Admittedly, I spent a couple of hours the next morning working on the next activity in my journal. I wasn’t sure what I should do next and the activity, about carnivores, turned out to be quite interesting—carnivores are pretty cool. I was reminded of our cat back at home. Her fluid and supple shape was like the forest carnivores in my journal. I couldn’t keep from wondering if her early relatives once lived in forests like these.
Thinking about my cat made me feel a bit lonely so I went down to the water to splash down my face and try to figure out what to do. I noticed a pile of scat which tapered off on the end like a feline’s does. “Bet that’s from a bobcat,” I thought to myself, and sure enough, some cat tracks were scattered across a muddy surface leading upstream. I remembered from the researcher’s discussion in the carnivore activity that bobcat tracks and scat were often found along trails.
I guessed carnivores must take the easiest path too and jumped at the slim prospect of finding a trail back to camp; I grabbed my day-pack and started tracking ‘Bob’. I followed the tracks upstream for a few hundred feet, but they turned upslope and meandered unrecognizably into the spongy moss. I sat down on a log, despairing. Panic began to rise, but as my mind wandered to Bob’s visit, I thought, “If that cat has survived in this bleak forest, so might I. There are no restaurants, no television and no video games. Why would anyone want to live here?” A surge of respect followed for any animal that could survive in the wilderness. Incidentally, respect was the second clue, centered on a blank page following the forest carnivore activity in my journal.
Still thinking that I was lost somewhere along Thunder Creek, I crossed to the other side on a huge fallen log, which was covered by tiny hemlock trees and mosses. Thinking, “Maybe the trail is just a little higher,” I started a relentless climb up the steep mountainside.
I never found a trail on the shoulders of Mount Klawatti. All morning and afternoon I worked my way up through the forest, sweating so profusely that steam issued from my pores. Salal bushes sprawled everywhere, making travel impossibly slow. I cursed their existence until I realized that I could use them as ropes to pull myself upward. I also soon recognized salal berries from Mr. Davis’ botany walk on our first day and knew that they were edible—I’m glad I listened carefully on that day. They tasted a bit like dehydrated blueberries, though hairy in texture. I fed on them until I found an understory full of red huckleberries. Those were much more appetizing, but I recalled a warning Mr. Davis mentioned about another red berry, baneberry, which was deadly poisonous. But these were definitely red huckleberries, sweet yet tart, with oval leaves. I gobbled up handfuls.
As the sun sank westward, clouds began to build and the wind picked up, especially now that I was high on a forested ridge. As I ascended, I noticed the forest began to shift. The trees were becoming smaller. In fact, it was like I was walking through a miniature forest. The sun would soon set and it seemed as though I might be able to get my first view of the landscape below. I scrambled out into a clearing and up through a field of rocks (Mr. Davis called them talus) to a cliff, but a stream of clouds was rolling up the lower valleys and obstructed any lowland view. Even so, the skyscape was stupendous. The clouds below blanketed the inner valleys as if huge glaciers were pulsing backwards up the valleys. It seemed like I had returned to the Ice Age. A large overhanging boulder stood nearby. I would sleep there that night. Thankfully, my thick wool sweater had kept me warm the night before. I picked up my journal and opened it to the next section, while feasting on my hunk of cheese, as the setting sun was enveloped by clouds and gave a final burst of color to all the cirrus clouds above.