I took a hike on Mount Talbert’s nature trails on June 1st. It was the first sunny day after a long stretch of cool rainy days. It was also the 11th week of our shelter-in-place order but the first week of a few new guidelines. Parks outside of Portland city limits were finally allowed to rip down the yellow crime scene tape that had blocked trailheads through the first half of spring and citizens were permitted on the trails once again.
Mount Talbert is close to our house and has 6 or so miles of trails that crisscross over and around an old volcanic cinder cone. I was nervous about hitting the trail after so long a respite. You see, despite all my encouraging self-talk during the previous weeks about getting into shape and maintaining self-discipline during the pandemic, well the self-talk turned out to be just that, talk. I simply did not anticipate how making Rice Krispy bars would hinder yoga class attendance and long neighborhood strolls. You see, there is the cooking… and then there is the eating. And all of that is a significant clock gobbler if you didn’t know.
Mount Talbert is a small nature preserve park, about 200 acres, and it gains 740 feet of elevation from its base. It is a pleasant option when a mildly strenuous in-town stroll will do. The residents of the park include local deer herds, Western gray squirrels, woodpeckers, nuthatches and tanagers. On the trail it is possible to see a lot of wildlife, which is odd since the park does not sit in a rural space. It is not uncommon to have birds flit and flush out of greenery at the last moment as people move along the trails. Squirrels chase and then pause in front of hikers and deer simply lift their heads gracefully and stare.
When I pulled into the entrance on Talbert I practically ran from the car to the trailhead, it had been so long. The moment I stepped on the trail and the forest canopy closed overhead and the dappled sunlight unfurled ahead of me, I felt a weight I didn’t know I was carrying lift away. The birds, as always here, flushed out in front of me. I felt like Cinderella returning to her castle.
The stroll was such a treat that I took scads of photos as if I had never seen creeping buttercups or stretches of swaying foxglove. I considered ways in which I could absorb the light and the smells and manage to carry it all with me when I returned home. I laughed at the chasing squirrels who posed on the trails and nattered away at me. I actually stopped to smell flowers, I willed dark thoughts to leave me be, and I took the time to look up through the trees into the blue blue sky.
And then I checked my watch. I noticed I had been a dork-in-the-woods for a few hours and was unsure where I was. I walked further and found a small trail plaque with a trail name I didn’t remember starting off on. And I didn’t remember where exactly I had taken my last few turns. In my giddiness to walk again in the woods I made an amateur mistake, I failed to check the map at the trailhead and plan my route before I entered the forest. Also, I hadn’t brought water because I thought it would be a simple quick walk. So I was hot besides being a little lost. I plunged on and took a trail I figured would deliver me to the car but…nope. Some trails were intentionally blocked with fallen trees and I had to double back a few different times and recheck trail plaques when I came upon a new one (maybe it was a new one…).
I realized the worst thing about the situation was I would not be able to exit the park gracefully (i.e.; on the same loop trail upon which I had started). I simply needed to get off Talbert and that could be accomplished by walking ‘down’. When I emerged from the forest onto a road my phone was able to pick up a signal again and I could see on the map where I had parked (about a half mile that-a-way).
In all it was a lovely day wrapped in a small adventure tied up in a good lesson. When I arrived home I still felt refeshed and was just a bit shamefaced when I admitted to Andy about getting turned around or ‘a bit lost’ as I referred to it. To which Andy replied, you will not believe what happened in Lafayette Square today, and then, voila, all those feelings of goodness and light slipped away as he began to tell me the story.