Sunday, August 18, 2013

Almost Paradise

Last Sunday, when I should have been home writing my blog and cleaning my house, I went on an adventure instead. Ever since my family and I paid a visit to Mt. Rainier earlier this summer, I have wanted to go back and see the wildflowers that were still buried under snow on July 2nd. Paradise Visitor Center is famous for the stunning variety of wildflowers that last only a short 6-8 weeks.
Blazing a trail in the snow at Paradise

I am not a fan of large crowds and I often forget that our mountain is a massive tourist destination. I find myself taking personal offense at the masses of tourists, as though I woke up to find hundreds of families speaking dozens of languages and wandering my backyard with giant telephoto lenses and hiking poles. As Mark and I approached Paradise with my blood sugar dangerously low and my picnic lunch waiting in the cooler, we obeyed the "Lot full" signs and continued on around a loop. And on. And on. Until we had quite obviously gone too far on the one-way loop for me to be able to walk back up the road to Paradise. Back down the mountain we drove for 15 minutes, 
until we found a picnic spot. Lesson? Do not obey signs.

This is the same trail that you see my sister and
niece on in the previous picture!
I insisted on cleaning up bread crumbs that a previous diner had left, much to the dismay of an angry crow and a chipmunk with borderline personality disorder. The picnic area was filled with calls of wild animals. Of the homo-sapien variety, both large and small. Cucumber and hummus sandwiches consumed, we headed back up to Paradise.  This time we drove in the exit, around a barricade and into a parking spot two spaces from the bathrooms. Score one for the rebels!

My intent was to be slow and careful, to not ‘over-do’ it. My leg is still hovering around 70% and can quickly drop to less if I try to do too much. There were maps and signs taunting me with greater destinations, but we chose to stroll without a specific goal, often stepping to the side to allow the hiking poles and telephoto lenses to pass.

We would play games when we stopped. The sort of thing I used to do to distract my children. Instead I wanted to distract the ‘other’ me…the one that wanted to head 3 miles up to Panorama Point. We played “In 30 seconds how many different plants can you see from right here?” Mark spent a lot of time setting up his camera shots and playing “What would Kevin do?” Kevin is my sister’s boyfriend who takes amazing and artistic photos. We spent a long time watching a marmot. Which Mark called a beaver and I called a groundhog, much to the horror of proper hikers with packs and poles. And much to the annoyance of teenagers who said, “How many giant rats do you need to see?” 

Can you spot the marmot?
I did my best to block out the crowd and my thought that if we hiked a little further, we might leave them behind. The flowers were lovely and magical, the waterfall soothing. The changes from just 6 weeks ago are nothing short of miraculous. I love our mountain. But next time I shall find a path less traveled. This slow pace, this business of looking at the details, seeing beauty and magic in the smallest things, is my attempt at accommodation. It gives me some peace; some sense of  awe…but it is different than the awe of High Rock or Emmons Glacier.

To be honest, the flowers frighten me just a little. For they have such a short time and are so easily damaged. Fragile. Unlike the giant rock outcroppings, massive blue glaciers and monstrous waterfalls. Vulnerability frightens me. Yet I remind myself, they begin to grow under the snow and survive as seeds through the bleakest of conditions. They are steadfast in their return, if we take care not to damage them. They are bright and bold. Some are even funny, like something out of Dr. Suess. 

With the help of birds and bees, they accomplish so much in their short time on Paradise. Not a drop of rain, ray of sunshine or gust of wind is wasted on these beauties. It’s not a bad model to emulate. 
Be bright and bold, make the most of each moment and every season, rest when it is time to rest. Be steadfast.  

Just Only Judy

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