When I was younger, I loved hiking alone. I loved setting my own pace, the silence, the moving inward with my steps, the lack of inane conversation on the trail. I loved the hours long drive to and from trail heads, even camping alone before heading up. Alone was good. And I still love moving through the woods alone, in silence. However, I’ve changed my mind about group hiking….
For the past three years, I’ve been hiking every Monday with a group of women, all teachers, all with the summer off. I gather email addresses right before the end of the year and send out a reminder every Monday. We meet at school, figure out cars, and head off. And I love it. We head for the prettiest spots in Central Oregon—Clear Lake in late July, Cape Perpetua on the coast on a warm August day, Iron Mountain with over 80 varieties of wildflowers in bloom…The list is endless within a morning’s drive. Lakes and lava, woods and wildflowers—we see them all and we check out the bakeries and small restaurants on the road. It’s always good.
As we head out, gossip flies. Occasionally, we have a moment of school fussing, but, after the second hike, we are done with that. It is summer, after all. As the trail climbs, conversation slows. Someone drops behind to examine a plant, take a photograph, tell a story with a little more gusto. The lead hikers pause and wait until all heads are visible before heading further on. Pairs come together and separate, conversation flows like a mountain stream. At the top, everyone gathers, spreads out lunches, encourages sharing. “Here, I picked blueberries this morning.” “There’s a few extra cookies.” “Someone needs to finish the pretzels.” “Dried figs, anyone?” “Chocolate?” We consider the view, discuss which mountain is which, stretch out our feet in the sun.
On the way down, peace falls on us all. I am often in the lead, a little ahead of the group. Behind me, I can hear an art and a primary teacher discussing art in the classroom and making chapbooks. Further back, someone is describing a foible of her husband. Feet pad along the pine needles. Backpacks shuffle and sigh. Water bottles, nearly empty, slosh quietly. In the distance, birds sing softly, a stream tumbles downhill, a car engine echoes up the valley. When we are nearly down, someone brings up the ever popular topic of dinner and we come together on the trail for the last half mile.
Backpacking Biscotti—from the Sunlight Café
1/3 c brown sugar
¼ white sugar
1/3 c canola oil
1 t orange zest
1 t vanilla
1.5 c flour
¾ c rolled oats
½ c soy powder
¼ c cornmeal
½ t salt
¾ c finely chopped nuts
Mix wet ingredients. Mix dry ingredients, then mix them together.
Divide the dough in half, shape into two logs, flatten them a bit, and place them on a cookie sheet. Bake in 375 degree oven until done. Let them cool a bit, slice, lay them on their sides, and rebake until lightly browned.
These cookies keep forever and can ride in the bottom of a backpack for a week and keep their shape. Eat with tea or cocoa early in the morning for first breakfast on the trail. Or while grading papers in January….