My best friend, Miggs, loved to climb and coaxed me up anything that was a hill if she could catch me in an unguarded moment. I hated a stiff climb, as even in those long-ago days I was plagued by shortness of breath. She could talk me into the effort by reminding me of how wonderful the view would be from the top. I have always been a push-over for a view.
One night, after we had been to a movie with her friend Jack and her cousin, also named Jack, she suggested it would be fun to climb Mt. Si, the landmark stone mass that looms over North Bend. It was 11 o'clock at night, but who has sense at the ripe old age of 19? Miggs' friend Jack was enthusiastic about anything Miggs wanted to do, but I was very surprised when her cousin Jack agreed. He was a year or two older, and should have known better, I thought. I had been counting on him to say "no" and save me from being a spoil-sport.
Cousin Jack was a handsome young man who always looked "just-so", with never a hair out of place. He had that "fresh from a band-box" look.
When we reached the trailhead at Mt. Si, it was midnight. And it was misting, but now there was no turning back. We girls were dressed, as we usually were, in pleated skirts, sweaters, and saddle oxfords. The two Jacks were wearing sweaters, slacks, and tan trench-coats.
At first, the trail was easy and it was fun, our flashlights helping us to avoid the rocks and the roots that overran the trail. Then, the hard climb began and with it the huffing and puffing. Halfway up, the rain began to fall in earnest and the path became slippery with mud. Saddle oxfords had slick, red-rubber soles, not the best traction on that steep trail, but we kept to our feet by pulling ourselves along, grabbing onto branches of salal and huckleberry. My wool sweater soaked up the rain until it felt like I was carrying ten extra pounds. Miggs' brown, long-haired, angora sweater began to stretch. She rolled up her sleeves as they grew in length, until there was a huge roll around each wrist. The neckline had sagged into a big "U". The sweater, which began the evening at just below her waist, soon hung well below her knees. We were a mess, but we got to the top.
Miggs was the leader on the upgrade, but I could come down a hill like greased lightning. I loved coming down. It meant that the hard part was done and I just let gravity take over while I ran downhill, the rest of the pack following as they would. They found me sitting smugly on the running board when they arrived back at the car.
We drove into North Bend for breakfast about 5am. Fortunately, there weren't many people in the cafe at that hour. My hair hung in sodden strings, dripping streams of water down my neck. Miggs looked like a soggy, brown, half-drowned teddy bear. Her friend Jack had rolled up the legs of his wet trousers and his shins were splotched with patches of blue and green where his Argyle socks had faded. That darned Cousin Jack still looked like a fashion plate. The only effect the pouring rain had on him was to put a curl into his handsome head of hair.
Whoever said we were all created equal?
This article appeared in the June 2007 issue of Northwest Prime Time, which printed many of Dorothea Nordstrand's essays. It first appeared on www.historylink.org, the online encyclopedia of Washington State History. This website has posted nearly 40 of Dorothea's stories, under the section entitled " People's Histories "