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The spooky gloom

We slept right outside the best running city in the world. We could have run on the same trails that some of the best runners in the world (before me) got fast on. But Mom forgot all about The House that Pre Built, and the University of Oregon, and Nike and instead we drove 3 hours to the Mt Hood, which is the place where sweatshirts were invented. It was definitely sweatshirt weather, but if there was a mountain in all that gloom we couldn’t see it.

Since we have learned how to “do our homework” now before we go to an unfamiliar trail, we knew that the bridge was down over a stream on the trail. Mom and I cross streams all the time, and the reviews said that there were plenty of logs for crossing, and I’m a good log dog. So we weren’t worried… until we got to the “stream” and found that it was a roaring, raging river. The logs weren’t the big, wide redwood logs that are easy to balance on, but tiny little pencil logs that were okay for two-legged runners who could use their front feet to grab things and balance, but not so great for four-legged runners. I thought that I could probably do it, but Mom was afraid that if she let me cross off leash then I could slip and get carried down the river. If she kept me on leash, then I might make her slip and then we would both get carried down the river. We went up and down the bank looking for a bigger tree or a dry rock in a narrow place, or the water was slow enough for Mom to just take off her shoes so we could ford it together. But we couldn’t find anywhere safe. As I’ve learned from playing Oregon Trail, even big oxen that weigh like 20 Oscars can die crossing rivers, so we turned back to the Covered Wagon.

Now we were in a pickle. We were surrounded by trails, but The Witch wouldn’t tell us about any of them or even how to get there. We didn’t want to pick a trail that didn’t allow dogs, or went up into the snow, or had another obstacle we couldn’t cross, so we drove all the way out of the park, picked the first one we found, and then came back into the park to explore it. We hadn’t even given The Witch enough time to load the map properly, so it took us a long time to find the trailhead. Meanwhile, Mom was starting to get a bit batty.

You see, Mom’s allergic to clouds, and when it’s overcast or rainy she goes a little cuckoo. “I didn’t like that river, Oscar,” she said. “Something bad could have happened there and now I’m spooked. I want to get out of here…” “Mom. We’re fine. Look! This trail is perfect! It’s not too steep and not too rocky and there’s no one here.” “This place gives me the howling fantods.” “The what?” “The screaming Mimis.” “Excuse me?” “The willies! The heebie jeebies. I don’t like all the green. It means that it rains here a lot, I can even feel it in the air. It makes my skin crawl. Something bad is going to happen if we run into those woods by ourselves.” “We’ve been running in the woods by ourselves for years. Why don’t we just run a mile or two and see how it goes?” I suggested. “No, I think that we should go. Let’s go home. I don’t know what I’m doing on this stupid trip, living out of a stinky van like a homeless person rather than working. What the heck do I think I’m doing? I’m a loser! I’m one of those crazy people who thinks my dog talks to me. I hate this trip. I want to go home and lock the door and never explore a new place again.”

Just then, an opportunity to distract Mom ran by. It looked a bit like an Oscar-sized dog wearing a wolf costume. “Hey!” I shouted, running after him. “Hey! I’m Oscar. My hiking partner is being a party pooper. Can I run through the woods with you instead?” I had almost caught up with him, but Mom was screaming and making such a fuss that I hesitated and he went on without me, so I returned to Mom. Unlike Mom, I do great on cloudy days. I’m just like another heartthrob from this area, Edward Cullen who is also irresistible to the ladies and has to avoid bright sun, and runs faster than the wind. Also like Edward Cullen I have a whiny female who follows me everywhere. Mom didn’t let me finish Twilight because she said that the writing was so bad that it might give me brain damage, but I’m sure it turned out great for everyone…

Soon Mom settled down a little bit, and we ran 3 miles up the mountain. The trail went through a forest of all the same kind of trees, and once you had gone around a switchback you couldn’t see the trail above you or below you, so the whole thing felt a little bit like the scenery was on a loop, but not in a boring way. If we had kept going, in another couple of miles we would have reached a lake but Mom was getting hangry, and with the cloud sickness, I didn’t want to push her. But when we turned around, we were rewarded with a perfectly graded, ankle-friendly flowing descent that even put Mom in a good mood.

We had talked about spending the night in the area, but once we were finished Mom said, “Can we please get out of here now?” “Are you going to make us go back to California?” I asked. I was loving Oregon, and I knew that if we could just find Mom some sun that she would come around too. “No, but let’s keep going to Washington. If it’s still gloomy there let’s just hurry east until we get out of this rainforest. I don’t like the way it makes me feel.” So even though we try to avoid the freeways, Mom got on the interstate and we hauled ass for 200 miles toward Seattle.

Once we got to the edge of the Olympic Peninsula, the clouds had mostly cleared and Mom was feeling more like herself. “Isn’t this place wonderful, Oscar?” she said. We were driving through a forest with views of a bay, and snow-capped mountains in the distance. And look at how great this campground is! It’s got a little stream running by our campsite, and we’re across the street from the beach, and all the trees are covered in this green, fuzzy moss.” “That’s the same moss that they had in Oregon that gave you the ‘galloping fantods.’” “No, I think this is sun moss. This place doesn’t feel haunted like Oregon did.” “Right. Because it never rains in Seattle…”

Since Mom was feeling better, she took me over to the beach. What gives me the “screaming Mimis” is water that moves on its own, but this water was calm and smelled like adventure, so I went swimming without Mom even throwing a stick for me. The beach was covered in ugly grey sea booger shells that I learned all about from our last trip. Mom put one on my head like a fascinator and took my picture. I don’t get Mom’s obsession with putting things on my head, but she keeps trying to balance things there until I stand still, so now I just let it happen. Maybe it’s because she only showers once or twice a week, so her head fur is a fright, and she had to buy her own hideous hat at a gas station to cover it. But I have been swimming almost every day, so my fur is shampoo commercial shiny and silky.

-Oscar the Pooch


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