If a stranger prays to the Lord for you to make a certain choice in life, I'll tell ya, it's going to get my attention. I might not follow the prayer, but I'll sure listen. Jack, an old scripture citing man, implored me to spend a day at the ranch with Steve, learning how to tend the cattle and pitch the hay. Hiking is about the memories you get to share with your grandchildren… the vistas, the struggles and equally important, the people you meet along the way.
This wasn't Jack's ranch, he wasn't even going to come along for the ride, but the invite stood. Ahhhh… the taste of Foldger's in your cup at 4:45 A.M. I cooked us breakfast – eggs from the barn with fresh ground beef from one less free ranging cow on his land. Everyone has a story, but you get some good ones from those who've lived decades longer here on Earth.
Steve proposed a side adventure to my great big long hike. Here's the story: Long ago, lets say in the early 1920's, the United States of America thought it was time to restore the morals and purity of its people… Goodbye alcohol, hello prohibition and bootleg whiskey! Oh, if only I were alive then. Canada provided many unmanned routes into the dry country. Trucks used to cross the border and hide cases of alcohol in abandoned mines. After prohibition was lifted, America was again let loose to its sinful ways. From a third person account, there exists a bounty of aged whiskey still waiting to be picked up about 2 miles north of the Pacific Northwest Trail. A bounty that could be worth half a million buckaroos. Steve had a bundle of old maps and a mining claim book to reference. I was armed with my GPS to pinpoint the coordinates and the widest eyes you've ever seen. This would not be another zero day, we were on a mission. We stopped for a Bloody Mary to symbolize our freedom from the past era and made our way up the mountain.
Rain… Really? It was in the high 80's when we left. We hiked on through the thick brush, hours and miles of nothing. The cloud coverage kept knocking off my GPS signal… 500 feet SW, no wait… 120 feet NE… We're standing on the supposed site, but I don't see a thing. I wanted to find the loot so bad… not for its monetary value, but we were on a treasure hunt!
I did find a decomposing wolf, however, and if you know me, there wasn't a chance in hell I would be leaving without some bones. I twisted it's head round and round with my bare hands, fur sticking to me from the rain. The black tongue hung out of his mouth, grazing my fingers. Once you start something, you just have to finish. We weren't coming home with the whiskey, but dammit, I'm coming home with a jawbone. My stomach turned upside down three times as I wondered what I must look like. I found a 40 pound rock and smashed its head open. (Why am I sharing this story with you?) I loosened the jaw and detached it from the socket, teeth all in tact. I wrapped the meaty bones in 20 giant leaves, stuck them in my pocket and let out a heavy exhale knowing that I wouldn't be coming home empty handed after all.
Just because we didn't come up on the intended treasure doesn't mean it was a wasted adventure. I could still taste the history and imagine what it must have felt like twisting across the mountain roads with a truck full of contraband. Contraband that would bring joy, dance, sloppy jokes and bar fights to the good people of Northern Washington. Who knows if the legend is true, or if someone hasn't already found it. I mean, if I was the driver with precise knowledge to the secret location, I would surely make the trip up for some free booze years down the line when the smoke cleared. Or maybe I would sell the information to a drunk at a bar. What if the driver went to prison… No... wait... I got it. He was pushed off a bridge by the Federales once word got out about his black market enterprise. And then a rock slide must have buried the mine, locking the whiskey inside forever. I think I'll call that area Drunk Mountain!
I got some bushwhacking miles in, I got my bones, I got a good story and I want to cheers you all to the great unknown.