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  • Arthur Bacon

Common Scents

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

I saw a man and a woman walking up the trail from Carkeek Canyon toward the parking lot yesterday as we were about to pull out and the tranquility of the moment was lost in hypocrisy, mine and theirs.

We love to walk in Carkeek Canyon at least once a month. It is just a five-minute drive from our house and as soon as one leaves the grassy dell of the parking lot and drops down into the woods one is surrounded by a quintessential northwest forest full of Maple, Alder, Ash, Madrona, Western Red Cedar, Doug Fir, Pine and Spruce. The first switchback even has a lovely handcrafted cedar bench on which to sit and marvel at this arboreal wonderland in the middle of a large metropolis. At the bottom of the switchbacks one gets a first glimpse of Piper’s Creek gurgling and bubbling its way toward the sea a few miles away. Another bench welcomes the visitor to sit and enjoy this luxuriant amalgamation of deep forest, water, canopy and woodland.

Further down the trail on the right is one of my favorite moments: a gigantic, 10 foot diameter stump squatting stoically with its springboard slots still in tact speaking silently to us like Ozymandias, of the magnificence of what was once here. Then we come to Piper’s Orchard, planted about 1890, and today still flourishing with about fifty apple trees among which are Gravensteins, Dutch Mignone, Red Astrachan, Rhode Island Greening and Spitzenbergers with a few cherry, chestnut, Quince and pear trees here and there. Piper’s Orchard is a place where one sits on the grass beneath one of these trees eating a baguette and Gruyere with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

The orchard is home to at least ten species of winged creatures among which one might see a Woodpecker of some sort, Tanagers, Ravens, a Black-headed Grosbeck, a Finch or a Robin. And, as we did this afternoon, lying back on the soft grass beneath an aromatic Gravenstein, you might hear the sweet song of a Sparrow.

Sometimes I take the side trails that end up in neighborhoods above the canyon but not without their particular charms among which are spectacular blackberry bushes where we go in the fall to pick our winter’s cache of jams and syrups.

One needs to see and sniff the sides of the trail to fully appreciate Carkeek’s fecund diversity. It is a well-worn path used by joggers, families, thinkers, photographers and dog-walkers but off to the side there is a wilderness of waterfalls, pools, fish ladders, berries, moss, mushrooms and a plethora of wild flowers. Now, in early spring one might catch a glimpse of a Chum or Steelhead fighting its way upstream through the rapids and pools.

He was nice-looking, medium built, dark, wearing jeans and a polo shirt. She was covered head to toe in a flowing black burqa, face forbidden from the world.

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