Monday, August 09, 2010

A Place Apart, Part Four

(This is the fourth and final part in a series about my time away at a cabin on a lake with a few girlfriends. To start with part one, click here. Parts two and three can be found by clicking here and here, respectively.)

That second night, before settling in by the campfire, I got my bedding set up again on the dock. I snickered at the apparent laziness of my two dock comrades. They would have an interesting time getting set up in the dark, since the makeshift bridge to the dock ramp was slowly sinking and getting back and forth was now a little precarious...and wet. I was ready early...and feeling rather smug about it.

At first, the flashes of lightning in the distant sky didn't bother me. It was heat lightning, no doubt, and it was far away. Then the wind picked up. I watched the clouds move in quickly and settle right above Echo Lake. And then it began to rain. Big, heavy drops. My friends undoubtedly snickered as they watched me scramble for a flashlight and balance across the bridge as I made several trips with my now soggy bedding, moving it up the hill into the cabin.

As the last one in the cabin, I was too late for a bed and was relegated to the futon in the living room. With nothing better to do, we all turned in early. I positioned myself so that I could look out the windows of the cabin toward the lake and watch the storm. It was a good one--thunder and lightning aplenty--and it was pretty to watch, but I was tired from the previous night of little sleep and the adventure of my bike ride, so I passed out quickly.

I awoke to the feeling of rain on my face. I was confused. Was I still out on the dock? No, the wind had just begun to blow in earnest, right across the surface of the lake, and it was driving the rain through the screened windows, right into my face. I readjusted my sleeping position and quickly fell back asleep. The rain on the roof and the lake provided the perfect background noise and I slept soundly. Morning came at just the right time--ten minutes before eleven*.

After a casual breakfast, the four of us (Diane had received a call the night before and had left to go work on a fire crew) got ourselves ready for a day of hiking. We were headed to Jewel Basin, in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. None of us had ever hiked there before, but we'd heard rave reviews from friends and were really looking forward to it. We weren't disappointed. The trailhead was located at 5800 feet and we went up from there. The views were spectacular and the wildflowers were still unseasonably vibrant. Our hike rivaled any hiking I've done before in my life-- even hikes in Glacier National Park. It was really spectacular, strenuous at times, but spectacular. We didn't put in a full day; it was only two and a half miles up to Twin Lakes and then back down again, but it was just right. We stopped with a view of the lakes for a picnic lunch and picked wildflowers on the way down. It would have been a perfect day of hiking, if it weren't for the biting black flies that treated us like a delicatessen every time we stopped hiking. They paid no attention whatsoever to our mosquito repellant.

We did have one little scare on the hike. We'd been on the alert for grizzly bears all day, as the LARGE signs posted at the trail head told us we should be. None of us had thought to bring bells or bear (or wasp) spray, as one is supposed to carry when wandering through known grizzly territory, but one of our women was packing a sidearm. She grew up with them and is very comfortable with their use, but still I wished we had bells and spray.

So we were hiking along, single file, with me in the rear as I was stopping often to take photos. I glanced back at the trail behind us when I heard a noise and my heart skipped a beat--a few of them, to be more precise. The trail wound through some heavy brush, so I couldn't see everything, but I could see--very clearly--the back of a furry beast, good sized, with a golden red-brown coat, moving up the trail toward me. Remember that joke about hiking in bear country? You don't have to be able to outrun the bear; you just have to be able to outrun at least one of your friends. I didn't have time to think all the way to the punchline before it came into view...a large golden retriever, followed by a hiker holding a leash and calling after him. Whoooooosh...

After five miles of exercise, fresh air and fly-swatting, we were tired. We drove back to the cabin and changed into our lakefront attire again. Naps were taken on the dock. Tubes were floated on quietly. Books were read under the shade tree. We were exceedingly lazy. It was our last chance to do nothing, as the next day we would clean the cabin and return to our regular lives. As the late afternoon turned into evening and the long rays of sunset bathed the deck of the cabin, we ate dinner and then...did nothing. It was lovely. One of my favorite pictures of the entire experience is one of us sitting on the deck, doing nothing at all, completely and totally relaxed.

That night, I was the only one who wanted to sleep on the dock. I set my bed up and tucked myself in. The little stars twinkled dutifully. The breeze was cool and I snuggled in deeply and slept. And slept. It was glorious. Whenever I needed to change positions, I would open my eyes just wide enough to check on the progress of the moon as it traversed the sky. The night got cold, but I was cozy in my bed. I could feel the dew, damp on my pillow, so I tried to stay in one place as much as possible. It wasn't hard; I was sleeping well. Finally, I opened my eyes to the gray light of pre-dawn, dozed some more, and awoke again with the sun. I noticed Cindy was up, reading on the deck with her coffee, but it was too early for me. I pulled the covers up to my nose and fell back asleep. It was such a peaceful night and morning.

We had a leisurely breakfast, cleaned the cabin and headed for home. It was over. But those nights on the dock won't be gone from my memory for a very long time. And the hike through wildflower heaven. And the long solo bike ride. And the warm swims in the lake. And the laughter with friends. And the time alone to read, to think, to pray. All of it. It's not over yet.

* if ten minutes before eleven sounds late to you, please refer to part two.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah! How did you know the time with no clocks? So who's checking? Who cares? It's relax time. glad for you.

Uncle Ed