In the company of trees

Posted: October 30, 2011 in journalism

In the company of trees.

Issaquah, Washington’s Tiger Mountain, in the misty foothills of the North Cascades, is not far from my home. It’s a beautiful site from Interstate 90. At night there’s a beacon way up there at the top. With no moonlight on its slopes, that beacon looks suspended in the sky, like a red star. Even during the day, its quickly rising slopes seem to beg the question – “Am I a steep hill or just the tiniest of mountains?” Let’s be honest, calling Tiger a “mountain” is a stretch. It’s only 2,500 feet high. A strong hiker can run from the Tiger Mountain parking lot near Interstate 90 to the West Summit in about 30 minutes. Most days, I hike up at a brisk pace. My time to the West Summit is usually one hour and eleven minutes. I don’t stop unless there’s a picture I absolutely must take.

And that happens a lot.

My iPhone has 164GB of memory. It seems like a lot until it’s gobbled up by pictures. I use my phone for everything so when it gets filled, it prompts me to erase pictures because there’s just no more room. I blame Tiger Mountain for this. Every time I hike her switch-backed trails, I stop to take more pictures. My phone is packed with shots of a carpeting ferns, glistening stones and bright green moss.

But it’s trees that draw me in.

Other hikers on the trail must laugh as they pass. I’m the guy just standing there taking pictures with his eyes glued to the treetops. I live for pictures of Douglas fir. My favorite is the image (and I have a lot of these) of dozens of 200 foot tall trees just standing side by side by side by.

When I hike the steep trails of Tiger, I’m not alone. My head tells me I’m just looking at needles and branches and bark but my heart tells me this forest is the ultimate living room.

And I walk through it a lot.

Two years ago, I hiked to Tiger’s West Summit 47 times, almost once a week.
I do a lot of thinking in those 71 minutes to the top. Today it’s about

Blowdowns are snapped and fallen fir. They’re the tall trees that come down in the howling winds of the Pacific Northwest every year. When their feet get too wet from our near constant rain, and their roots grow weak, they get blown down. Maybe they just grew too weary to stand against the elements. Maybe they stopped sinking roots down. Maybe they just grew too old.

But every autumn I see it, another blowdown.

And today there are several on Tiger. This morning, I stepped around four blowdowns on the three-mile trail to the West Summit Viewpoint. State crews will come by soon and clear these blowdowns. Usually no one gets hurt when they fall. But eventually all the trees on Tiger will fall. It’s a “circle of life” thing, right?

I know I’m “coming down” one day. We all die. Life is a gift and time is a bandit.

But instead of dwelling too much on blowdowns, I’d rather just keep walking and notice the friends who are still standing in these woods all around me. It’s time to move on here on Tiger Mountain and remember that while our walk on earth is short and steep, it should be savored. Life is a hike. Just enjoy it while you’re in the company of trees.

  1. Pen says:

    Stunning photos and moving words.
    I guess I will end up a birch blowdown but I actually live more like a willow.
    Thanks for the pause in the forest of thought.

  2. Elizabeth W says:

    I love that first shot of the trees. So gorgeous and stately!

  3. anne says:

    thanks for the reminder that nature puts everything in perspective! beautifully done.

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