why did the mouse cross the road?

Now finally the boys had earned their stripes and rope burn on those beloved meadows whereupon one can climb above the trees to catch a breath and gaze over the stunning blue expanse of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and so as a special treat we introduced them to soft-serve skiing in the Cascades on a sunny Sunday in the mountains above Seattle where currently there’s enough snow for the North and South Poles which was of particular consolation to poor sneezy Adam with-glasses-falling-to-the-end-of-his-nose who enjoyed the respite from upstart powdery pollen down on the springy Whulge.  The pass across the Cascade Mountains here is unusually low elevation and such as it is characterized by a relatively mild maritime climate and being that carbon levels have passed the dreaded oh shit tipping point, by the time the boys are my age it’s quite possible rangy polar bears will be terrorizing those exceedingly well-dressed hikers who flock here in the summertime to blab on their cell phones and sad to say there probably won’t be any skiing left to speak of and the chairlifts will be trucked to the scrapyard where they fully belong if you ask me and the hillside will stop getting brushed out and slowly grow back up (the scenery is still pretty purty if you block out the clanking, vibrating equipment and buzzing interstate highway and concentrate on the majestic view north to triangle and blob-shaped mountains).

Up until now, as I was earlier alluding to, the boys have been schussing, swooshing or whatever vernacular you wanna invoke, exclusively in the northern range of the Olympics where it’s quieter so the carnival atmosphere on the citified mountainside yesterday was an eye-opener initially but as they carry the more personable personhood gene from their mother, the two of them seamlessly embraced the humanity with smiles on their faces while I preferred to stick myself upside down in a snowbank for lower-priced, family-friendlier entertainment. Seventeen runs they did down the intermediate hills with names like Dodge Ridge and Big Bill, maybe Bill is the guy who cut all the trees down? Adam, my oldest, is the careful technician who carves meticulous, controlled turns just the way he plays piano (unless he’s goofing around with the metronome) and while doing all this beautiful slowing-down mastery he’s looking around a lot, floating across the mountain meanwhile watching Oliver is not soothing to the nerves as he is the no-nonsense commuter who prefers the bullet train with nary a look up from his newspaper, thank you very much.

March 2019 - Obstruction Point Road 448-2

The last time they went skiing at the less fancy place where tough guys throw their skis in the back of pickups next to toolboxes, sawdusted oil rags and wear dirty gardening gloves for the rope tow, I waved see ya later to the boys and disappeared into the woods for hours by my lonesome and had a splendid time shooting and that’s where the image of this mile-high hemlock comes from. No clanking chairlifts here and what’s more frequent gale force wintertime winds mean lotta those other people blow away.  The color exposure was arguably better owing to the striking contrast between green of the lichen and deep blue sky and that’s probably what caught my initial fancy but the form spoke something about the way to go as the breeze gently lifted that lichen at the end of the short snag, an alien pincer (though I was the stranger) pointing the way and it was the right way or maybe it was getting rid of me, I dunno.

On the way home last night the boys were famished from too much fun so we stopped in a little foothills town which rests startlingly at the base of the most towering mountain you ever saw that thrusts skyward from the valley floor like a geyser of rock and green and at the corner by the popular restaurant featured in a popular television program of yore I commenced a lawful right hand turn in my automobile and as I performed this maneuver the tiniest mouse nervously skittered in the crosswalk, over to the curb. Luckily for her the town is ADA-compliant and she safely completed the journey around Rodent Cape Horn. I’m not a big mouse guy but the boys anthropomorphize the heck out of everything and so she was more than a furry speck to me and besides a few years ago, horrors because a chipmunk loitering in the road got pancaked.  At any rate, the little mouse crossed the street to safety and the boys devoured cheeseburgers and French fries from Scott’s Dairy Freeze. Since it was a school night and the evening was getting on we had to zoom back down to Puget Sound City for bedtime.  The boys hungrily gobbled their food in the car with their wind-burned faces stuck in their chapter books and they got greasy fries all over the floor. You know what? A long time ago, a band of mice overwintered in the car and those little things made themselves at home, chewed up a bunch of wires for their personal entertainment, causing all sorts of problems with blinking lights and serious messages on the dashboard saying stuff like pull over buddy you got major issues!

postscript: Wrote 99.99% of this on Monday. Felt rather conflicted about the bourgeoisie soundingness of the ski-thing but thought about grizzled Frank in Port Angeles, mom and dad on Medicaid, my duct-taped boots and probable arteriosclerosis from all the government cheese and Price Saver Cornflakes when I was the boys’ age and decided to hell with unhelpful class consciousness.

11 thoughts on “why did the mouse cross the road?

  1. Hey Jason, enjoyed your tale. Well, first of all, I like that picture of the scarified old tree, kind of spooky if it’s pointing, like that spirit in Dicken’s Christmas Tale, the last one, that didn’t speak. I’ve never really been to your area (once to a wedding in Seattle when I was too young to remember much) and darned if I knew there are hemlocks, but I see, sure enough, Western Hemlocks. The Eastern ones are my favorite evergreen at home, I like the way the flat needles reflect and change the light underneath. Currently under attack by the Woolly Adelgids (doesn’t that sound like some obscure Germanic tribe attacking the Romans?) I’ve heard of these rodent attacks, too, we had squirrels chew on the spark plug wires one time, causing backfires and my father to get up early for weeks, so my mother wouldn’t catch him sniping at the vandals with a pellet gun.

    Sounds like the kids had a great time. This reminded me of going to the Thousand Islands with my folks as a kid, they always avoid crowds/noise, but on an impulse, they took my sister & me on a giant powerboat, twin giant outboards, which roared around the islands, blowing past the jet skis, blaring Sammy Haggar, Zeppelin, Aerosmith, anybody from New Jersey, etc. It was very out-of-character, and really fun. But I like the sound of the place you usually go with the rope-tow and sounds like, lots of places to hike.

    • Hi Robert, thanks for coming by again and sorry I wrote for a million words on this one. By the way, since you left your note I made the picture of this tree bigger (probably too big) because it dawned on me how far less interesting it seemed in the smaller size. Western Hemlock is one of our species. I believe this one is probably a Mountain Hemlock (winter conditions in this location are quite severe and a lot of the usual rugged biggies are characteristically stunted and irregular). Egads, you’ve got your Adelgids, we’ve got our Western Pine Beetles (in places like the pines of the Cascades we’re at risk of their range growing as winters get warmer/shorter). Your story about the Thousand Islands cracks me up, for some reason it made me think of an old episode of Scooby Doo where the Mystery Gang goes too fast on an airboat through the bayou. Wasn’t familiar with the area but I looked at some pictures and background from the web. Seems like a place I’d love to visit. But not on a jet boat.

      • The Thousand Islands, (Wikipedia says 1,864 – anything with one square foot above water and two trees, I thought the locals said one bush qualified, but they may be Reform Druids) is mostly a ton of summer cottages, but still really pleasant, some cool old robber baron mansions, and old forts on the Canadian side, to keep the pesky Yankees at bay.

  2. What a fun adventure TF. As I read I was recalling our maiden voyage from the east coast to Seattle in 1979 and the spectacle of the mountains and water and trees and then the view of the city looming suddenly in the windshield of our truck with it’s camper loaded with all of our worldly possessions and how we were rather shocked at the size of the city…in 79. I’m sure it’s a whole lot different now and if we were 20 and 24 again and doing it now, we might just turn around and hightail it back east, at least to Montana. Glad we didn’t do any such thing. Glad you and the family make the very best of the city and all the surroundings it has to offer for play and west and welaxation as Elmer Fudd would say. And anyone with any long term knowledge of this place would completely get the regional references and not be the least offended, I should think. Good fun TF. Regards.

    • Wow. Thanks for sharing that cool memory, Ilona. Pretty funny how the city seemed to you in 1979. I’m glad you stuck it out (though certain parts of Montana would’ve turned out to be a good detour, I’ve always really loved Missoula although Montanans joke it’s not really Montana) for what would turn out to be a fascinating zig-zag around the PNW. If I arrived in Seattle today it’s possible I might be tempted to catch the next ferry someplace to the other side of the water but I’d probably still choose the city if I could afford it (which is a big question mark nowadays) because I hadn’t seen anything. Still haven’t seen a lot, really. Fortunately, most of what I like to see (and love the most) is in the PNW…….

  3. Enjoyed this post, Jason. It stirred my ski memories. I used to ski frequently at the pass, but now it’s a freaking mass of humanity up there. It often becomes mellower after winter break, so I hope to take some runs soon. Nice photo.

    • Hi Louise, thanks. It’s good to hear from you. Hope you’ve had some good XC this winter and just maybe you’ll get more than a handful of turns to bow tie it all. The pass was probably not that awful as I make it seem, crowdwise. An ordinary year wouldn’t find me up there on such a sunny day in March (I’d rather be looking for sea glass on the beach or walking in the greening-up valleys) but the boys got a late start this winter due to the government shutdown. We really wanted them to cut their teeth skiing above Port Angeles, it’s no frills and laid back and the Peninsula is a symbolic place for our family so we felt like they’d look back on it a little more fondly.

  4. To hell with unhelpful class consciousness, indeed! (After all, a *real* bourgeois would have flattened the mouse without a second thought.) Loved, loved, loved your descriptions of the boys’ different skiing styles. Isn’t is fascinating how our personalities can manifest themselves even in the smallest of actions, like carving a curve in the snow? I also laughed at the bit about polar bears terrorizing the exceedingly well-dressed hikers in just a few years, even though it isn’t funny. (Although there WOULD be a kind of poetic justice if it was the polar bears who survived this calamity.) Well. I do hope you were able to get most of the french-fry smell out of the car to prevent another rodent infestation. And thank you for inviting your readers along on this charming excursion! Your photo is gorgeous too … but then, your photos always are.

    • The french-fry smell is ordinarily very temporary but sometimes much later on I’ll have an archaeological find in the form of preserved, petrified little fries in cup holders leading to conjecture about where they lay in the timeline of history. Have a good weekend, Heide! You had so many wonderful pictures from Florida and I hope pretty soon you can get out for more photography around home that doesn’t require extreme bundling up.

      • Many years ago there was an installation in the student union at my university titled, “Watch it rot.” While everything else (a burger and an orange, if memory serves) turned into purée, the french fries remained as pristine as the day they were minted, at least by outward appearances. It made me wonder whether maybe subsisting entirely on french fries was the key to ageless skin. (Alas, the experiment instead gave me acne.) *AHEM.* But yes indeedy, the thaw is on in full force and my memory card is wiped clean in preparation for a new adventure! So fingers crossed I’ll find the time. Take care, and thank you for your lovely reply.

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