International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Hiking USA
I first came to the Northwest at the age of twenty I was introduced
to lots of animals and plants that I had never seen. Marmots, mountain
goats, skunk cabbage, blue grouse
I could name dozens of
new discoveries. One of my favorite things was the chance to come
across something new every time I went outdoors. The most beautiful
thing I discovered lived in Mt. Rainier National Park.
I was exploring a trail near Longmire when I decided to get a drink
of creek water, which, incidentally, is the best tasting water in the
world. Above the trail was a pool of clear cold water with damp moss
growing in the shade on both sides of the small creek. Growing out of
the moss was a little green plant with a pink flower. The scene reminded
me of a misty vision from an old black-and-white werewolf movie I had
seen when I was a kid. I felt like the professor finding a new orchid
in a dark forest glade, surrounded by animals that I couldn't see. I
looked closely at the flower and was stunned by its beauty. I had never
seen anything like it.
I wanted to identify it, so I picked the flower and a leaf so that I
could find out what kind of wildflower it was. When I got back to my
cabin I took the plant out of my shirt pocket and got my wildflower
guidebook. Wow, it really was an orchid! I identified it as a Fairyslipper
and read the page-long description of it. I felt great until I read
the last sentence, which I quote: "Thus orchids are rare, and each
one thoughtlessly picked further reduces the chances of a new orchid
coming to life." Oh man! Talk about a buzz-kill! The authors had
struck me personally and I felt very small and mean.
I got over this feeling by telling myself that I picked this flower
innocently and that there were millions more of them. I knew that I
would see many more and I would never pick another. That was in the
summer of 1969.
In the next three decades I climbed hundreds of mountains, crossed hundreds
of streams and hiked well over six or seven thousand miles of trails
and trackless wilderness. I was very observant and saw many wonderful
things in my travels. One thing I did not see was another Fairyslipper.
My wife and I moved to Graham in 1999 and spent all of our free time
together checking out the trails and backroads around us. So much beautiful
country to explore! One Saturday we camped near the Cispus River at
the Blue Lake Creek Campground. That afternoon we hiked the short trail
down to the river. Valmari saw some flowers and I went over to look
at them. My God! They were Fairyslipper orchids! If I had been alone,
I would have fallen to my knees and sobbed with relief. I told her what
I was feeling so she could understand how I felt. She had removed a
terrible weight that only I could bear. I had spent thirty years thinking
that I might have killed the last one in the world!
I have learned a couple valuable lessons from this and they are "Hike
with a friend and don't pick the flowers".
Floyd Frank May 4th 2009
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