Breaking the rules

March 16, 2014

forest trilliums 2

As I entered the state park yesterday to meet a friend for a hike, I noticed a sign announcing the Trillium Festival in three weeks. I like trillium, the early spring flowers that pop up unexpected in the woods, but I was grateful I wouldn’t be competing for a parking spot with the trillium-seekers.

As my friend and I hiked along the trail, however, it was clear that this was the peak weekend for trillium, which had paid no attention to the state park calendar. There would be some disappointed hikers in a few weeks.

We had made the turn at the far point of a loop and were heading back to our cars when we encountered a barrier on the trail. “Trail closed. Washout.” We looked at each other. The two of us had once encountered a fast-moving river near timberline on Mt. Hood and crossed it on a fallen log. We’d arm-wrestled a taxi driver in Buenos Aires—I don’t mean metaphorically, I mean he wanted to arm wrestle each of us, repeatedly, while driving. On another occasion, we were (mistakenly) certain the deposit on our room had been returned to us in counterfeit twenty dollar bills and spent a Lucy-and-Ethel afternoon trying to decide how to spend them before returning to the United States and the jurisdiction of the Treasury Department. We’d watched the United States women’s soccer team beat Canada while we sat in a bar in Toronto. This barricade meant nothing.

We continued up the trail, and soon encountered a half-dozen mud-covered workers marching toward us, shovels and pulaskis slung over their shoulders, all but singing, “Hi ho, Hi ho. . .” The smell of stale cigarette smoke overcame the more subtle smell of cedar as we passed them. It now seemed likely that the washout had been repaired, and we congratulated ourselves on our choice. Rounding a corner, we suddenly came upon the orange fencing where the trail had dropped into a small gully and a fresh wooden bridge spanning the narrowest portion of the gap. And the park ranger. We’d been seen, so there was nothing to do but continue toward the bridge.

“Oh my, what happened?” my friend said. It would have been more convincing if she’d said it in Spanish. The ranger carefully explained the situation, adding how grateful he was to have had a crew working off their community service requirement available to build the bridge. “This is just temporary; we can’t fix it permanently until August. The trail will be closed again then,” he said, adding, “but you know how some people are, they’ll go right past a sign saying the trail is closed, thinking the rules don’t apply to them.”

He’s going to have to speak to the trillium.


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