The road was empty and the trip took about an hour and a half. By 3:30 I stepped into the cool morning air. It was black dark and a bit chilly but it would be light enough to see in about an hour. I wanted to travel as light as I could but I did bring the jug of water. I had been up this trail many times and knew the way very well. My eyes soon adjusted to the darkness. Many times I went along by braille using the tips of my feet.
Shortly into the hike I could feel my energy rise. I was breathing harder and the air was cool and clean. By about halfway up the mountain the daylight started to expose the path. When I reached the point of a crossroads where I usually stop I checked the time. It was 4:45, bright daylight, and I had lots of time and energy. To the right lay a long road that I had never taken. To the left stood a blue bar gate. I had been by the gate many times and I knew where the trail would take me. I also knew how long it would take for me to walk. If I started out now I could meet the sun as it rose over the peaks of the Cascade Mountains.
Along the way I saw something I had never seen in this area before. There were many large mounds of bear scat. I couldn't say for sure it was bear but it sure didn't come from a raccoon. I looked into the thick dark forest as if something were looking back at me. The trail I was on went up and down and around corners. I became a little more cautious as I kept my eyes open for any sign of an encounter. I felt a little like going back but I felt more like continuing on.
When the trail came to a sharp right turn it took a steep upward grade. This put me on a ridge overlooking a great valley with mountains far to the other side. Those mountains, I thought, must be higher than the ones I'm on because they are peaked with rock and snow and I am still well within the tree line.
The day was new and bright. The sky was cloudless and pearl blue. The air was cool, clear, and clean. The sun still lay behind the ridge but I could see it was fast approaching. The mountain behind me was ablaze with the first rays of the sun. I knew sunrise would be soon by watching as that blazing light creeped its way down from the top of that mountain.
I had taken my usual stance on a large stump about four feet off the hillside and turned my gaze upon the far ridge, I was soon greeted by the first piercing rays of morning sun as I watched that massive ball of fire lumber its way over those rocky peaks. I stood to watch it enter the sky completely. After a few deep breaths of satisfaction I hopped down from my mount and walked along the ridge. I was ready to go back but not before stopping to take a good look around. Soon the trail was before me but the journey home was far from over.
After passing a few signs of scat the concern arose in my heart regarding an encounter with a bear. Much of the time I could see for a long way down the trail. When the trail had a curve in it I walked to one side of it trying to see as far as possible. My vision was soon met by two bears standing to the side staring directly at me. My first impression was that they were very beautiful, and they were, but in my mind I wondered what they were going to do.
One bear was a black bear cub and the other must have been its mama. She was much larger with thick black fur on her chest. The fur on her back was very lite brown as if it had been bleached by the sun. I stood very still posing no threat to anyone and to my relief the little cub ran away down the trail. The mother stood and stared at me as if she was simply curious then turned and ran away after the cub. I was glad to see them go but I knew that I needed to go after them because my way home was down that trail. I felt sure we would meet again so I remained alert.
I had met up with animals in the forest before. The cougar was the other formidable threat and I had handled the encounters the same way. Within a mile we met again. This time it was only the mother. My concern was that she might take my second appearance as a threat, like maybe I was following her. Again I stood very still and calm as she gazed toward me. After about fifteen seconds she shot forward slightly then turned around and ran.
I didn't know if I would encounter them again but I felt sure that if I could make it past the blue gate and the cross roads I would be rid of them. The blue gate came into view about fifteen minutes later. I approached the area slowly and found them both down one of the other roads with their backs to me and their noses in a berry bush. Quietly and quickly I walked by the gate and through the crossroads to reach the trail that led me back the way I had come.
This was during the time my son had fallen from the side of the barn he was building on land across the road from the mountain and had just returned from the hospital. I stopped by for breakfast and a visit before heading for home.