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See to Heaven
Hello again Brothers and Sisters, I hope you are enjoying your summer. It has been awhile since our last chat, and I pray that you and your family and friends are well. It seems as though we were just shoveling snow and now summer is halfway through. Time, where does it go? We are always so caught up in our own day-to-day lives that sometimes we tend to over-look the small things in life, and the small things usually tend to be the most important.
Let’s take a moment to thank God for what He has given us…especially the little things. I am truly blessed to have this opportunity to once again share with you a memory from my life.
As though one had stepped into the pages of a National Geographic magazine, nowhere is the beauty and power of nature more evident than along Highway 410 as it winds its way through the Wenatchee National Forest in the Cascade Mountain Range of Washington State. Although somewhat late this year, the hills and valleys have finally sprang to life in a rich and brilliant display of color. As though painted on this verdant canvas, the 30 different wildflower species that inhabit these mountain meadows, seem to vie for the attention of any passerby.
It was here that my wife and I decided to take our four children on what we commonly refer to as an “extended day-trip.” One of these outings normally encompasses anywhere from one to three days; long enough to have the feeling of getting away from it all, but still brief enough as to not feel overwhelmed by the isolation of it all.
Thus, with bags packed, we set our course for one of the most historic areas in the Wenatchee National Forest.
History abounds in and throughout this part of the forest known as the Nile Valley. One can hardly turn over a stone without discovering some evidence of this area’s rich and often colorful past. Perhaps one of the most intriguing sites in the valley, is located on Old River Road approximately one mile west of Highway 410 and three miles south of Whistlin’ Jack Lodge. Jutting obtrusively out of the surrounding landscape, is the basaltic crag known as “Edgar Rock.” It was on this spot that U.S. Army scout John Edgar, who in the fall of 1855, warned Chief Teias of the Yakimas of the army’s impending approach. In doing so, the Indians were able to ambush Lieutenant Slaughter and his men, resulting in several deaths. Upon receiving the news of Edgar’s betrayal, Lieutenant Slaughter ordered the immediate arrest of John Edgar. Hearing word of this, Edgar and his wife (who was the niece of Chief Teias) sought refuge in a cave on the mountain. Chief Teias sent word that one of his braves had killed Edgar in a dispute over guns. This apparently satisfied Lieutenant Slaughter who, anxious to put this embarrassment behind him, rescinded all warrants for Edgar’s arrest. Instead, Slaughter’s official record stated that Edgar had warned him of the Indian’s approach and an angered Chief Teias extracted his revenge by personally killing Edgar. Now, presumed dead, John Edgar spent the next few years in a cave hideout (which to date has never been located) atop the mountain which now bears his name. Eventually, Edgar and his wife made their way south through the Packwood, ending up in the Mt. Adams area.
What is more exciting than cowboys and Indians? This is the place that I had spent many a summer as a youth. My Uncle (who has since passed on) had a cabin just a stone’s throw away from the base of Edgar Rock. Also residing in the meadow at the base of the mountain was a grizzled old cowboy named Jess Wood. Born in 1880, Jess Wood was one of the last “true” cowboys. In his younger days, Jess roped and wrangled his way across the Great Divide, eventually ending up at the base of Edgar Rock. It was there, in the spring of 1910, that Jess purchased 40 acres for the outrageous sum of $20 and a horse. Now, too bent to mount a horse, Jess instead rode a rocker on the front porch of his hand-hewn log cabin. With no family to speak of, Jess enjoyed the occasional visits from passersby. It was on that very porch that I listened for hours on end to this living anachronism. Spinning his Paul Bunyonesque yarns, Jess recalled an especially harsh winter. “The winter of ‘21 was so cold” he rattled, “My mule Bessie froze solid and didn’t thaw out ’til spring – more stubborn than ever!” Like many an old-timer, Jess had a million-and-one stories to tell, and if your ears were patient enough, he would tell them all. As a child I think I heard everyone of his stories at least half-a-dozen times and remember always asking to hear them one more time. Although Jess is no longer with us, his memory lives on every time I tell one of his stories to my children.
Sometimes though, history just isn’t enough to keep the attention of children. Therefore, a parent must be resourceful by always keeping an “ace-in-the-hole.” Mine was the always proper, but sometimes unpopular – spiders, snakes and other creepy-crawly things. Being home to over two-dozen different species of amphibians, fish, and reptile; one needs only to take the time to stop, look, and listen in order to discover one or more of these small mountain residents. Many casts have I made from the shores of the Little Naches River in the hopes of doing battle with the great Oncorhynchus tshawytscha (King Chinook Salmon), and many are the times as a youth did I relentlessly pursue the Eumeces skiltonianus (Western Skink).
And what forest would be complete without its mammalian cast? Although they primarily inhabit the most isolated regions of the forest, one may be fortunate enough to occasionally encounter (hopefully at a distance) one of the more majestic rulers of the forest kingdom. Lions – of the mountain type, and bears – black in variety (although those of a “grizzled” nature have been spotted on rare occasion) freely roam this area of the Cascade Range.
Although chance meetings with these creatures are extremely rare, bear in mind (no pun intended) these are wild animals. Let common sense be your guide whenever hiking the back woods trails, or even sitting around the campfire. But don’t be discouraged if you fail to see one of the larger forest creatures, there are numerous smaller varieties of “furry friends” to fill your photo pages with. From cuddly raccoons, porcupines and beavers, to horrendously hideous mice, rats, bats, and voles, you’ll have plenty of stories to take back home. These are just a few of the many pleasures of nature that are bestowed upon those who take a moment to notice.
Upon arrival at our destination, we set up base camp in the meadow at the bottom of the mountain. Then shouldering our packs, we armed ourselves with walking sticks and tick repellent (which doesn’t seem especially bad for this time of year). Our rag-tag army was ready to set forth on our expedition.
When performing a mundanely automatic task such as walking, it’s not so much the big things you notice, but rather the small. Halfway up our metronomic ascent of this crag, I paused to rest under the tallness of a Ponderosa Pine. Jigsaw pieces of bark lay at the base of this 200-year old pinnacle. Lost in thought somewhere between yesterday and tomorrow, I was experiencing my own version of a “mountain high.” Some say it is because the air is so clean and pure, others say the “thinness” of diminished volume of oxygen due to the elevation is the catalyst for these euphoric episodes.
Whatever the case, mine was short-lived. In my haste for respite, I inadvertently sat upon a nest of extremely angry red ants. Their displeasure was effectively communicated vis-à-vis their incessant biting of my tender flesh. I rid myself of these six-legged piranhas by means of what my family now refers to as the “ant dance.” The closest description of what this display is like would be that of a Tasmanian Devil performing the “Macarena” in fast motion. Although crude, it is somewhat more effective than hitting yourself with a stick. And, if your wife happens to have the camcorder rolling, you just might make some money on that “funniest videos” program.
Free from my attackers (but not hecklers), we continued our climb, anxious to reach the summit before noon. What I have always enjoyed most about climbing this “Rock,” is that you seldom encounter another person (outside of those in your group). To this day, Edgar Rock remains one of the least climbed in the National Forest. It offers many levels of challenge from the beginning hiker to the experienced free form and rope climbers, exciting adventures are available to all.
When you have children though, you tend to take the path of least resistance (the mountain, not the kids). Even with a pair of bad knees, I set an exhausting pace for the climb. Soon realizing that I have out distanced the rest of my family by a hundred or so yards, I take the opportunity to snap off a few pictures. Nothing is quite as intricate in a simplistic sort of way as the mountain wildflower. From the small, delicate snow colored blossoms of the Cassiope mertensiana (White Heather) to the vibrant blue-pink petaled Erigeron peregrinus (Mountain Daisy) these budding beauties of nature awaken from their frosty slumber in the latter days of June through July, and can be enjoyed all summer long.
Clicking off a few more frames, I turn my attention towards my family. Seeing them approach I take time to pause and reflect. Life’s moments are too brief and fleeting; rich is he that can capture a few in a lifetime. This was one of those times, when everything that was right in the universe converged on this very spot. Then, as if to remind me that I reside on Earth and not Utopia, a pine cone hit me in the side of the head followed by the sound of my son’s laughter ringing in my ears. The last leg of our climb (at least for my son and I) went by remarkably quick.
Armed with a large pine cone of my own, I sought to exact my revenge. Weaving in and out of young Douglas fir trees with the accuracy of a slalom skier, I relentlessly pursued my prey. Finally, his legs belabored by the steep trail, my son’s pace slowed. Then just as I had him in my sights, we rounded a corner and stopped dead in our tracks.
Walking through a thicket of berries, not 50-yards in front of us was a Black Bear. Acutely aware of our proximity to this 400-pound carnivore, we slowly put distance between ourselves and this near-sighted beast. Fortunately for us we were down wind of the bear, who after a time, ambled deeper into the forest. A mixture of fear and excitement still coursed through our veins. Even though I did not take any pictures of our encounter, the memory of it all is much more vivid than any photograph ever could be.
Setting my camera down beside my pack, my family rested while I journeyed the last few yards to the peak. Once again, as I had hundreds of times before, I looked out over this great expanse that lay before me, and once again I was in awe of the bigness of it all. The mountain had once again allowed me an intimate look at her all-encompassing beauty. To be able to share this is perhaps one of the greatest gifts you could ever give or receive.
Thus, our day drew to a close sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows and making s’mores. The tales of our adventure that we experienced is sure to grow as the years go by, and the comforting knowledge that we would return to make new memories played in our minds. Thinking of this, my eyes caught on the night sky, and the clarity of which the stars shown; it reminded me of something Jess Wood had once said: “The sky at night is so clear, you can almost see to Heaven.” I smiled, thinking that I could almost see that old cowboy looking down at us.
That was a very memorable trip with my family, but as I have said many times in the past, what matters most are the memories we make spending time with our families, even (and more importantly) with the everyday events…in the morning getting ready for school or work; in the evening at the dinner table…taking the time to tie their shoes, and always there to tell them that you love them…just as our Father loves us!
And so dear brothers and sisters, our time together yet again, has drawn to a close; I hope you remember to love your family as our Blessed Lord loves you!
You may reach out to me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Until next time, may the Lord bless and keep you and your family safe.
CCGPC Chief Editor
Ministry of St. Anthony
Archdeacon Rev. Dr. Gary K. Taylor++
D.D., M.Div., M.A., B.Div.
o.s.a., m.s.a., s.o.e., s.o.s.b.n.b.