Walking Thoughts

Recovering from the Mount Townsend hike, the next day we reversed our morning route up Artillery Hill in Fort Worden. It’s still a climb, but gentler.

We walked the track through newly mowed meadow and forest, and looped around at the top to start back past Fort Worden’s bunkers. These low-down buildings – gun embankments dug into the earth with window slits looking out to sea – were built at the end of the 19th century as part of a military presence on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

When we first came here, the buildings’ concrete pillars and steps were moss-covered and looked exotic like ruined temples. Now graffiti threatens the gray of the concrete, but dedicated volunteers or park staff cover it with rolled-on paint in neutrals of loden green or a kicked-back turquoise.

Walking here, away from the waves and wind, birds cheep in trees above, but buildings, with doors tipped on rusted hinges, are silent. Sometimes I picture soldiers about their business, training business, and think how loud the guns would have been.

I also think about our boys when we walk here – how much they would have loved these buildings when little – these structures would have fired up their imaginations, and inspired mock battles for sure.

But I always think about them when walking. We walked a lot as a family – on trips and Alaska trails. I remember carrying the first born in an old Gerry pack through a mountain pass as a not quite two-year old, and thinking how, having already seen such sights, his view of the world would be different than mine. (He wasn’t looking at scenery, but focused on what he called “buedubbies” – requesting I reach down and gather more.) By the time of the younger son, we rigged a red Kelty pack with a kid carrier down inside it, and the older son began to walk with his own red pack.

I always wondered if they’d like to walk when they grew up. But I wonder no more. They both have rambled the world, dividing the globe, and added in plenty of uncharted Alaska treks, mountain climbs, and backcountry ski trips.

The older son and his wife did a long and hard trek this summer, many miles, many days, carrying their gear. I loved what our son said before they left, that he was looking forward to days of walking and walking.

That strength and hiking competence is part of the overall power shift from parents to children. I wonder if young people realize how much parents love to see that transfer.

I’m glad not to be the trail boss. For a long time I have been aware of the wisdom of our sons – their intelligence and self-possession. I think parents just want to be still relevant somehow – but know that doesn’t mean being in charge anymore.

What a relief.

One thought on “Walking Thoughts

  1. I loved seeing these watercolors again. Made me remember the first hike we took on a Sunday morning to Ptarmigan Lake where you all had camped overnight. In our backpack we brought gourmet treats for the boys. “Dee-dums” (those tiny powdered-sugar donuts) and little bottles of apple juice.

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