Yesterday, what began as a plan to hike to Pinnacle Saddle quickly eroded into a new plan. The reason? Bugs. I arrived at Reflection Lake ahead of sunrise and I was immediately swarmed by skeeters. I mean, “be careful not to breathe in through your mouth” swarms. At 5:30 AM! I’ve hiked to the saddle many times and there are usually bugs at the top. I couldn’t imagine how bad it would be this year. Pivot.
What I decided to do instead was to see how conditions were at Paradise. A friend has recently begun an enviable volunteer position as a “meadow rover” at Paradise. Her photos and description of her first day inspired me to check out the snow situation. You can read about her adventure here.
So what did I find? Snow and bluebird skies. The bugs were not nearly as bad as by the lake and the swarms of people had yet to descend as well. I opted for the Moraine Trail, Deadhorse Creek Trail and Waterfall Trail. Most folks arriving at Paradise head straight for Skyline or Myrtle Falls. I stayed on the quiet perimeter and had an outstanding morning. There are definitely snow fields to cross, but after the pavement ended and I hit the white stuff, I put on microspikes and was good to go. It is melting fast and with the increased foot traffic, all but some of the higher elevations will be clear soon.
Flower season will likely be late and short this year. Avalanch lilies, phlox, and pasque flowers are out and the mountain heather is beginning to show pink. There are a few paintbrush and others but the real show is likely another week or more away.
The birds were out too. Two lifers for me on this trip to Paradise! A juvenile Townsends Solitaire and a Gray-hooded Ruby Finch. I saw a couple sooty grouse and both Hermit and Varied thrush. There were a trio of ravens as I arrived making quite a fuss.
Marmots were playful and plentiful!
It’s been almost a year since we lost Gus to an aggressive cancer. Since then, no less than five friends have lost their beautiful companions. He’s been very much on my mind lately as I see hearts breaking and see tears flowing. Loss takes time to really saturate the psyche. It’s been bubbling up all week.
The other night I woke with a start. The day of his passing … the very moment, came flooding back to me. I could almost feel his little body against my chest. His heart racing. Then slowing. Until there was no longer a beat to match my own. I would whisper to him in those last days that I would be with him until the very end. A promise kept.
He was never “just a cat”. He wasn’t really even a pet. He was my constant companion and even those who never got to meet him, loved him. As our “comforter in chief” he had a sixth sense about knowing when his presence was needed. I used to fall to the couch after a crappy day and he would run right up my chest and park his head next to mine and I just held him. It’s hard to be sad and grateful in the same moment.
I left some of his ashes at Reflection Lake. Sassy’s too. It’s a place Kelly and I can both go to visit and reflect. There is a bench by the lake that is pitched slightly forward as if leaning in toward the mountain. That’s where they are if you ever want to stop by.
Somehow on this morning’s walk I felt a little less alone.