Wednesday, September 7, 2011

nicholas on the trail

On the last weekend of August, Nicholas went hiking. Well, two humans went too - the woman with the lap and the tall man who calls him Dog. It may have been some sort of anniversary for the humans. The first trail Nicholas hiked was in a place called Strawberry Island, which wasn't an island and didn't have any strawberries. It did have wild blackberries, though, and the humans picked some right off the twisted, thorny vines and ate them. The woman with the lap reached a blackberry down for Nicholas. He smelled it. The woman loves the fact that anything she offers to Nicholas - blackberry, book, hairbrush - he smells.

Strawberry Island was all waving, golden grasses and blue sky. Wind pushed the hot air around. When a peculiar smell came with that air, the woman with the lap said, "Mint?"

The tall man who calls Nicholas Dog reached down and, with a finger and a thumb, rubbed the leaf of a small plant growing low to the ground, then brought his fingers to his nose and sniffed.

The woman with the lap said, "Poison oak?"

Later when the trail forked and down on the right stood a strange, industrial-looking building, the woman with the lap sniffed that same scent and said, "Sewage treatment plant?"

Nicholas stopped on the trail and twitched his nose. He didn't mind the smell of the sewage treatment plant.

But there were beautiful views of the Columbia River and lovely fields of gold. Overhead cartwheeling against sky were two hawks. They whirled past the sun and threw sudden flashes of shadow down on the hikers.

They were too far away for Nicholas to smell.

The second place where Nicholas hiked was called Fort Cascades and was very different from Strawberry Island. It was forested and green and cool. Nicholas walked among enormous moss-covered boulders unearthed by the flood of 1894.

He did not pee on the replica of a Native American petroglyph. He did not pee on the remnants of the old railway or on the 1861 gravestone.

At the end of the hike, the tall man who calls him Dog noticed another short trail leading away from the area where cars were parked. The trail led down a hill and over and through rocks of various sizes until it landed at the shore of the Columbia. There, at the end of the long day, the man and the woman found places to sit on flat rocks and brought out the liver snacks, and Nicholas sat on a lap and sniffed and contemplated contentment.

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