Rounding Rainier

Amidst visitors, jaunts to San Diego, A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed in a “black rock amphitheatre,”  fresh Frazier River sockeye at a “Happy Little Farm Party,” more home-grown produce than two people could possible consume (yes, zucchini and peas and beans, I’m talking about you) and soaking up as much Washington sun as humanly possible, N and I found a week to get away from it all.

It only took us two hours, but the drive ended where the trail began, the start of what we both consider the most epic backpacking trip we’ve ever taken–beating out even NZ, says N. These smiles should say it all:

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And because words nor photos could do the trip justice, I’ll just dole out a bit of both, and tell you that this little 38 mile jaunt, with its snow-capped peaks and glacial tilled valleys, its wonderland of wildflowers and pockets of pristine forest is worth moving to Washington State for. Okay, a visit will do too. But be sure to pack your dehydrated food and your open-air tent; the weather is balmy and the mossies biting–the sweat and bite marks evidence of a journey well spent. The views don’t hurt either.

Fresh feet and smiles at the trail head of the Northern Loop

The carpet of wildflowers swayed with the wind and wafted sweet scents

Nikolai’s charming hat, Sam, is not only useful for fending off mossies but also for holding your trough when your hands are too tired.

Narrow trails through the forest floor conjure joy for the soul

And climbing 3,000 feet in one 14 miler of a day conjures wincing quads and lungs.

Water abounds for washing, pumping, and gazing

Another climb reveals another peek at the face of Rainier

Aptly named Mystic Lake

A suspension bridge that swings and squeaks with every step you take over the Carbon River

How can you not grin while trekking through fields of Glacier Lilies?

The wake of a mighty glacier

At 6,700 feet, we lunched while watching the specks that were climbers descending from the summit of Rainier

It’s not hard to figure out  why they call it the Wonderland Trail.

Between the Pages: I Recant–Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Do you know about my long-standing nemisis with this man?

It’s an old, Snape-like grudge, and it goes like this:

Wayyyy back in 2001 or some such inconsequential Muggle date, I hit the backcountry for three weeks with one–ONE–novel in tow. The plan was to read and swap as my backpacking buddies finished their picks. Caught up in the madness that was–is…has it ever gone away?–I scooped up HP and the Chamber of Secrets. Book Two.

Picture this: glorious treks over King’s Canyon peaks, meadows of wildflowers in a California spring, MREs brought to life with just a splash of boiling water. Me, tucked in my down sleeping bag, headlamp blazing, ready to be entertained. Nights of reading lay ahead.

If only someone had told me that number two was the worst of them all. That it would be mindless drivel without the context and set-up of book one. If only someone had shaken me and shouted, “Linsey! Go! Find The Sorcerer’s Stone! You must start there! Checking your emergency kit can wait–GO!”

I think I wept in my tent for lack of inspiring reading material. There were some pages torn, some curse words slung. No one would trade books with me after I  bitched so fervently about “that boy and his stupid magic.” Sophomoric. Uninspired. Insipid. A waste of pack space.

A decade later, a gaggle of students are beyond convinced that I have missed the window into their generation. (I suppose it would be like one of my teachers not falling prey to Beverly Hills, 90210. Or My So-Called Life.) My classroom becomes a Potter Room, with allusions flying like Quidditch brooms lost on me like the Golden Snitch lost on the blind. Vocab skits are Potter-based, Christmas ornaments are Potter-themed. The entire seven-book-series is bestowed upon me. I have no choice. I am almost in tears. Every cell in my body threatens a rash. I could not bring myself to do it. And yet…they made me promise.

I recant. There. I said it. After years of bitching about the mislaid mystique of Harry Potter and of holding a grudge against JK Rowling for leaving me in the forest without a decent book to read, I have come to my senses. I could not put the book down. I even considered violating a very serious pact I have with myself: to go to school during break to pick up the next book. The dreaded Book Two. (Cue horror music.)

Here’s the thing, though: JK Rowling weaves a very compelling story–at least in Book One. Harry is sympathetic; Snape, Voldemort, and the Dursleys are all repulsive, and the magical realism makes me suspend my disbelief. In fact, I was downright shocked at the twist at the end of the book. And Rowling leaves just enough threads unwoven at the end  that I am eager to keep reading. I mean, Voldemort is going to grow from his baby-snake head-perching status, right? And the unicorns…they come back, right? RIGHT?

Needless to say, I am preparing myself for a long affair with books two through seven, even if  I have flashbacks to that long, unentertaining backpacking trip. Cause really, if Harry can lure Fluffy to sleep and fend off Quirrell while being half-conscious, don’t I owe it to him to read on?

Plus, I got a round of applause for announcing today that I was officially on Team Gryffindor. And the Sorting Hat told me, after all these years, that it is where I belong.