The plan was to go on a leisurely hike, then have a late lunch in Sisters, Oregon. You know, pushing the baby in the stroller so everyone can enjoy The Boy as much as the rest of us do.
That was the plan.
As we drove through Sisters, I even asked, Did you bring the stroller?
Yes, she answered.
This hike came highly recommended by the Other Sister. She has hiked Sahalie Falls several times. She was the first to tell me about Tamolitch Blue Pool. I have wanted to see the Blue Pool ever since Other Sister told me about it.
I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past six months, here in Bend with the sisters. Ever since Mama Sister gave birth to Much Prayed For.
This one knows me as Mee-Maw, and for the last three months I have been helping care for him while his mama and daddy searched for suitable day care. It isn’t as easy as you might think. If you are thinking of opening a business in Bend, Oregon, can I recommend that you open a high-quality day care? Last I heard the waiting list at Learning Tree was something like in the 50s.
So, I’ve been making the trek over to Bend weekly for the past three months, and pretty often even before that.
It’s been a joy, this time with Much Prayed For.
It’s also been exhausting.
I’m not the young mother I was once.
Which is why, I suppose, it never occured to her that I might not be fit enough for the kind of hiking she is used to doing.
Should we stop and get some food for the hike? I asked as she drove on through Sisters.
Nah, she said. We’ll be fine. We have water.
Who was I to disagree? We were, after all, only going for a leisurely hike, right?
It was a fun morning. Full of the usual antics that happen whenever the Mama Sister is around.
I love Sisters, she said.
Oh, that’s sweet, I said, thinking she meant her sisters, whom I had just been talking about, but what she really meant was the town. That got us to giggling.
Only moments later, or was it before, she was talking about a girlfriend who had a baby.
She was in a pool, the Mama Sister said.
A pool? I implored. She had her baby in the pool?
Yeah, my daughter replied.
You mean she gave birth to her baby in the pool?
No! the Sister Mama replied. She didn’t give birth in the pool. She was in the pool with her daughter!
Ah! I said. Important distinction and we both giggled ourselves silly.
When planning a hike it is best to actually plan one. The daughter and I didn’t have a plan, other than to park at the Falls and hike to the Blue Pool. The parking lot at the Falls was filling up when we arrived at 10 a.m. We stopped briefly before the posted map and calculated our trip. All downhill, about an hour to hour and half to go three miles. No problem. There and back and we’d easily make it to Blue Pool by noon and be back to the parking lot at oh, 2 p.m. at the latest. It would be uphill coming back.
We had water and some snack foods for Much Prayed For. Diapers and wipes. We were good to go. It only took about 10 minutes of downhill hiking before we encountered our first breathtaking moment. The first of several waterfalls.
The water was so clear. And around the waterfalls so blue. Everywhere we looked for that first half-mile, there was something beautiful to see. All those towering trees. All the fairy moss houses. All that golden sunlight gleaming off green branches.
The cold water rushing downriver.
And the trail, as Other Sister had told us, was well-maintained. There were all these wonderful nooks and crannies built out of logs where a person could almost walk right out over the water. Every view evoking another “Ahh, this is the best one yet!”
We did think it odd that by the time we reached the top of the reservoir that the only people we had run into were not hikers but bikers. Mountain bikers. The first we happened upon was actually the result of an accident. It looked as if the woman had hit a rocky area and gone off trail and flew head over handlebars for quite a ways. Several fellow bikers were tending to her. She got up on two feet as we passed them by, bruised and battered but otherwise fine, I hoped.
Scary, we both declared.
Shortly before we reached the first bridge, I encountered a snake. Fortunately, I saw it before stepping on it. Ewww! I shrieked.
After the second bridge, we encountered another couple hiking.
How much further to the Blue Pool? we asked. We figured the Blue Pool to be not much farther, now. We were expecting it to be a three mile hike.
We are looking for it ourselves, they answered.
Yeah. We parked in the parking lot about 2 miles back. We haven’t seen it so we figured it up ahead.
No, we assured them. It is not up ahead.
Well it’s not behind us, they said.
My daughter, the one who once hiked for 30 miles on the PCT wearing nothing but flip-flops because she had blisters from her hiking boots, took off.
You want to keep going? I called out. It’s already 11:30. They said it’s not up ahead. Maybe it dried up.
C’mon, she called back.
That’s when we made a plan. If we didn’t find the Blue Pool by 12:30 we’d have to head back. The Mama Sister had a dentist appointment in town at 4 p.m. It was an hour’s drive back. And a goodly amount of the hike would be uphill. And uphills are not my forte.
At 12:30, with still no sign of the elusive Blue Pool, I started praying.
Maybe that couple had been right. Maybe there was no Blue Pool. Maybe it had all dried up.
Shall we go back, my daughter asked.
If we don’t find it by 12:45, I replied.
I’m just afraid that we will miss it. That it is around the next bend and we’ll have to turn back before we see it.
Me, too, I said. But we do have to head back at 12:45. It’s a long ways back. Longer than the three miles we’d been expecting. I knew that for sure because the San Diego boys on bikes we met earlier had commented on what fast hikers we Mad Women hikers were.
I hear traffic, I said.
Me, too, said the daughter.
I hear water, I said.
She said nothing.
We both heard a dog barking and voices up ahead. We were either going to happen upon the Blue Pool or a parking lot. We weren’t sure which when we rounded a bend and the daughter called back, It’s over here.
And sure enough, there it was, in all it’s deep cold water blueness.
Breathtaking in more ways than one. I found the nearest rock and sat down. Bad mistake. Getting up required a crane and a lift.
We fed the boy applesauce. She had nursed him on the trail already. Just whipped out the goods and fed him as she hiked. Guess it’s a family tradition of sorts. The other Mama Sister says she’s done the same with both her boys, fed them while hiking. Making good on their ancesteral heritage of Cherokee lineage, I reckon.
The boy was good the entire trip. Happy as a lark. Sleeping mostly but smiling when he wasn’t. This boy loves the outdoors. Loves to play in the grass and in water and the dirt. Trees astound him. He could stare at them all day long. And he seemed to realize that the Blue Pool was someplace fabulous.
You might even say he embraced the entire excursion with a lot more enthusaism than his worn-out Mee-Maw.
It wasn’t until we reached the Blue Pool that we discovered there was a much easier way to get to the pool. A short hike down the hill to the parking lot on the OTHER side. That’s where all the dozens of people who were already at the pool had started from.
Not us. We took the long way round.
The way on bikers and lost hikers take.
It was 1:00. We knew without telling each other we were going to have to book it to make it to town on time. So much for a leisurely hike. There were moments, during the last part of that uphill hike that we both thought I might have a stroke before we reached the car. Finally, the daughter left me and the boy at the lake and she ran that last half-mile uphill back to the car and drove around and picked me up. By then it was 2:50.
Nearly nine miles total.
How the hell did Cheryl Strayed ever hike the PCT? I asked.
She’s crazy, my daughter replied.
We might be, too, I offered. But one day, Much Prayed For might bring his own family out to the Blue Pool and tell them that this was the first hike of his life, back when he was a baby with his Mama and Mee-Maw.
I hope if he does he takes the short hike in, said his mama.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Burdy (Mercer University Press).