Rim and Lake Adventure

An earlyish start Tuesday morning got us over Santiam Pass before noon. I drove my '98 Plymouth Grand Voyager SE, my son sat in back and my friend Kathy rode binoculars (well, she didn’t bring a shotgun).

At Sisters we hung a right and tooled up the long, familiar road to Three Creeks Lake. I slowly navigated the final mile or two after pavement ends. My van can do this, I silently repeated, remembering how Tim coached me a few summers ago to drive across weathered rocks that stick up between craters and lava shards along the way. As on previous trips, my increased heart-rate proved worthwhile after we arrived safely to begin our forays beneath decreased atmosphere (at 6,000 feet or so elevation) and a striking, deep blueness above.

My boy of 16 set off on a solo trek up Tam McArthur Rim Trail, determined to walk as far away from me and as close to a small peak called Broken Hand as he could. I called reminders: “Got your walkie-talkie? Don’t forget to call sometime. Be back as close to 4:30 as you can!”

I wasn’t too nervous. Bears don’t venture out in the open very often during a warm afternoon to pick hikers off the trail, right? And I guess at some point you’ve got to let a young man follow his dreams.

As Kathy and I started off in the opposite direction, following a level trail that circles the lake, we made for stands of shady Douglas Fir. To our left the lakeshore sand gleamed. Lush grassy patches surrounded points where each of the three creeks splashed toward their goal. A lone rowboat carried a man wearing a wide-brimmed hat, who appeared to enjoy drifting and gazing up at the Rim, some 2000 feet above.

Kathy finds birds. She notices so much more than I, planting feet and whipping binoculars to face quickly enough to spot tiny sparrows or Somebody-or-other’s Nuthatch before it becomes a blur of wing and wind and is gone.

I felt some pride, when, as Kathy focused on nearby firs and their occupants, I saw the dark wingspan overhead and pointed. “Is that the eagle?” (Kathy’d caught a glimpse of what looked like one flying off the moment we entered the trees.) “That’s it!” she confirmed. “See the white head and tail?”

I hadn’t realized our national emblem is “bald” at both ends. There he (or she) circled, riding an updraft, becoming smaller, looking ultra-competent from wingtip to wingtip.

A crackling noise from my backpack made me wish I’d kept my walkie-talkie in hand. Several staticky seconds and a snatch of my son’s voice (I thought) were followed by silence. It made sense he had dutifully checked in and then switched his receiver off again--I knew he didn’t want me calling him at odd moments. So although we didn’t exactly speak, I pressed onward with Kathy, trying not to fear how much farther out of range he was hiking.

“People ride horses up there,” I remarked, making positive conversation. “If he gets hurt, someone could pack him down.”

“Sure,” Kathy said. “Though I’ll bet axe-murders use horses to carry their weapons.” She grinned back at me.

Aren’t friends wonderful?

Around 3:30 we finished our hike and parked the van closer to the Rim trailhead. Then we had no trouble filling up time with conversation. Kathy not long ago earned a degree in psychology, and she’s got a husband and grown-up kids just a bit older than mine. So an afternoon with her brings therapeutic reenergizing every time. I just hope I didn’t wear her out with life-stories and all-ways connections to theological issues.

By 4:45 I’d watched many a hiker enter my rearview mirror as he or she descended the trail. I got out and asked the next man who appeared, a grandfatherly-looking gentleman with a friend close behind, whether he’d seen a teenage boy up on the Rim trail.

“Why, yes,” he said. “We asked him if he was alone, and he said he was. He hiked out to Broken Hand, and was starting around it last I saw.” The man looked relieved to see a mom waiting for the adolescent hiker. I hoped I hadn’t seen worry in his friend’s eyes when he described the “narrow trail” at the side of Broken Hand.

Oh, well. My son is generally cautious. We all figured he’d be back in an hour, maybe 90 minutes. The gentlemen left. Kathy and I walked down an embankment to get closer to a stream.

I kept as calm as possible, watching green frogs leaping along the creek bank. Would I need to leap up the trail in a couple of hours if my son hadn’t arrived? How would I help him if he’d slid down the mountain? I tried not to imagine cell-phoned helicopters and emergency medical personnel.

Then my pocketed walkie-talkie blared, “Mom, where are you? I’m at the van.”

Dust-covered and ready for hamburgers back in Sisters, my son stood tall and whole up on the road. I bounded up, eager to skirt lava boulders while steering into sunset sprouting a relieved-mother smile. (Photos will follow, one of these days.)


Erin said…
Awesome story, Deanna... very well told, and it sounds like you had a great time. It put a smile on my face. :D
Dad H said…
You make it sound like so much fun, even at 6000 feet. The anxiety I understand. Your writing gets better every time I read it. What a family!
My smile is on my face AND on my heart. DH
Deanna said…
Thanks, Erin and Dad, for stopping by.