I took this photo: Not all who wander are lost

stairs on mountain slope in the clouds
Stairs from the clouds to the clouds, for the clouds.

It is not common to find a perfectly good set of stairs in the clouds on the side of a mountain. Ready to assist any passersby, they stood steady and firm on the landscape.

It was raining but the day was bright and the air mild. Western Oregon is rarely a dry place. I don’t melt. I hiked into the cool, dripping coastal range, eventually climbing high enough that the trees became more scattered, more wind-beaten. The trail, slick with mud, occasionally crossed rock or split around washouts and pools.

I came upon the stairs not far from the mountain peak. Another half mile up a rock face and through twisted semi-alpine plants was the open summit, a granite bald with tortured metal-pipe railing, fully enveloped in cloud.

But the stairs? They were wooden, two by fours and four by eights. There were two sections with a landing and a turn in the middle. The upper section had a handrail on the downslope side, the lower stairs on both sides. The trail by-passed them completely, as if a displeased giant plucked them up, and set them again six feet out of line, but parallel, with the trail.

For 50 years, I was on a known path. It had mud and rocks and unexpected by-passes and washouts but it was well-worn and followed by many.  I took this photo the day after my 50th birthday. Since then, I expect stairs in the clouds because they lead to the most amazing of places.

2015 in the rearview

Each year about this time I send a review of the year in photos I’ve taken along the way to people I know and love. It’s my annual Solstice letter without all the words, short and sweet. Below is this year’s installment. I offer this with gratitude for the people I do not yet know and love but who find the energy to spend time with me here. I hope it takes you on roads you have not taken enough this year.

Winter self-portrait

Walla Walla impossible green

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Mount Hood through the oaks of Washington

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Blue and yellow make green

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Desert virga, California

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Dragonfly, North Dakota

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Full circle, North Dakota

Travelers: Monarch butterfly, tamarisk, and the Cimarron River, Oklahoma

Evening glow, California

Grizzly River bowl, California

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Crater Lake morning, Oregon

 

Fire sunset, Steens Mountain, Oregon

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Mars-wanna-be, the Sun, during fire season on planet Earth

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Indian Beach, Oregon

Saddle Mountain, Oregon

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