A breather

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After a hot and often smoky summer, rain was a welcome relief this past weekend, if not the wind storms that came with it.

We hiked a portion of the Boulder River trail yesterday, an outing ideally suited to the greens and grays of old growth forests on a rainy day. Tucked into the rugged terrain of the Stillaguamish watershed, the area averages in excess of 150 inches of rain a year, and the forest along this portion of the trail is accordingly luxurious: hemlocks, red cedar, Douglas firs, the occasional Sitka spruce, maidenhair ferns, sword and bracken ferns, saxifrage, berries, maples, mushrooms, and more.

In a season of drought, it was a delight to feel moisture in the air once again. The forest itself was alive as it channeled water from sky to earth via mist, moss, and rock.

Although other trails access wilder portions of the Boulder River Wilderness area, our outing was for the afternoon, purely for the joy of spending part of a day in the forest with dear friends. It was also a reunion of sorts, after seven months of not hiking with those same friends, and a way to reclaim a bit of normalcy in the face of rather daunting uncertainties.

It doesn’t seem right not to mention that, in order to get to this hike, you drive right by the site of the Oso landslide, the scars of which are evident in the roadside memorials and the gaping hole in the hillside. The tragedy has stirred up old debates about land use and resource extraction, but whatever the abstractions might be, seeing the missing mountainside brought home just how poignantly human we are–and just how illusory our mastery over our environment, despite our capacity to bring about enormous changes in the natural world.

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