A Tiger Mountain Adventure,
Or, rather, a Meditation on Relationships
Monday 26 January 2015
Our day hike had two purposes: to spend time together reconnecting as father and daughter, and for my daughter to train for her upcoming attempt to thruhike the Appalachian Trail. Morgan and I are both rather eccentric. We both know it, too, and value such in the other. We both appreciate being outdoors and nature is a spiritual connection. Otherwise it feels like night and day to me. This day, however, we were late getting ourselves together as we made the gravest error of making busy work a priority. Especially me.
“Hurry up, Dad!” Morgan shouted. “Jeezus, Dad! You’re always yelling at me to hurry up and let’s go and all, and here you are texting old girlfriends and stuff!”
Except I didn’t have any girlfriends at that point, old or otherwise, as I was divorced and still single.
At this point our hike had to meet several criteria so as to qualify both as quality bonding time and provide at least SOME training. First, both drive time and trail mileage had to be short. The trail also needed to be steep as all get out to make up for being so short. We also wanted a trail we haven’t done over and over again.
Ah! Poo Poo Point! Yes!
“What?” Morgan asked with a scowl. “Poo Poo Point? Ew, gross, Dad. Like what, horses and cow poop and stuff?”
“No, it’s a short, steep hike up the side of Tiger Mountain from the back side of Issaquah. You’ve done it once before with Kate and Talia and me and Kristina back when Kristina and I were married. We watched paragliders sail off the cliff top.”
“Oh. Yeah, I remember now. OK, let’s go.”
What many call the Poo Poo Point Trail is really the Chirico Trail. This locally notorious footpath drives straight up the slopes of West Tiger Mountain. It’s steep and sweaty sweet before unraveling into rambling twists and turns. Two open, grassy meadows high up near the summit provided launch jump-offs for hang gliders and paragliders. Well, one doesn’t see hang gliders much anymore as paragliding has won out as technology advanced. Hiking thru wintry trees, however, one can look south upon the mighty leviathan bulk of Mt. Rainier, or as the Native Americans prefer, Ti’Swaq’ the Sky Swiper!
What an incredible mountain Ti’Swaq’ is! What an incredible outdoor realm most of Cascadia is! I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest back in the Summer of 1986. After I completed a NOLS Mountaineering expedition into the Wind Rivers of Wyoming, I turned away from heading to California and took off for Washington. A young woman I’d met in grad school back in Virginia was working a summer job in Olympic National Park, and I was in love with her. I drove thru the night to see her and ended up staying a month. Together we hiked all over the Olympics, saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time, visited both Mt. St. Helens and Rainier, and we fell deeper in love. On my return to Virginia to finish my last semester of grad school, I stopped and climbed Mt. Rainier. I summited, too, even with my crampons popping off, and didn’t know anything about it used to be called Tahoma and half a dozen other names and now Ti’Swaq’.
Gwen, however, became my wife, my second, and eventually Morgan’s mother. We were a couple for almost 18 years, thruhiked the Appalachian Trail together in 1991 as The Pregnant Rhinos, and in 1994, in the Green Lake area of Seattle, had Morgan as an urban apartment home birth. Later we adopted one of her sister’s daughters, a full-of-the-beans little girl named Kate. Gwen and I later divorced, however, after growing further and further apart, yet remain close friends, coparent together, and continued to weave in and out of the same communities. In the beginning, however, and for many years to come, I placed a greater value on my relationship to nature, wild places, and backcountry wilderness. Outdoor adventure and travel were paramount to me. It’s one reason I moved over 3,000 miles away from my family of origin. It wasn’t until many years later and after missing too many births and deaths I came to place my relationships with people and then serving them in the forefront. In a way they had always been there, unacknowledged, hidden behind the wilderness of my mind, but my children levered them out from the shadows. I had opportunities to reclaim myself, and finally, when almost too late, I took them and did so. Amen.
In the moment, however, Poo Poo Point arose high above us.
Poo Poo Point’s name’s apparently derived from the higher pitched sounds of small logging trains pulled by little steam engine locomotives as they wound their way around and thru the Tiger Mountain complex. Logging and coal mining were major resource extraction industries back in those days. Weyerhaeuser Corporation owned much of the territory back then before it became part of the Mountains to Sound Greenbelt park system. In many places the logging crews and their poo poo trains even removed all the stumps, which hang gliders and then paragliders developed into groomed launching pads. Well, one of the launching sites as a wild, slightly overgrown pasture feel to it, but the other higher up is almost golf coursey.
Morgan and I drove out to Issaquah and parked at the Chirico Trailhead. I was glad we had our required Discovery Pass parking permit, altho a number of cars didn’t display anything. Paragliders were spiraling down into the landing zone. A few swung back and forth then glided high over the treetops to ride thermals and gusts. Kristina and I had each received a free tandem paraglider flight with my friend John Kraske, a certified instructor. John and I were daredevil whitewater kayakers way back in the late 1980s and early 90s, and had served as one of the best men at my wedding to Kristina.
One end of summer day in 2009 John had taken us up the mountain and out into the sky one at a time. I went first, and it was so much fun. We ran off cliff’s edge to soar down and then up over the trees. I felt as if we were kayaking currents of air. Then we spiraled down in a rapidly descending “death spiral” to land almost gently in the landing zone below the Point at the trailhead. We rolled in the tall grass.
Kristina’s turn came, but much to her dismay, she got airsick and puked all over herself and John. She vomited multiple times and it sprayed and splashed and blew back all over the gear and her and John. It was a drencher of a stinker, and my third wife was most embarrassed and apologetic. John, married and divorced as many times as me if not more, was as chill as a polar bear napping in the snow on an ice flow. He was cool about it. Quite the gracious gentleman for such a daredevil. No ribbing. Not yet, anyway. They landed with Kristina still chucking up chuckies. She was too exhausted to blush. Before we could fly out into the sky, however, we had to hike up the Chirico Trail. We were surprised how steep it was. John took great pride in humping his enormously bulky and heavy tandem instructor-level paraglider packs straight up Poo Poo lane, a fartin’ on the go.
“Helps propel ya ass on up the mountain,” he grunted.
The solo gliders lugged lightweight gear by comparison, and we all snorted when a surprising number of them paid to have a minibus shuttle them up to the launching pads. Yeah, late and pokey from being in too much of a hurry texting far-flung Internet girlfriends, huh? My daughter noticed, however, women paragliders were nonexistent. Oh, there, we saw one, maybe two. Couldn’t really tell about the second one. Why did males dominated adrenalin sports? Even when the activity allowed one to immerse one’s self in sublime beauty? Especially from angles not visible from a car in the parking lot? Morgan steeled herself to backpack the entire Appalachian Trail, preferably with a female friend, but solo if necessary.
About a year later, long after Kristina regained composure, she and I took all three kids up the Chirico to Poo Poo Point. Our daughters got a kick out it. Oh, the Bright Blessings of such pure, naughty, adolescent joy! We marveled in the steepness and the simple beauty of the views.
Today was a relatively warm January day. A drought was on. Precipitation was scant. The air was sunny and the views off into the distant somewhat hazy. Smoke woofed up in silence from nearby burns.
The Chirico Trail left the parking lot and shot directly across the paraglider landing zone. Signs at the trailhead warned hikers to look up and beware of crashing paragliders. In other words, please don’t get squished and mashed flat. Morgan and I crossed swiftly into the trees. Then the trail turned right and shot up steep, steep, oh so steeply sweet. Nonetheless it was a beautiful trail. The flagstones and terracing gave this section of the Chirico the look of a wild yet manicured Chinese garden. We were immersed in lovely woods. None of it was virgin forest as the Weyerhaeusers logged Issaquah Alps into the 1970s. From various stone landings we could see scenery off in the distance thru the trees. This was and is my favorite part of the climb up to Poo Poo Point.
Eventually, at long last and in our own time, pushing it, we grunted thru an eroded maze of crazy switchbacks into the meadows of the lower launching point. Too many people had cut too many corners and it was an ugly, rutted out maze. So when you get your ass up here on the flanks of West Tiger Mountain farting your way up to Poo Poo Point, please stay on the trail and DO NOT CUT the switchbacks. Thank you!
We hung out in the meadows, enjoying the warm slant of January sunshine. Curious, the two of us chuckled as we watched couples sit snuggled up all romantic in the grass and stare into their beautiful and stunningly captivating smartfones. A small number even had digital electronic tablets! Mt. Rainier, however, captivated Morgan and me with its glorious alpine majesty wiping clouds across the sky.
Together we pushed on to the top, to the real Poo Poo Point, the jump-off site for paragliders and, before them, hang gliders. We didn’t make to the actual West Tiger summit. We didn’t need to. Wasn’t necessary. Wasn’t any need to conquer anything. Instead we sought connection, my daughter and I. I am partially deaf and am a verbal overcommunicator. She’s much more introverted and private and doesn’t want to share too much. I’m more extroverted and, as many writers and poets do, will engage in conversation bordering at times on psychobabble. I wanted to know her as a young adult. She wanted to know herself.
As alluded to earlier, Morgan and I are both kinda weird, eccentric in a harmless, positive kinda way, and we both knew it, too. We both can engage a thousand words a second with other people, thanks to our ADHD, but get us together and it’s as if our tongues become legs stuck deep in the mud of Southern swamp muck. Our brains go unawares to lock up in anxiety and plopsplat like scrambled eggs and lemon jello down into pitfalls of comparison. I want to hug her, and I’m not one to hug much. She asserts she hates to be hugged, but I recall her wanting to hug people all the time. I felt hurt, but try to hide it.
When I lose myself in my own not-looking-goods and my own mental sufferings, I forget who and what I really am and what my deep life purpose is. When I catch myself and wake back up into self-awareness and the present moment, then I observe whatever’s going on for me to perceive. Then I may consider what is it my own daughter may feel or may not feel without me saying a word. I can feel into her energy field and read it as a whitewater kayaker reads the river rushing below. Right or wrong, good or bad, she’s doing whatever she senses she must choose to take care of herself. In the midst of it all, I understand my daughter loves me and trusts me deeply even if I embarrass her for being a man who has lost everything but his own life … and hers … and her sisters’.
In the peace and quiet of paragliders preparing their gear to launch, we could see a small yellow airplane far below zooming up the valley. The small plane droned on as if a thousand years zipped by in a flash of molasses as the present moment expanded faster than any Big Bang. Consciousness opened possibilities within the fabric of the Kosmos. Even with one’s feet planted firmly on a spinning, wobbling planet. And the plane droned on with humans inside. No reptilians waved at us. Too many UFOs. And the plane droned on. Slowly fast.
We could see the flanks of Squak and Cougar Mountains, the sprawl of Lake Sammamish, and the spreading town of Issaquah. The downtown towers of Bellevue beckoned as some cold-hearted fortress while Seattle’s beckoned with its invitation of creative chaos and Discordian extremes. In the distance were the Olympics buried in haze, too fuzzy to see clearly. To the north, however, loomed Mt. Baker and the North Cascades.
Despite our frustrations with the other, however, the love between father and daughter felt apparent. I was a man in my latter middle-aged years, and she was entering early adulthood. I was born in Virginia, and she in Washington. I grew up in rural farm country in the conservative Southeast. She grew up in a progressive big city in the Pacific Northwest. Quietly, we hung out, ate the rest of our snacks, drank some water, and headed on back down the mountain on the Chirico Trail. And yes, we dodged paragliders as we jogged across the landing zone back to the car. No one came close to hitting us, it just felt that way in the lowering slant of late afternoon winter sun as long shadows zipped across grass, leaves, and dried mud. As I watched her charge ahead of me, I remembered changing her diapers amid swarms of mosquitos on a dayhike while her mother climbed Lundin Peak high above with the Mountaineers, my heart swelled with a quiet love, the deep knowing I loved her and indeed all three of my daughters more than anything. Love is Life.
One can move along time as one can move along the planes and axis of distance and thickness. Neither Morgan nor I could determine exactly how much mileage we did. We did start at the parking lot trailhead and hiked all the way up to the uppermost Launchpad, but no further. Summit Post claims the highest point was 1,850 feet or 564 meters. One Washington Trails Association description declared the Chirico Trail up to Poo Poo Point was 3.8 miles RT (round trip) with the highest point measuring 1,850 feet for an elevation gain of 1,760 ft. A second WTA posting, however, said the trail was 7.2 miles RT with an elevation gain of 1,858 ft. to the highest point being 2,021 feet high.
Well, shit, which was what? Better eat a lot more beans and hardboiled eggs so you can fart yourself higher and higher. Could be our minds were too addled by too much intestinal flatulence to read a map. Maybe the second distance included the true summit of the tippity top of Super Tiger. I don’t know. And while I am a records freak I was so happy to be with my daughter I’m leaving you the reader this mess to fart thru. Enjoy!
See you outside in the Great Outdoors, too! Farting up mountains, woo hoo!
William Dudley Bass
November & December 2015
Discover Pass, Washington State Parks, <http://discoverpass.wa.gov>.
“Poo Poo Point,” Summit Post, <http://www.summitpost.org/poo-poo-point/411617>.
“Poo Poo Point: Issaquah Alps,” Washington Trails Association, <http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/poo-poo-point>.
“Poo Poo Point – Chirico Trail: Issaquah Alps,” Washington Trails Association, <http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/poo-poo-point-chirico-trail>.
Copyright © 2015, 2016 by William Dudley Bass including all pictures and fotografs. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.
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