Like most men, I’ve never been lost.
But not lost.
Ask for directions?
These thoughts cross my mind as I hunt for the Tiger Creek trailhead. The trail 19 miles southeast of Walla Walla, snow-free early in the “hiking season,” is high on my bucket list.
To get there, I drive up Mill Creek Road. I cross a bridge to Tiger Creek Road, which becomes Forest Service Road 65.
As I drive up the hill, random thoughts occur — getting my second COVID-19 vaccination, how woodpeckers avoid headaches when hammering on a snag, the batting averages of the 1968 Detroit Tigers pro baseball team.
I’m a stubborn sort. Just ask my wife, Wonder.
I’m thinking the trail starts where the road switchbacks.
I park there and search for the trailhead sign recently installed by the Blues Crew, busy recently restoring the trail to its former glory.
The sign is nowhere to be found.
Has it been chopped down by angry beavers?
I find a trail going upstream.
The sun does an early May beat down.
Wild strawberries bloom.
I eagerly anticipate shade from the old-growth pine and fir along the stream, and soon am rewarded as the trail moves closer to Tiger Creek.
Rapids claw their way through hundreds of fallen trees.
The snowmelt-swollen creek roars, growls, hisses — everything but purrs.
I am thankful for the hard-working Blues Crew sawyers who have cleared a path through a maze of downed trees.
Wood violets brighten the trailside with yellow blossoms.
Soon I reach a creek crossing. The flimsy plank holds up just fine despite my pandemic paunch.
Another quarter mile of hiking and I arrive at a second creek crossing — two mismatched logs, one upstream, one downstream.
I choose the upstream logs.
More intrepid hikers would stride across the logs without a flinch.
I am more cautious.
On hands and knees, my face close enough to the water to feel cool mist, I crawl across.
Hiking poles would be useful for the creek crossings, as well as for balance on several short, steep ascents and descents.
Since I am shooting pictures, dawdling and absentminded, I have left my poles in the car.
The trail, I’m told, continues up the mountain about three miles, but I reach my end point at a third creek crossing. This one has no “bridge.”
The snowmelt runs fast and high.
Sure, I could remove my boots and socks and wade, but I feel I have seen enough for one day to get the flavor of Tiger Creek.
Returning downhill, I crawl across the tree bridge. Since I am low down already, I splash some water on my face and the back of my neck. Instant cool-down.
The droplets inches below my face race each other to an eventual date with the Pacific Ocean.
I have more modest ambitions.
I hike out, enjoying the downhill.
The creek is making better time than me as I meander to my car.
A half-mile into my downhill drive I see two cars parked where none were earlier. Beside them is the bright and shiny trailhead sign.
The beavers are innocent of suspected trailhead sign vandalism.
And now I have another short hike to take on a day when I am not so absentminded.