Tag Archives: Pumpkin Mountain

1.36 Where Did Indy Find The Grail?

(My very sophisticated tools and a random heart I found carved near the glade!)

My friend’s voices evaporated away into silence quicker than I expected while following the invisible line thru the old growth. Fortunately, I didn’t need to venture very far outside of my comfort zone, the pricking in my toes turned into a steady thrumming sensation when I stepped into the narrow glade.

Studying the clearing, I appreciated the cleverness of the hiding spot. Now I understood why no one ever accidentally stumbled upon my unintended traveler. 

The glade owed its existence to dozens of rockfalls deposited by the cliff which heaved itself up in front of me (who knew boulders could bounce?). The rockfalls kept the area clear of anything more than the scraggliest flora the forest had to offer. Immediately inside the cliff’s hurling radius lay my destination, a modest mound (by comparison) of discarded stones. Due to the layers of moss, long grass, sword ferns and one scrappy cedar, it appeared to one of the oldest of the cliff’s deposits.

I looked at my watch. Time’s up I murmured to myself. The possibility of seeing my posterior au natural would only keep my compatriots at bay for so long. Soon, they’d come looking for me. 

When I emerged back at our picnic site, Bert and Ernie greeted me like a long-lost friend. 

Wood (balling up the brown bag his lunch came in): “Everything ok? We’re almost done eating.”

Me: “I’m fine, I don’t think my stomach is accustomed to processing an entirely organic dinner.”

Beatrice (concern & reluctance coloring her tone): “We could turn around and head back…” 

Me: “Don’t do that. The summit is only a half hour-ish away, I can wait here while my stomach calms down. You can pick me up on your way back.”

This plan met with varying levels of reluctance, but in the end, my vote broke the deadlock. The group would continue without me. Wood placed me under strict orders that I would stay put until they got back (I crossed my fingers). Waiting until their voices faded into the distance, I dashed back into the trees. 

The second time I entered the glade I stopped to observe the area with jaded eyes, the dozens of natural phenomenon camouflaged the one false feature well. Knowledge or happenstance? Which did he rely on I wonder to conceal her genesis point?  

Leaning my pack against a nearby stone, I pulled my recently acquired map and trusty GPS device out then recorded the coordinates next to the ‘x’ I’d written on my approximate location. With that done I set to work with my handy collapsable metal shovel and work gloves. Pulling the blanket of fauna away from the false rockfall proved easier than I expected, the large stones concealed underneath aided my progress.

Two scrapes, one smooshed toe and forty-five very sweaty minutes later – my efforts and elbow grease uncovered two-thirds of a rough stone cairn (the cedar proved too tenacious to remove). 

Pulling off a work glove I placed my bare hand on an exposed stone – an electric current raced up my arm – startled I snatched my hand away. I rocked back on my heels while rubbing the spasming muscles in my arm. Trying to calm down I closed my eyes and enjoyed the brisk air playing across my sweaty face, but my mind wouldn’t settle. Instead, it flew away trying to merge and manipulate this new wrinkle into something which fit into the whole I’d pieced together. Shaking myself, I stood up stiffly and put my glove on again. I could borrow trouble later.

Making an ungodly racket (and risking pinched fingers) I levered a rough line of rocks off the spine of the cairn. I couldn’t help the noise. I needed to finish before my friends swung back to collect me and time was running out. When I finally shoved the last rock aside, I collapsed my spade and traded it for a five-pound bag of salt from my pack.

Taking a deep breath, reigning myself in – I poured a steady, unbroken line of unrefined sea salt within the fissure I’d just created. To help infuse the salt into the cairn quicker, I poured a canteen of purified water roughly along the same dusty off-white line. Then I exchanged the empty container for the other five-pound sack of flakey sea salt. Then proceeded to methodically cover the entirety of the mound and surrounding ground with a fine dusting. When the bag was exhausted, I stowed it away and surveyed the area making sure I left nothing (other than the sea salt) behind. 

With the job done I grabbed my pack and walked away. 

1.35 Something Wicked This Way Comes

(Bert after his impromptu swim, the wake from our boat setting off and the hidden dangers in the lake we noticed only after tying up the boat!)

At seven am the five of us, and two hounds (Laney & Wood’s boys) assembled on the dock to receive last minute instructions and nibbles from the hotel staff. 

Which honestly sound far grander than the departure actually was. 

Everyone but Wood was trying with varying success to stifle yawns (the previous night’s nightcaps slowing the infusion of caffeine into our brains). The staff (suppressing their own yawns) passed out bulging brown paper sacks while warning us to get our butts back before sunset. Otherwise, the National Park Service and said staffers would send out very cross search parties to fetch us. 

Unaware of the thinly veiled threats being issued to their people, Laney’s boys, Bert and Ernie, were doing their level best to liven things up. Dashing amongst us in their bright orange life vests, wagging their tails, and yipping excitedly at everyone & everything. 

One of the staff (I called him Not Sam in my head) held the boat steady while Wood stowed our hiking equipment onboard.

Wood: “Bee what on earth did you put in your pack?”

Beatrice (that competitive gleam glinting again): “My geocaching supplies. My pack will be light as a feather on the hike back down.”

Wood (lifting up my pack and shaking it slightly): “Morticia are you in competition with Bee? Did you put actual rocks in yours?”

Me (straight-faced): “Don’t be silly, I’d never use anything as generic as rocks! I’m a mineral girl! Ten pounds of unrefined sea salt, a shovel for balance and a bottle of water for good measure! It’ll help push my cardio numbers up on my Fitbit.”

Wood (rolling his eyes): “Fine be funny. Just don’t ask me to carry your bag later, I will demand to see inside!”

On that note, and with much good humor, we all climbed aboard, and Laney took the wheel. Ross Lake is twenty-six miles long, but fortunately, we only needed to go about eight. The brisk wind whipped by us at breakneck speeds and wiped away all vestiges of sleepiness from our eyes. 

With pictures, a map and Beatrice’s GPS unit in hand we glided into the unofficial Pumpkin Mountain landing in no time at all. Carefully piling out of the boat we started up the winding trail, taking photos, singing (when we found the breath) and generally making enough noise to scare away anything with four legs (other than Bert and Ernie). Wood and the boys lead the way pointing out features of interest to Laney & Sarah, followed by Beatrice, who split her focus between the map in her hand & the path under her feet, and I brought up the rear with a growing sense of trepidation.

About a mile into the hike we’d reached the park service approved tenting area. Beatrice labeled it too easily achieved and marched resolutely past. With the official waypoint behind us, Beatrice started scoping out each hollow, recess and rockfalls along the trail, judging which would serve her cache purposes best. She quickly rejected the rockfalls, musing any subsequent slides could displace her cache or a loose stone might pelt another player. Either eventuality would render her cache invalid which was intolerable (the specter of her nemesis Horus looming in the back of her mind). 

Discovering the front desk sold augmented maps (not sure why Beatrice copied hers by hand) I’d purchased one last night, for a bit of independent study. But with Beatrice ticking off each crevice, thicket, and encampment my copy went unfolded. What did not manage to stay tightly folded? The aforementioned trepidation which started to grow in orders of magnitude the closer we walked to the summit without the telltale spark arching across my toes. 

When three-quarters of the path lay behind us, I started to seriously waiver on the veracity of my tag-along passenger’s claims and idly wondering if my skin had shrunk two sizes under the unbearable wait…

Then the familiar pricking skittered across my toes. 

Time to work. 

Finally.

Me: “Wood, would you mind stopping up ahead?” 

Beatrice: “Can you hold on? We’re close to the top.”

Me: “I have to use a little girl’s tree, and I need a snack. The growl you heard earlier was my stomach, not a bear.”

With the mention of food, the others agreed they couldn’t wait to eat either. Beatrice tried to convince us we’d enjoy lunch more with a spectacular view,  but even The Boys needed a rest, so she gave in to peer pressure (I think the whining from Bert and Ernie is what convinced her). 

Just as I recalled from last night’s studies, an informal campsite laid a few steps ahead of us. Unlike the others we’d scoped out, this one featured an old fire pit and several large low stones for sitting – an ideal picnic spot. For those with a more devious disposition? This was the only campsite we’d seen so far that was set a significant distance off the trail. 

While the other looked around and started setting down their packs, I made my excuses and plunged deeper into the trees following the ever-increasing uncomfortable electricity in my toes. 

1.33 A Fox, A Goose and a Sack of Wheat

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Seriously, my feet have not crossed the threshold of a garden shed in over twenty-ish years, and now I am sitting in my second in under a week. 

My Uncle would be proud.

While I can make an exception for Beatrice’s, I’d renamed it The Map Room which transformed it into an entirely acceptable place to visit. I do not think calling the building I currently sat in a shack changes things in the slightest. 

A shack is a shed built over water instead of on the ground. 

How did the situation, me sitting in a shack in the middle of one of the largest national parks in the country by myself with a pile of luggage, come to pass?

Because apparently, I’m a silly goose.

Six days ago Wood made reservations for the five of us and the boys to participate in the first-ever Fall Foliage Tour. Wood deciding that Pumpkin Mountain the perfect location for said first trip. Somehow, the stars and schedules aligned allowing all of us to take a three day weekend together. 

Unable to talk Wood out of it I spent the remaining five days making copious notes trying to cope with this new wrinkle. FLYT, my house sitting cousin, the Residents, and luggage & equipment lists all sported a plethora of check marks. I’d also worked out a plan (tentative to say the least – but hey, some plan is better than no plan at all) to deal with my tag-along passenger and the risk she posed to the Residents and myself, without alerting or scarring my friends for life. 

So this afternoon the Princess and I picked Beatrice up from Pulp, Sarah from Nevermore and we set out for the Hilltop Hotel (Wood, Laney and the boys left yesterday). A few hours later the Princess pulled into a slot in a damp parking lot. The ever practical Sarah was the first to voice the concern we all felt, “Ummm, where’s the hotel?”

In my hasty preparations, I never thought to take a gander at the Hilltop Hotel’s website (apparently neither did Beatrice or Sarah), relying instead on Wood’s intelligence. Clearly, he forgot to share a few details…

Leaning forward we peered thru the windshield, “Should we call Wood?” ventured Sarah pulling out her phone. Not a flickering bar, fortunately, I spied a bulletin board partially obscured by some ferns, “Let’s take a look.” On it, we found a map which helpfully highlighted the serpentine path we needed to follow, thru the old growth, to a dock. A laminated brochure next to the map told us we would find a boat waiting at the dock to ferry us across the lake to the Hilltop Hotel. Easy as pie.

This place doesn’t sound like a Scooby-Doo set up at all.

Emptying the Princess of her cargo we lugged our luggage (down a trail which grew creepier the further we walked on it) to the dock where we found a shack and a man inside it, “Evening. You three ladies part of the Utley party?”. We nodded, speech being a bit beyond our capabilities since our discovery that rolly wheels, plus a half mile stint on a dirt trail were not a match made in heaven. He went on, “My name is Sam. I’ll just load the boat  and zip you ladies across the lake.” 

When he’d loaded half of our bags, Sam rejoined us, “Have you ever heard the riddle about the Chicken, Fox and a Sack of Wheat?”

We looked at each other, Beatrice spoke first, “Of course, the chicken and the wheat can’t be left alone together, nor can the fox and the chicken – yet all three must make it across the river whole. Why? Oh. You’re telling us the boat cannot take all of us and our luggage in one trip.”

“You’ve got it in one.” he replied. Sam, the boatman, didn’t appreciate the sheer number of bags three women can pack for a trip and used Hilltop’s smaller boat to fetch us. (I’d dedicated one entire suitcase to books, pretty sure Beatrice did the same, and both of us brought our own hiking equipment. Seems neither of us trust rentals).

So long explanation not very short, this is how I found myself sitting in a shack with half our luggage waiting for a man about a boat. Sam didn’t like leaving me alone, whether he worried about wolves or woodsmen attacking, I’m not sure. Personally, I thought a shack induced panic attack more likely, but hey what do I know?

That’s the how it happened. The why is very simple.

It was due to my lack of participation in a trip down memory lane, which featured several 64ounce Slurpees and the mistaken notion that our route held a plethora of rest stops along the way. 

1.32 Whiplash

Piling the leftovers back into the box (we made quite a dent, and to my supreme joy – I would have hom bow for breakfast!). Unfortunately, our cleanup gave Wood the opening he needed for his own investigations…

Wood (indignation coloring his tone): “Morticia! You drank my soda.”

Sarah: “I thought you were going to say, ‘you sunk my battleship!’”

Beatrice (laughing): “He’s mad she filched his whiskey and soda.”

Me (with an air of satisfaction): “Sure did, no guilt at all, though that might be the liquor talking.”

Wood: “You owe me a drink!”

Beatrice: “Actually, I believe you both owe me one. Since Phoebe finished off the liquor, you pilfered from my cabinet.”

Ignoring Wood’s sputtering, Beatrice pulled a bottle (and four glass) out of one of the cupboards in the front while I wiped down the table. She poured an inch into each glass and passed them around, then unfurled the map. Clustering on the southern edge, scouring the surface trying to find Pumpkin Mountain amongst all the other entertainingly named features. My favorite? Joker Mountain, everyone needs a hidaway I suppose.

Beatrice (pointing at a feature near the middle of the map): “There, Pumpkin Mountain right on the lake.”

Wood (tracing his finger over the map): “That’s right. Laney and I went the Hilltop Hotel just south of there this last summer – we played on the lake the entire time. We never hiked up that far…”

Laney chose this year’s vacation spot, a trip which did not feature any soccer or soccer adjacent events the entire week.

Wood had fun…eventually.

Me (following hiking trails with my finger): “Looks like I’ll have to hike in.” 

Wood: “Why?”

Me (the whiskey slowing my ability to think of a plausible explanation or of anything at all, so I said the first thing that popped into my head): “Thought it might be a fun fall expedition.”

Wood: “That’s a great idea! Laney’s been dying to get away. I thought we’d hit L.A. and watch an L.A. Football Club match. But this is so much better! You’ll go, Bee? And you too Sarah? We’ll stay at the Hilltop Hotel and hike up Pumpkin Mountain! I’ll get so many husband kudos! Woot! We can even take the boys!” 

Wood started doing a little dance around the shed (I say little because while spacious, we were still in a shed). His enthusiasm was infectious. 

Beatrice (laughing): “When do you want to go?”

Wood whipped out his phone and started furiously typing on it, then borrowed Beatrice’s and started talking to someone on the other end, while firing questions at the three of us. 

Me (inwardly & outwardly fretting): “Wood, I thought I’d go up by myself, camping…”

Wood: “Don’t worry Morticia, Laney and I will cover your room. It’ll be your early birthday present! You’ll have more fun with us!”

Any other time trying to get our schedules to line up was akin to herding kittens, but somehow in under thirty minutes Wood, Laney (via text), Beatrice and Sarah worked out a three-day Fall Foliage Tour. 

Fantastic. How on earth was I going to find and nullify my tag-along with all of them hiking with me?

1.31 Moving, Maps and Bad News

Version 3After nosing thru the dredges of the take-out boxes, hoping against hope I would find neglected pork filled hom bow amongst them, I remembered my earlier research. I waited until Sarah finished her rant on why she firmly believed no one under the age of seven should come into contact with clowns (Wood pulling faces to illustrate her tale), before asking my question.

Me: “Beatrice…”

Wood: “You should call her Bee, it would save time.” 

Me: “You’ve known her for years. Beatrice works fine for me.”

Wood: “But, she buzzes like a bumble bee between books.”

He looked very proud of his string of alliterations. Sarah sat back, trying not to laugh at our exchange. I wonder if Wood nipped a sip of something from the shed’s liquor cabinet during the move.

Beatrice (sounding slightly insulted): “Is that why you call me Bee? Because I remind you of a bug?”

Wood: “In the best possible way.”

Me (trying to save Wood from himself): “Anywayssss Beatrice, I figured out Pumpkin Mountain is somewhere in the North Cascades. Does this narrow it down enough to help?”

Beatrice (turning in her chair started to peruse the books next to her): “Yes, it does. Give me a minute.”

Wood: “Oh! Sounds like a place you’d find Tim Burton filming.” 

While Beatrice flipped thru books calling out numbers, Wood stood by the flat files leafing thru maps which may or may not have corresponded to Beatrice’s numbers. While they amused themselves, I focused on Sarah and went straight to the point.

Me: “So what’s Little Ben’s plan?”

Sarah (grabbed her purse and pulled out a manila envelope): “I snagged a press packet for you, but the gist? His Highness bought MacGregor farm lock, stock, and box top from the widow. He’s keeping the oldest son on to manage the farm and Mrs. MacGregor for tours.” 

Me (leafing thru the glossy-paged packet): “Ok, where is he placing the pet cemetery? Not near the fields or farm animals, I hope.”

Sarah: “No. He’s earmarked the strip of land adjacent to creek’s bank on the farm side.”

Setting down the papers I leaned back in my chair, rubbing my fists in my eyes, wishing Sarah had better news.

Sarah: “I did ask him why. He said the ground was soft enough he could use the old equipment you’d retired from Nevermore. So with the tax deductions from donated harvests, without the purchase of new equipment, no longer paying your salary and reducing his personal expenses, he believes he’ll recoup the money spent buying the farm in less than eighteen months.”

Me: “Crap. No one’s tried talking to him about alternative areas?”

Sarah: “I think the MacGregor’s tried but didn’t get anywhere. Why? Is it that bad?”

Swiveling my blurry eyes towards Wood’s enthusiastic drawer pulling, I grabbed his cola and took a sip. Whiskey. I knew he filched something! Swapping his cup for mine, I continued to work on his drink and Sarah’s information.

Me (finally finding the Sunny Valley Farm map amongst the literature and pointed at the proposed area): “MacGregor Farm sits directly on Iron Creek and floods periodically right where he intends to place the pet cemetery.” 

Sarah: “So bad.”

Wood (his interest diverted back in our direction): “Why?”

Me: “Caskets are surprisingly buoyant. Combine that fact with soft ground and flood waters? They’ll get worked up to the surface in no time flat then get washed downstream onto public land. Can you imagine some unsuspecting person, probably kids, finding and opening one?” 

Wood (taking a sip of his drink and looking quizzically at it): “So bad.”

Beatrice (holding a map in her hands): “You don’t work there anymore. Nevermore isn’t strictly your problem anymore.”

Wood and Sarah swapped glances while studiously avoiding mine.

Me (sighing): “Nevermore is my responsibility, I promised to look after it.”

Beatrice (her gaze inscrutable): “Okay, how can I help?”

Me (finishing Wood’s fortified soda): “Not sure yet. Did you find Pumpkin Mountain?”

Beatrice (looking down): “Help me clear off the table, I’ll show you.”

1.26 “Help”

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WWNDD? Well, Nancy Drew would put on her big girl panties and follow her new friend inside the shed. Fortune favors the bold. The lights flipped on when I hit the threshold.

This garden shed did not meet any of my preconceived notions.

Missing were the overwhelmingly potent odors of fertilizers, insecticides and machine oils. Instead, the delicate bouquet of old paper, whiskey, and cedar greeted me. The aromatic infusion of these scents into my surplus seemed a much more pleasant prospect than what I’d envisioned on the walk down.

Gazing around the space, I also noted the lack of axes, saws, hoes, spades, and mowers. Taking their place on one wall was wooden floor to ceiling flat filing cabinets. Mirrored on the opposing side were traditional bookcases, crammed full of oversized, spiral bound and stapled together books. The cases, like the ones in the house, had their middle shelves dedicated to fascinating artifacts. Only, in this case, the words ‘fascinating artifacts’ should be swapped for ‘unadulterated kitsch’. Stout vases filled with mini-troll dolls, rubber ducks, compasses, plastic goldfish and the occasional dragon and that was only a fraction of her unique collection. 

Who knew a lawn separated a virtual natural history museum from a corner five-and-dime? Or that the shed shared a disturbing similarity to a mad man’s blue box? I swear Beatrice’s shed was bigger on the inside.

Spying an empty area by the back window, I reckoned my boxes would easily fit under it while my kitchen table would work beautifully in the center of the room. This place looked like it desperately needed a surface to set things on.

Beatrice (looking oddly proud): “Dourwood didn’t think you’d make it inside.”

Wood told? Beatrice knew I was freaking out on my walk down? I could not think of a bad enough word to call them. Setting my mug down on the counter to my left, I crossed my arms and pinned my housemate down with a stare.

Me (trying to control my mortification): “He told you about it?”

Beatrice (hands held up in front of her while talking fast): “No. He called while I was in Scotland and mentioned your problem locating the storage area. Trying to help you out. When I told him where it was, he laughed. I asked why but he just bet me ten bucks you’d never step foot in here, I pressed, but he never told me why.”

Me: “Harrumph. Is that why you chose to walk down here at six in the morning? In the dark?” 

Beatrice (reddening slightly): I apologize, I do need to get to work early today. But facing your fears is essential for personal growth? I just wanted to help. 

While I worked out how angry/annoyed/embarrassed I felt, my eyes stray back to the odd assortment of neat junk on her shelves. She should never let a toddler loose in here. They’d go nuts. I found the flat files just as curious, not even the main branch of the library has this many cabinets.

Me  (still trying to gauge my level mortification): “Is it to nosey to ask what’s in the drawers?” 

Beatrice (audibly exhaling): “Not at all – I collect maps. My collection grew too large for the apartment, so I moved them out here.”

I let her explanation go – it held most of the truth – the legs of the cabinets and bookcases matched the ghost of furniture past (the divots in the carpet) in my room. A room which is larger in square footage than the shed, curious thing to fib about. 

Me (looking thoughtfully at the floor to ceiling installation): “What kind of maps?”

Beatrice (walking over and pulling open a drawer): “All kinds. Local, regional, antique, obsolete. Cartography fascinates me.”

Me (wholly diverted now): “Any treasure maps?”

Beatrice (sensing the humor in the question, she closed the drawer and walked to the counter): “No. Alas, the only one I found turned out to be fraudulent.” 

Me (remembering my current conundrum): “Does your collection include an index? I’m looking for a place called Pumpkin Mountain.”

Beatrice (opening a cupboard above the counter and selecting two keys off a row of hooks, turned to me): “Never heard of it, but when I get home tonight I can see what I can find for you. Any reason?”

Me (thinking quickly): “One of my fares’ mentioned it in passing. I thought they might be pulling my leg, sounds like a place you’d find Jack Skellington hanging out in. Now I’m curious if it’s a real place.”

Beatrice (regarding me with interest): “No problem. I like a challenge. Any clue where to find it?”

Me (thinking back): “Mountains. Someplace which allows camping you need to hike to, that’s all I know.”

Beatrice (handing me the keys, her cheeks still red): “Narrows it down a bit, I’ll see what I can do. Here are the keys, if you could lock both locks when you leave I’d appreciate it and please don’t leave them lying about – some of these maps took a long time to find.”

Me (pulling out my Nevermore keys and slipping them onto ring): “No problem.”

Beatrice: “Thanks. Can you forgive me?”

Me (deliberating): “Bring home take-out from anywhere but The Fungus House and promise not to do it again and we’ll be okay.”

Beatrice: “Japanese or Chinese?”

Me: “Yes.”

My housemate peeled off when we approached the alley, I heard her car door slam and her engine turn over in the quiet of the morning (still needed to work out how annoyed I felt about her and Wood’s shenanigans). 

Our apartment windows lit the walk enough to keep me from stumbling the rest of the way to my door. With my eyes focused so intently on the house, it allowed a bit of movement to catch my eye. For a moment a curtain swayed slightly just before a soft light turned off in Ms. Hettie’s portion of the house. 

Perhaps she was more vigilant that Beatrice realized.

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