the sun still being behind the ridge!

A superb trip. This spot’s a keeper, and so is my beautiful family, with a husband who said, “Yes, let’s go backpacking” (even though we had just 24 hours), and held me to it and kids who are just plain fun and awesome. Oh, and we even heard pikas, the cutest of all the lagomorphs!

Look, we can even be nearly normal. At Notch Lake, because the sun was never shining while we were at Divide Lake.

Look, we can even be nearly normal.
At Notch Lake, because the sun was never up while we were at Divide Lake.







A good-bye

Posted by julie on Wednesday, 5 October 2016, 12:59


Today is one of those days she would have loved. This morning, hard rain washed over the whole world; and, now, the sun shines steadfastly in a blue sky skimmed with fast-moving autumn clouds. She would have asked to go outside, standing patiently by the back door and turning to look at me. Five minutes later, she probably would have stood on the other side of the glass and asked to come back in, maybe meowing or even tapping her paw on the glass. Unless it was one of those days when she lifted her small, orange, dark-rimmed nose to the sun and closed her eyes and realized that she might want to nestle down in the damp grass, like a wild animal. I would have found her there, hours later, fast asleep and oblivious to me, curled up like a fox with her tail over her nose.

My Tephra. The thing about grief is that it feels so profound, so singular. My experience, of losing a cat who’d been part of my family for 18 years—longer than my marriage, older by 7 years than my oldest child—is hardly exceptional. Every day, people lose family members, pets, and pets who’ve become family members. That is life; it is paired with death. None of us escapes.

But I hadn’t lost Tephra. Not until last week. To me, she was singular, exceptional. Her death is profound.

Now, I walk around this house, which is deeply empty except for me, and I catch Tephra in everything. Anything cat-sized near the floor fools my eye. The laundry basket at the top of the stairs, the compost bucket just outside the back door, the pile of clothes left just outside the shower—I look again, then I feel my heart fall. They are just the laundry basket, the compost bucket, and the pile of clothes. They will never again be Tephra, ready for a scratch behind the ears or a long pet down her silky back.

I return to my desk and watch the clouds skidding across the fall sky, Tephra’s hair still stuck in the window screen. I tilt my face to the sun, and I close my eyes and sob.