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Crying at Pilot Rock

My husband, Jack, and I were hiking along one of our favorite trails, the Pacific Crest Trail near Pilot Rock.

When we reached the top of the ridge, where you can look one direction to gasp at Mount Shasta in the distance and the other way to be stunned by Mount McLoughlin pointing up at the sky, I stopped in my tracks. Not just to take in the breathtaking view for the umpteenth time, or to inhale the scent of pine trees and loamy earth in the forest, but because I heard a funny sound: a rather high-pitched wailing.

What is that? I wondered. Sort of like the whining chatter of chipmunks or squirrels in distress when they think you are coming too close and you’re disturbing them. But it wasn’t quite that. It wasn’t as staccato, but more continuous, like a baby’s wail.

Big crows or ravens can caw, stretching their screeches out to a long “C-a-a-a-h-h, c-a-a-a-h-h.” But the noise was higher than that, not as deep.

“Jack, I hear a kind of crying over in those trees. What would make that sort of sound? Some kind of strange bird?”

Jack listened for a minute, furrowing his brow and looking a bit perplexed. Sternly he replied, “We’re not going to stay around to find out. Keep hiking. Quicken your pace, if you can,” he added.

That surprising response from usually calm, jovial Jack made me even more curious. “Why? What could it be?” I wanted to know what he was thinking.

“Let’s just get farther on ahead. Then we can discuss it.”

Oh, my. Now my curiosity was thoroughly aroused. But Jack wouldn’t answer my stream of questions. He just kept motioning me to move forward, pointing to the trail ahead of us.

Still, I kept peppering him with questions. I know he doesn’t like it when I do that, especially if he’s trying to solve a problem or fix something. I try to be patient, saving my collection of questions or myriad musings for a time when he’s not trying to concentrate on a matter at hand.

I wasn’t happy walking away from something unusual and out of the ordinary. I wanted to find out what was going on. But Jack’s seriousness conveyed the necessity for me to be quiet and march on.

Finally, what seemed to be at least a quarter of a mile farther, when the crying was out of hearing range, Jack paused and explained.

“I think that could have been a baby bear, stuck in a tree. I suspect it was calling for help, and I didn’t want us to be between that baby and its mother. You never want to be in that position, and certainly not when a bear is unhappy!”

“Oh.” That took care of any more pestering questions.

Lynn Ransford lives in Ashland.

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