Good-by to the Lodge

The world is always ending somewhere. It just depends on whether it falls in your line of vision or not.

Akwaeka Emezi

On Monday morning I got up and opened my laptop, as I do most mornings, and was surprised to see a message from a friend that said simply, “Oh no!” I clicked the link, which had been posted by the Pacific Northwest Trail Association a few hours earlier, and saw a photo of a fire truck parked next to the smoldering remains of the day lodge at Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. It had burned down the preceding day. I repeated out loud the words that had been posted, “Oh no.” There was nothing more to be said. I felt empty inside.

At my age, loss is a regular part of life. Everyday I deal with an aching back that reminds me of an aging body. There are photos of loved ones here and there in my home who have passed on. Life’s inevitable disappointments are there for me too, grief over what might have been, what never can be. One would think the frequency would make it easier to accept this unavoidable part of life, but I have not found that to be the case. Each loss is another reminder: life is fragile. Cherish it.

I was somewhat surprised at the depth of my grief. I moved away from the Olympic Peninsula several years ago and had not thought of the lodge for a very long time. The building lacked the august presence of the historic lodges in the park, such as Lake Crescent and Lake Quinault.

But I have visited all of them many times. The Olympics were a short drive from my childhood home in Tacoma, and my family spent abundant summer vacations there, as I have written several times in these posts. There was no campground nor overnight facilities at Hurricane Ridge, but it provided a frequent destination for taking in mountain vistas. For a few years in the nineties I lived in the nearby town of Port Angeles and would often make the short drive to the ridge top after work in order to go for an evening hike, when the light was soft, and the sunset illuminated the jagged peaks that spread across the horizon.

When most people think of Olympic National Park, they envision the dense rain forest. . . ancient trees strewn with club moss, or perhaps the rugged coastline. But these mountains have some of the most beautiful high country of any place I have ever hiked, flower dotted meadows, vistas of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, and the volcanic peaks of the the Cascades rising to the east across the sound.

The photo you see above was taken from Klahane Ridge, which is actually higher than Hurricane Ridge, and is one of several destinations for high country hikes as well as home to a large population of mountain goats. In the photo you can see the road winding to the summit. That road replaced a rugged dirt road that made the ascent from the Elwha River until 1953. My brother remembers taking that route. I only remember my mother talking about it years later, always a note of angst in her voice as she described the tortuous twists and turns. When it was replaced the Park Serice preserved it as a trail, which exists to this day and forms a portion of the Pacific Northwest Trail, taking the hiker down once again to the river valleys and the deep forest.

My memories include sleeping in my car in the parking lot by the lodge with my friend Patty, where we were busted by a ranger during the night and forced to take the winding road back down the hill in the dark to properly camp at Heart of the Hills Campground. He gave us a pass so that we did not have to pay for the campsite, an offering to two impoverished college students who were spending the summer in the mountains. The following day we backpacked to Lake Angeles, where I once again was awakened in the middle of the night, this time by a mountain goat chewing on my down sleeping bag. It was as close as I have ever been to a large animal with horns. Memorable though it was, I hope to never repeat the experience.

Yes, memorable. That is the flip side of loss. The lodge may have burned to the ground, but I will never forget that mountain goat nor the evening hikes after work. Like the sunlight, the loss is softened by time. I look at pictures of my father, and though I miss him terribly, I smile as I remember how he carried his fishing creel over one shoulder, how the dried fish scales sparkled in the sunlight. Each memory is like that: a flash of light. I remember; I smile, and I am grateful. Somehow I think my dad smiles back.

So it is with a well lived life. Sometimes your heart soars. . . and sometimes it breaks. You do not get one without the other. I am grateful for both.

Published by Colleen Drake

Colleen Drake (AKA Teacup) has over sixty years of hiking exerience (yes, I'm really old) and has seen some pretty big changes over those many years. Join her on the Solitude Trail & share some of these adventures while exploring with her the value of solitude in the wilderness.

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