SEE YOU ON THE TRAIL


I met Anne quite by accident at one of the 23 drive in max-vax clinics at during the 11 weekends my wife and I worked there. We were at all at Autzen Stadium except for one, when we worked at the community college. Sometime in April, my wife and I were working the car line going to the vaccinators. We were in Lane 1 or 2, the busiest lanes and the last to close. We thrived on the work, the people’s thanking us, and probably the fumes.  We filled out vaccine cards so the vaccinators didn’t have to, spending the process. Our change became standard. Early that day there weren’t as many cars coming through our line, matters were running too slowly for my comfort, and for the comfort  of one of the vaccinators, who never in the time I knew him was ever too busy. I complained to one of the leads who was making the rounds, and he pointed to the first check in spot, near the road leading to the stadium, from which people were sent to us. They looked overwhelmed.

Meeting of the check-in people at the start of the clinic. One was well out of college and had her birthday. She was 1/3 of my age.

I walked over there, learned how the system worked and asked if I wanted to work there. We had enough people taking care of the cars in the line, so that day I worked check in.  This was the initial point of contact, where we had to pass out clipboards, use iPads to check people in, and ensure they didn’t run over the traffic control person on their way to one of 14 lanes. It required a lot of quick moving, dodging cars, and using a touch screen in bright sun or rain.  Anne was one of the leads there, and when the line of cars let up a little we got to talking about life and soon enough about hiking. She was new to it and was curious about Cascade Volunteers and the trails in the Cascades. I wrote down the names of several which I thought she would like.  Some I had just helped log out a few days earlier the week. 

I would work the check-in line three more times, although my preference was to get into the sea of cars, 14 lined up, collecting clipboards, checking information, filling out vaccine cards, giving advice, fielding questions, all in the 6 miles a day and 6 hours I walked from the vaccinators to the check-in point, over and over again.

After the last drive-in clinic in June, the regular volunteers returned a few days later to get T-shirts that celebrated our service. When I arrived to get mine, I met Molly, a hard charger who had run the UO volunteers and a good share of the rest of Autzen.  We both had deep respect for each other.  I didn’t see anybody else I knew. I got the wrong size shirt, as it turned out, so when I returned two days later, the last day to get the shirts, Molly said that Anne had come through right after I had and was upset that she missed me. I figured I probably wouldn’t see  her again or anybody else with whom I had worked, because I thought this experience was final. Still, I am old enough to have seen people I never expected to see again and seen places I never expected to see. 

Sure enough, a month later, at a pop-up clinic vaccine event at a high school, I ran into Anne.  I showed her a couple more pictures of one of our logouts and added a few other trails that were not too difficult but would get her and her husband well into the backcountry. 

My wife and I started doing more vaccine events when the delta variant arrived. Rather than one every couple of weeks, it became two a week. It affected my hiking schedule, just like the main vaccination event affected my snowshoe schedule back in spring, but to me this helping out for the duration is a high priority. I still had trail work on Thursday, and there were trail working events on Tuesday that were not too far out of town where I could work and then get to a clinic.

Besides, this hottest summer on record featured smoke throughout the American West, and we were no exception. I was going to canoe on Waldo Lake and then realized being out there in smoke was not going to be healthy. So I cancelled that, along with many possible weekend hikes I planned, those few weekends I wasn’t recovering from trail work.  Anne and her husband got to Yellowstone and loved the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, also my favorite part of a place I haven’t seen in 50 years.

Waldo Lake from Waldo Mountain, before the fires.

Last Friday at the Lane Events Center, we had our usual meeting just before we started vaccinating. It was announced that Anne was leaving after the event to take on another job. Given the workload public health employees have had, there has been turnover. Nobody came on board expecting to deal with a pandemic. At the end of the clinic, I walked up to Anne and wished her well.  I said the appropriate words, “Take good care of yourself, Anne. See you on the trail.”

***

I wrote the following for the Obsidian Bulletin, the Club magazine, asking for Club hikers to send me information about trail conditions so I could update the Web Page for the trail page for the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests:

“Please be careful in dealing with blowdowns. Some are unstable, there may be dangerous sharp branches; it is easy to fall, unsafe to try to climb over some, and trail erosion may have occurred. I’ve been turned around more than once by a log that I felt I could not safely go up, over, around, or under. Turning around sometimes is virtuous. These days I prefer to deal directly with such logs with the right tools, people, training, and protective equipment.Stay safe out there, and always remember that hikes may take longer because of snow or blowdowns that weren’t there the last time you came through. See you on the trail.”

***

Last week, the Crew had to log out the Benson trail on the west side of Scott Mountain in the Mount Washington Wilderness. We were to meet in Springfield where six of us would travel in two vehicles.  I was early, and as I drove in, I saw several familiar people there, but they weren’t part of the Crew; they were Club members, meeting for a hike. The Club has specific meeting points for hikes, and many hikes in the McKenzie Ranger District meet at this place.  I am leading a hike to Four-in-one Cone in three weeks and I will be meeting here, too.

Place on the Benson Trail a third of the way to the Scott Mountain Trail. The red bushes are huckleberry.

Snow on the rim of Four in one Cone; Mr Washington in center; Mt. Jefferson in distance. Three-fingered Jack is just to the right of Mt. Washington.

I got my gear ready for the logout, since I wouldn’t be driving, and then went over to talk to the group. They were hiking Broken Top, a long drive to a place I haven’t been and really should see. One of the hikers works with the Crew; he and I have almost switched roles—he does a lot more hiking with the Club these days and I don’t. On the other hand, I’ve been out with the Crew about 5 times a month for the last couple of years.  They left a little before we did, and rather than say good-by, I again said, “See you on the trail.”  

I occasionally do. I saw another Crew member on Waldo Lake Road last winter, going towards Betty Lake on cross-country skis as I was returning on snowshoes.  I have seen Club members on Larison Rock Trail, at Eagle’s Overlook over Odell Lake, while I was leading a snowshoe trip, I saw my barber, a past PCT thru-hiker, while I was clearing Brice Creek trail in the Umpqua National forest. 

Out in the middle of Betty Lake.

“See you on the trail” is goodby to people who know what is out there, in the Cascades, the Coast Range, the Rockies, the Quetico-Superior, the Brooks Range, where there are wild rivers, places where few know.  Or even places where many may go, but they weren’t there when you were. You may have gone on a weekday, when it poured rain, there was deep snow, or had blowdowns that you could get around and get back deep into that special country.  As my years of being on the trail are now limited, the term has new meaning: “See you on the Trail”—Capital T— now means wherever the Trail leads, to the back of beyond in the wilderness…beyond the last jumping off point, last hike, backpack, campsite.

See you on the Trail.

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