The railroad tracks in Rainier run literally right through the center of town. I was hoping for a chance to hop on a train if one were to come through but the lady at the bank said that the trains only come through maybe once or twice a day, without any kind of noticeable schedule.
I did not feel like waiting around for that kind of unpredictable so I followed the tracks until the concrete and houses tapered off and soon there were only columns of rock and trees rising up on either side of me.
I was out of town for about a half hour when rounding a corner dead ahead came the high pitched metal wheels and perfectly streamlined engine of a logging train. It appeared a second later. Massive. Tall. Filthy. Maybe the most indifferent metallergic terror I have ever seen coming right at me. I sidestepped off of the tracks and as the train grew closer, I did not have enough tine to snap a photo or take a video so I smiled and waived.
It was like waiving to an Imperial Star Destroyer from the cockpit of an X-Wing Fighter. Or for the non-Star Wars fan, like an insect waiving at the front window of a big stinky school bus. The train churned past at roughly thirty five miles an hour, five feet away from me not caring one bit if I was in the way or not. Nothing like the charming passenger trains with their playful whistling and engineers who waive to fascinated children down at Titlow Beach, this train has one mission: get as much timber from one location to another, all things that are unfortunate enough to be on the tracks as it passes be damned. It was a sobering experience. I realized then that I would be completely responsible for not getting squished. I reached out and touched the body of one of the cars with the tips of my index and middle finders. Two 6 foot long fingertip streaks of clean now lined one car of the train, leaving little grey rings of grime around the tips of my fingers. I wiped the dirt from my fingers, made a note to check my 6 o'clock every twenty to thirty steps and continued on.
Another half hour passes and I see a man. He about fifty feet below the tracks on the edge of the river tucked in between the beach-wood. The bluish grey smoke of his campfire rises through the branches of nearby trees. He is dressed in army fatigues and has an array of black garbage bags around to keep his things dry. I thought about going down to say hello and see if he has a story to tell but I decide against it. I stay up on the tracks and keep my quick pace.
Eventually I can see picnic tables in the distance along the water and I do decide to descend the rock-wall down to the beach. I take my time and slowly move down the moss covered rocks but I make it to the sand alright. I remove my socks and shoes and ford (not float) a smaller river running into the Columbia. The river was calm and peaceful. I kept my shoes and socks off as I went down in the river to pray.
In contrast to that moment of contrition and solitude, when I reached Prescott Beach State Park I made an amusing discovery that certain individuals who read this blog might enjoy.
I followed the beach detour as far as possible before returning to the train tracks.
On the following portion of the trip I was blessed with the luck of large flying birds. My Dad has this thing he does whenever he sees a pelican, or a crane, or some other bird of prey scanning the waters for a fish to plunge in after. "Ooooh, that's good luck!" He will say. And I believe it. I saw many massive pelicans and cranes take flight as I cruised along the Columbia. Plus many spotted Hawks and Bald Eagles who liked to fly low overhead whenever I passed. It was pretty darn cool. And as a bonus, super lucky too. Yesss!
I entered a stretch of land alternating between bogs and farmland. The tracks stretched on (Blair Witch Shakey Camera Warning) for miles. I did have a moment of amusement when a herd of cattle went on a stampede as I approached. I had no idea cows were so suspicious. I caught only a small portion of it here, but it was much longer and larger in real life. They went rampaging through a river and everything. It was cool and confusing at the same time. What makes these cows so suspicious? Maybe they know that they are most likely destined for the slaughterhouse and they thought I was the Bovine Grim Reaper.
Around 5 o'clock I stopped under a railroad bridge for a break. I explored the rushing river below the bridge and there was a fish ladder under there. After sitting down for twenty minutes I knew that I was not going to be getting back up anytime soon. I accepted my fate and embraced my new role as the antagonist in the Three Billy Goats Gruff and began to make preparations to bed down for the night...
July 13, 2014
2 years ago