Originally posted on 5/8/12 http://clovercohen.blogspot.com/2012/05/three-generations-on-hill.html
Lungs burn. Thighs aflame. Big breaths blow out through puffed cheeks. Miriam has given up on our hike so I pull her up the steep path through thick trees. Behind us are the Cascade mountains, much taller than the mountain we climb now. We are in LL Stub Stewart State Park, 30 miles west of Portland, on the pack-up-and-go-home day of our overnight. It's not tent camping, but the small cabin we rented isn't really a house since it doesn't have a kitchen or bathroom. So it's known as glamping (glamorous camping). It's the only way we like to camp outside the months of July and August.
The morning invigorates. The early sun warms the pure air that smells like damp soil and thick green undergrowth that's lush this late in the spring. The most remarkable thing about this park, to me, is the lack of noise. It's not silent with so many birds and people, but there is no sound of a highway or airplanes overhead. Peace.
Behind me being towed is my six year old daughter Miriam. She wears dark blue skinny jeans and a light pink t-shirt under a turquoise puffy coat. I talked her into wearing her gray tennis shoes instead of the pink Mary Janes for the hike. She carries a half eaten Hershey's chocolate bar that she ate on the downhill portion. Her hair is stringy and tangly from a raucous night around the campfire and in the woods running with her friends and cousins.
Behind her is my 63 year old mom Carol. She wears faded mom jeans and a clay colored fleece. Her short blond hair looks about the same as usual. She wears purple Keen sandals with white socks.
Ahead of us are a bunch of friends and their kids, my sister and her kids. We bring up the rear. My 10 year old son Henry is playing disc golf with his buddy and my husband Joe on the other side of the park.
As my lungs get worked over on the steep climb, I notice my two companions and it reminds me that I have a long way to go to be ready for Mt. Hood. I'm climbing with a child and a senior and we all seem to be struggling about the same. I think about the posting for a recent bear sighting at the park and wonder if I could outrun a bear. Not likely.
I step over a gurgling stream that crosses the path, listen to the water fall over the down slope. I stop to take a drink of my now cold instant coffee with milk. It's bitter, more so than brewed coffee, but I'll take whatever caffeine I can when I'm camping. I had also grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler before we left, but Miriam talked me into having a drink, which resulted in swirls of chocolaty backwash mixed in. Miriam lets go of my hand, unscrews the top and gulps down her brown tinted water.
Mom breathes heavy, drinks from her bottle too.
Forward movement begins again without a word. Miriam lags behind a few feet, then runs up to grab my hand to continue the tow. I tuck the empty disposable coffee cup into the pocket of my black hoodie, pull off my camping hat, and let it hang down to my back with the string about my neck. The wind cools my sweaty head, feels better than perfect.
My mind wanders to last night in the cabin, when my insomnia took full control and I only slept around one hour. I cut myself a little slack. Maybe the hill would be easier on a real night of sleep? I had drifted off sometime after 5:30 am when I put down the People magazine and clicked off the flash light I had propped up for a reading light.
"Are we almost there?" Miriam whines.
"Yep, just around one more corner and we should be able to see the cabins," I say.
"Do you think we'll see a bear out here?" she asks.
"No, everyone's making far too much noise. They'd be scared off my now."
Mom chimes in, between breaths, "When your mom was little...............we used to see bear all the time...............where we lived...............we just steered clear though...............and they never bothered us."
"Yeah, bears are nice," Miriam adds.
We take a dozen more steps and see the row of little brown cabins.