We visited a further zone this weekend. I think of it as zone five--the trails that ring Corvallis. MacDonald Forest, Fitton Green, Finely Wildlife refuge, and the arboretum are a huge part of our lives and we walk through them in all weathers. This weekend, we climbed to the top of Mary’s Peak, our local four thousand foot mountain, highest point in the Coast range, and indicator of when to plant beans (when the snow is no longer visible from the soccer fields).
The hike leaves from Conner’s Camp, about 2500 feet high on the shoulder of the mountain. It leads through a Cathedral forest of tall straight Douglas Firs with a heavy understory of vine maple, fairy bells, and ferns. From the trail, we can catch glimpses of the hazy valley below, but the walk is silent. The trail climbs steadily for several miles and we know every step. As we walk, we watch for the patch of coral root orchid that lurks in the shadow of one huge tree, the first monkey flowers of the season at a seep, and the anemones that wink in the darker shadows. I keep the plant list and each flower is, after ten years of this hike, an old friend. There are other landmarks as well, like the bench where the chickadee eyed Maureen’s hair for a nest last year and the steps right before the last steep ascent before the parking lot.
It is always a shock to climb from the woods to the car-filled lot near the peak. There is a road to the top, which we have taken several times, and it is a popular afternoon drive. The wind whips across the empty spaces and everyone scrambles for a jacket. Right where the trail emerges, yellow and purple violets mingle. After a quick stop at the outhouse, we head for the alpine gardens of the peak. Red penstemmons, purple phlox, and yellow wallflowers huge the ground in a carpet of color. We join the groups at the top, settle into a protected area, dig out lunch and plant books, and settle in for a rest. Some days, we can see the ocean and Mount Hood; other days, we can barely see the trail. Sunday, it was partly cloudy, so the valley lay before us on one side, the clear-cut patchwork of forest on the other. We could see, however, our entire watershed, which is always a deeply rooted feeling.
After lunch, we descend. There are always a few plants we missed on the way up to be noticed and recorded, but the mood is more subdued. We have been to High Places once more, looked over our corner of the world, and are heading downhill towards dinner. Life is good.
Beet Greens and Ricotta Pie
Make a pie shell. While you are at it and covered in flour, make two so you can have a rhubarb and blackberry pie as well.
Chop a large bunch of beet or chard greens fairly finely. Chop an onion. Satee both until tender. Add salt, pepper, and a bit of nutmeg.
Mix about four ounces of ricotta cheese, 2 eggs, and about half a cup of milk. Mix into the veg. Pour into the pie shell and bake at a 350 degree oven until done, about 45 minutes.