A Song By Ramona
Ramona Creek · Mt. Hood National Forest · Rhododendron · Oregon · USA
Away from the bombast of Ramona Falls lies a more melodic slice of Eden that I enjoy visiting each time I'm lucky enough to have the chance to hike this trail. This time around I had the immense privilege of enjoying the scenic 12-km romp with some talented mates from the Land Where Everything Can Kill You: Aussies Jason Boneham, Rod Thomas, and Brett Wood. I'm fond of telling folks unacquainted with the trail that it's about the gentlest 300-meter elevation gain you'll ever experience, but it's a different story when you're afflicted with an international upper respiratory virus such as Brett was, acquired from a fellow tour mate while in Slovenia or perhaps on one of his many international flights the preceding couple of weeks. The same thing happened to me in Norway when it felt like someone had opened me up and sewn a Dyson V8 Animal on max suction setting in my chest while climbing 400-meter Mannen Mountain, which I honestly could have sworn was twice that height by the time I stumbled, panted, and wheezed my way to the top.
I could tell it was hitting Brett pretty hard about two-thirds of the way in, when I momentarily took the lead before Rod caught up with me after he'd been lingering back with him. “We’ve broken Brett,” he said matter-of-factly as he casually strolled on by. Perhaps it's the accent, but I sometimes find it a bit challenging to decipher the nuanced tones in an Aussie’s voice--especially a dry one like Rod. Judging by the way he and Jason trudge right on past without batting an eyelid, though, I felt a bit more assured that Brett was just needing a breather before catching up, and that he hadn't passed out cold and tumbled down some steep ravine or gotten carried off by a hungry mountain lion with a taste for sick and foreign meat.
I decided to hang back and bring in the rear to allow Jason, Rod, and Brett to enjoy the first glimpses of Ramona before I would. After all, I'd been here countless times before, and they were doing me the favor of coordinating their schedule to accommodate me tagging along. Of course, this obligated me to wait for Brett, so I stopped and welcomed the chance to catch a breather. And breathe I did…
As the seconds ticked on into minutes, I couldn't help but wonder if he'd in fact decided to call the whole thing off, plopped down somewhere on the trail, and was just going to wait for us to come back around his way, which could have been hours from then. I couldn't really blame him, though: I don't think our fearless leader Rod had fully disclosed the length of the hike before setting out that day (especially since Brett had already run out of water on the up leg), and I'm betting that my piss-poor attempts at mental metric conversions must've dispirited him a bit--whether because I'd grossly overshot and made it seem like Ramona Falls was still well farther off than it actually was, or because I'd undershot and left him wondering which leaden step forward would finally and mercifully bring Ramona into view.
To my relief, Brett’s weary form eventually emerged from the amorphous forest shadows, and he needlessly apologized for his slower pace. I in turn apologized at my pathetic grasp (if it could be called that) of the metric system. I gave him a swig of my water, and before I could properly stop myself, I assured him that this time we really were in the home stretch. I expected but never received the icy glare from him that I rightly deserved at that moment, so we marched right on towards the falls, him in front, me behind.
To make a short story exceedingly long, we all eventually made it to the falls, drones were safely flown after the crowds cleared out, and everyone managed the tricky Sandy River crossing with no more gymnastic histrionics than was absolutely necessary to stay out of the drink, masculinity mercifully intact.
Except for maybe Rod, but that's entirely on him. They just don't make a backpack rugged enough-looking to offset the tiara and pink tutu.
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