The tantalizing scent of pine needles wafted past my face as I stood at the trailhead, waiting for the rest of my family to pack the necessary materials for a daylong journey to a place that I never experienced before. After everything was ready and my parents were finished reading the trail information, we put our names and estimated return times into a rough wooden box and embarked. At that time, there was six members of my family: my adventure seeking dad, my bear fanatic mom, my two younger sisters who hated hiking, me, and my bite sized Shetland Sheepdog who is sadly no longer with us.
Onward we marched, our wool sock hiking boot clad feet carrying us upwards alongside various creek beds. However, sometimes the trail led us away form those creek beds and presented fallen rock obstacles that we were compelled to either crawl through or detour around. After scrambling around one such obstacle, my family gathered around a natural phenomenon that I am pretty sure that I will never witness again till the end of my days. An entire tree was seemingly suspended in mid air! My youthful mind could neither fathom such a possibility, nor imagine any possible logical reason for this surprising occurrence. I reached out to touch the apparently magical trunk of this tree, when my dad pulled me back. He explained that this tree was being supported by the branches of the trees surrounding it, and touching it may upset its balance and cause it to tumble down upon our heads. I stood transfixed at this idea, and after discussing this magic tree for a few minutes, we moved on.
Suddenly; the jagged, rock infested trail transformed into a smooth and gentle curve, which greatly relieved my muscle sore family. This was a place where the natural sun could break through the once dense forest and deliver all of his benevolence upon the meadow, revealing the majestic greens and royal blue violets of her natural garments of grass and wildflowers. Looking down, I discovered the leathery gray remains of hand sized frogs littered about the ground. How did the frogs come to lie there? Was this nature’s way of feeding the grass and the wildflowers? Of these questions; i still do not understand the former, but I feel that the true answer to the latter question is yes. Nature’s ways are sometimes harsh indeed; but without her laws of life and death, life would not be able to maintain balance and would therefore cease to exist. As I was pondering these questions, the trail led my family back into the forest as quickly as he led us out of it.
Yet again; the trail became jagged and steep, this time leading us over hills by means of countless switchbacks. The lactic acid burn in each of our legs grew steadily more intense with each passing switchback, causing increasing discomfort and irritation in both me and my sisters. Eventually, one of us began to plead with our parents to take the shorter route by going off trail and cutting straight through the switchbacks. My parents refused; explaining that taking this kind of short cut would create another trail that would allow water runoff to descend straight down the steep hill, eroding the nutrient rich soil away from the plants and animals that are so dependent on it. Thus, we were obliged to follow the marked trail against the aggressive complaints of our muscles.
After all these adventures and toils, we finally arrived at our destination. Loon Lake welcomed us with open arms; showing off her glass smooth waters, along with her beautiful chorus of unseen birds. My family and I happily removed our constricting boots to wade in Loon Lake’s chilly water, watching the tiny minnows play in the shallows. Brandy, the bite sized sheepdog, gratefully lapped water from this pristine water source. We followed Brandy’s example by refreshing ourselves in our human way, enjoying a rather late lunch and talking about the lake. Several years before our venture into this serene spot, a small airplane had crashed landed just across the lake from where we were sitting. From what I remember, everyone involved in the crash survived and safely made it out, but to this day the plane remains. We discussed visiting the crash site, but the shadows were beginning to grow longer and we needed to be back at the truck before it grew dark, so we decided against it. After a few more minutes of resting and talking, we packed up our things and proceeded on the long journey back to our truck.
At this point, the sun was steadily sinking behind the tree tops, and we were compelled to race the oncoming darkness to the safety of our truck. The fading light slowly began to illuminate every twig, leaf, and tree until these things seemed to no longer belong to this world. The shadows of the creaking ghost trees lengthened to an almost unholy degree, making my mom nervous. A great fire had once passed through this part of the trail, leaving the ghost trees as a memory of its anger and potency. Their creaking groans were a constant reminder that danger was at hand, for one of these ghosts could lose control of their trunks and crash onto the tops of our heads. Because evidence of this danger was strewn all around us, we made an extra effort to hurry through this graveyard.
Fortunately; the ground now sloped downward, allowing us a slight advantage over our challenger. Thus we hurried with the trail, rarely pausing unless a rest was absolutely needed, mentally preparing ourselves in case we should end up staying overnight. However, the green began to return once more, and we were carried to the trailhead. From there; we headed back to our campsite, ready to retell the day’s adventures over a few hot dogs and smores grilled over an open campfire.
Loon Lake is located in the Payette National Forest in Idaho, near the tourist town of McCall. Public campsites such as Ponderosa State Park can be found throughout this area, as well as in upper Payette Lake.
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