Life on Misty Mountain Installment #3:
After 9 months at Misty Mountain, one of the things that I have come to appreciate most is our proximity to the perpetual flow of water. Maybe it’s because I spent much of my life in drought, both in Northern and Southern California. I learned that water was precious and ephemeral and limited. I came to expect waterfalls to dry-up in the late summer months and to covet the rare campsites on river shores.
But then we moved here, and… water is everywhere all the time. The abundance on this Mountain is still shocking to me.
To reach our house you have to cross two rivers. The first one is the smaller of the two – ZigZag River. Like most waterways around here, it is fed by the melting snow of Mt. Hood and the 71 inches (!!!) of precipitation this area receives each year. It is also a tributary to the larger one – the Sandy River.
We’ve been warned about the Sandy River by locals. It’s ever changing banks and direct tap to Hood’s massive snowmelt makes it unpredictable and dangerous. In 2011, it flooded the main road (Lolo Pass) and stranded hundreds of residents for a week. 2020/21’s weather has so far mirrored that fateful year – lots of snow at higher elevations and then sudden warm days thawing the slopes. It’s a recipe for inconvenience (when it comes to the mountain old timers) and disaster (for us wilderness novices). We’ve received several Flood Warnings, and though it’s come close in areas, the waters have yet to breach the banks.
Misty Mountain sits about 400 yards from the Sandy’s shore. Our favorite neighborhood trail parallels it, and Westi has loved swimming in its waters during the warmer months. But we’ve watched it change with the seasons and weather. One day it resembles a meandering creek, the next a rushing torrent. It is a daily reminder that Mother Nature does not mess around, and our proximity to this force demands respect. You better believe we readily acquiesce.
When standing on these shores, I tend to get philosophical about it all. Water eternally flowing – neither looking to relive the past nor skip to the future. It is always in the present moving forward, drop by drop; endlessly pursuing its divine mission.
But nature also has a way of bringing me back to the fundamentals. As intimidating and stunning these waterways can be, they are undeniably just the basic lifesource for the mountain. They quench the thirst of the bears, bobcats and deer that roam the land. They usher salmon and steelheads to quiet pools of reproduction. They sustain giants in the form of 100-200ft firs and pines. There’s nothing profound about it, really. It’s just life on life’s terms in action, every day, drop by drop.
This is what I love about this place. It is both spectacular and 100% functional, incomprehensible while being indiscriminately pragmatic. You can learn so much while being here or… not. Either way, these rivers will just keep flowing, and my lack of control over this whole operation is exactly what the universe ordered. Mother (Nature) knows best.