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Islay Hill

Hiking does so loosen the knots of my soul.

I intended just to go take pictures. But I neglected to bring my camera. It is usually in my purse, ready to go, but I had taken it out and had forgotten this. So I found myself at the base of Islay Hill, thinking, what about a hike?

It was five o'clock, a bit cloudy, otherwise nice hiking weather. I thought, what the hell.

The Islay Hill trail is in three parts: the first part is fairly steep, the second more gentle, and the third again steep. Toward the very end is a short quite steep climb that tends to scare me. In fact, the first time I went up there I took a rather slow time of it and I remember pausing on the way down, trying to find footing that would not send me into the abyss. It was this little scare that kept me away from that hike until today. That, and I now remember, the fact that I had started out walking from my home, thinking this would make a good warmup for the climb. Thusly the climb seemed worse in some ways than it is.

This time up it was certainly the cardio workout I remembered, it was still the wonderful trail of views in every direction at every turn. As I climbed, I took in the look of the gray-green mountains in the distance, the lighter green hills closer to me, and the brilliant swaths of goldenrod cutting across, at times broken by fields of lupins and other wildflowers. Wildflowers everywhere. The scent of sage cut with the milder flower smells, carried on a cool breeze.

This time, not so much the sound of birds singing. The weather was a tad ominous - is that the right term? I think the birds had found shelter already. Weather that threatens tends to keep people away from them thar hills, so I was the only one heading up at that time. That's another thing I like. I enjoy meeting people on trails but I enjoy just as much having the trails entirely to myself. I get such a sense of possession.

I reached the top without incident, gently taking the last steep climb, and savored the view from on top for a few minutes. A few drops of water hit me just as I reached the top. They felt good. The valley below misted over, which only added to its fairyland look.

This was really more a camcorder experience than a still camera in any case. Perhaps the next time I think to go out in "weather" I will remember that. As I started down hill, the rain picked up a mite, and by the time I hit the gentler center portion the wind had arisen as well. I saw ahead of me two boys coming in my direction. I wondered if they were nuts to be climbing at that time of day in the wind and rain, and thought about what I might say to them, thought I might ask, "do you have your cell phone with you?"

They veered off the trail, across a meadow, before I got to them, though. They headed into a small grove of large trees that formed what looked like a shelter, in a small canyon. As I passed by that location, I heard them exclaiming. I think it must be a terrific hideout. The wind passing through those trees caused a wonderful sound from where I walked, a rush, a roar, glorious, that disappeared as soon as I had descended far enough below that the trees were no longer visible.

The hike took just about an hour total, managed to get my left knee complaining again, but only toward the very end. I had the sense to stretch at the top, and can hope that will help with any tendency toward cramping tonight.

Earlier today I was feeling frustrated, like I could get nothing done. Those things are still waiting for me, but I feel much better.

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Judith Lautner
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