Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Thanks, Don and Roberta!

When I first came to Portland, the go-to hiking guides were written by Don and Roberta Lowe. There's always a nice picture in the back of the couple, clean-cut Don in his darkroom and smiling Roberta in a plaid pencil skirt and a sensible Pixie cut. As far as I know, no one else had decent trail guides to this area. They had the franchise. Nevertheless, I suspect they didn't get rich. People in the olden days accepted a reasonable remuneration for their efforts and weren't expecting the big score.

I used these guides to death. The glue on the spine didn't hold up in the rain, and the pages kept falling out, which was actually handy, because then you could take the individual pages in your pack and reintroduce them to the complete volume later, after your shower and beer. Eventually other people started doing the work of documenting trail conditions and directions and elevation gains, but I kept with Don and Roberta for a good long time, because I already had the guides, and the new people were asking serious money for their books, and after all the terrain didn't change that much, did it? I picked up a few new books but I haven't yet thrown out Don and Roberta's oeuvre, which now exists as piles of individual pages loose inside the covers.

Some of their instructions are antique at this point. "Be sure to fill your water bottle before you go," they warn, "because some water sources are not reliable through the season."

"Not reliable," meaning some of the trickles might dry up. Not: the water is loaded with Giardia and you'd best have four quarts loaded in your pack if you don't want God's Own Diarrhea for the next eight weeks.

Wasn't that many years ago that I had their hiking guide with me as I introduced my friend Linder to the wonders of pikas and ferns and alpine meadows, and we hesitated at one juncture, unsure of the correct path to take. I fished out the guide and quoted: "Veer left at the old hemlock stump."

At that intersection, everything visible was considerably past stumpage. Linder paused and framed her query in a calm tone.

"Murr, how old is that hiking guide?"

I consulted it. Well! Not old at all. Shoot! Look at that date. I was a young adult. Which could not possibly have been long ago. Nevertheless, I did the math.

"Um, forty years?"

Linder said nothing.

"Is that old?" I wondered. There was no answer.

Today I got out my Don and Roberta Lowe hiking guide to guess at how far Dave and I just hiked. We'd gone up to Salmon Butte, the site of a former lookout tower. The guide had a photo in it depicting the scene from the top: snow-covered peaks in the distance, a rocky prominence, and a two-lane road that is utterly not in existence at the moment. I had to do some more math to come up with the answer, because the current trailhead is a good mile and a half away from the Lowes' trailhead. That kind of thing is happening more and more up here on Mt. Hood, and basically we approve. Some of the trails were accessible from old logging roads, and now those roads are being decommissioned. They pull out the culverts and return the streams to their natural topography; they use earth-moving equipment to shove some hummocks and low spots in, hoping to discourage motorbikes. The first few years these trails look unreasonably wide, and then the alders and such start to fill in, and by about year five you can hardly tell there was a road there at all.

Possibly your quadriceps can tell. We're kind of tired. We had a twelve-mile hike with considerable elevation gain that used to be a nine-mile hike when the estimable Lowes hiked it. And that is just fine. That is quite within our capabilities. Spooky thing, though? This is such an amazing coincidence, and there's no explaining it: in the forty years since our hiking guide was published, we got forty years older.

19 comments:

  1. I don't go hiking nearly as often as you do, but I've noticed that even in the course of one year, things about the trails change, sometimes to the point that they no longer look like the same trails. I can only imagine how much they would change after 40 years. Even so, that old guide has charm, even if it is out of the loop. Hopefully the same can be said about us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Starting to feel a little loopy, here. And some of my pages are coming loose.

      Delete
  2. 40 years and 12 miles. I am all sweaty and staggering at 8! And that is on level terrain. You had me at plaid pencil skirt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If I lived in a hot climate those miles would come way down.

      Delete
  3. This morning I hiked from the bedroom to the bathroom & then to the kitchen. The trail hasn't changed much!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So you say, but sometimes in the dark pieces of furniture jump in the way. I almost had a spleen impalement on a chair leg once.

      Delete
  4. I'm trying to work up to that kind of hiking as it has been a long time and 2 knees ago. There is a hike I want to do in Norway next year. The forest up here is also quick to swallow any evidence of human encroachment. If you go in too far you might never come out.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I might amble down to the beach this morning.Before it gets too hot.That means well before 10am cos it's mid-winter here and my epidermis will bake like pork crackling after 10 am...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That doesn't make any SENSE. Of course, you hanging upside down on the bottom of the world doesn't make any sense either.

      Delete
  6. I don't know whether trees grow extra fast the last twenty years or if time is going faster. With global warming and aging in the equation, maybe it's both. Where was I going with this? Oh yes, I can hardly recognize places I haven't seen for awhile due to all the nature taking over. P. S. Good job hiking that far! I'm tuckered out after a walk on fairly level streets. Lord knows what would happen if I had to go uphill.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think a lot of people are having the opposite experience. Stuff is disappearing.

      Delete
  7. Forty years. When you're at the other end, it seems like forever stretching out in front of you; from this end, it's the blink of an eye.
    I'm glad the topography is being restored, more of that should happen all over the world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Weird thing, though--your whole life always seems like it's a long time, even though any increment of it seems short. Even when we were six it seemed like a long time.

      Delete
  8. I still cherish my "50 Hikes at Mount Rainier" by Bob and Ira Spring, another venerable pair of hiking guide authors of the Pacific Northwest. By golly, you made me realize. That dang book IS 40 years older than when I bought it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's an entire mountain in that vicinity that's dropped a lot of weight in that time.

      Delete
    2. Wish I could say the same about me.

      Delete
  9. I suffer from thinking the 1970's was not that long ago. Or when I have mentioned a rock group from then I get this look and know they think I am VERY OLD!

    ReplyDelete