WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ore. — There’s only one thing better than finding adventure in the outdoors and that’s sharing what you have found with someone else.
So, this week we meet two Washington County women who share the joy they find along a trail that leads hikers "High on the Saddle."
Elecia Beebe says, “The doing of the thing,” brings her the greatest joy in life. “I was raised by artist and photographer parents, so I think my art is all genetic!”
On a fine spring morning, with a mountain by her side, Elecia finds a heartfelt joy along a trail that tests her talents.
“You never really see something until you do something like draw it or study what’s going on with it - I pretty much know where I’m going and start drawing it lightly in pencil and usually the sky is first and I go from there.”
Elecia and good friend neighbor and author, Bonnie Shumaker, “go” to Saddle Mountain Trail often. It’s a day hike that’s about as good as it gets.
Recently, the duo teamed up for something even better! Their book is titled, "High on the Saddle." Elecia provided the artwork and Bonnie wrote the text. It was their opportunity to share their passion for the Oregon outdoors.
“We did the hike together to get it started,” said Bonnie, a retired kindergarten teacher. “I took photographs of the different areas as we went up the trail so I could write about them and I shared them with Elecia for reference too. It’s a terrific trail because every time you round a corner, you come upon a different group of wildflowers. It’s truly amazing!”
It is a place that Bonnie knows well. Ever since her mom showed her the Saddle Mountain Trail nearly 70 years ago. Her story is told by her younger self and it’s about an elder who takes her grandchild hiking high on Saddle Mountain.
She shared an excerpt: “Coming around a corner I gasp when I spy a momma deer and her twin spotted fawns grazing in an open meadow. I signal to grandma as she rounds the same corner, and she immediately knows to be quiet and still. They keep walking towards us as they eat until finally, they turn off into the woods.”
While the book offers many specific points of interest and details about the geography and geology, "High on the Saddle" isn’t necessarily a guidebook according to its author. Rather, Shumaker insists it’s a tale that centers on the passing of information, respect and love for the Oregon outdoors from one generation to the next.
“I think the guiding part is through the characters, that is, the grandmother – showing the way to her grandchild, while pointing out particular points of nature, especially the wildlife and wildflowers. It’s about that special family bond between two generations on a journey to a special Oregon landmark.”
These days, Bonnie shares that special bond with her great granddaughter, 4-year-old Annabelle. The youngster’s enthusiasm and energy for hiking could put seasoned hikers to shame. In fact, she drew an adoring troupe of family and friends up the two-and-a-half-mile trek; leading the way much of the time.
Saddle Mountain dates to a time when a thick layer of Columbia River basalt flowed into the ocean from distant eastern Oregon. Eventually, the ground rose and the mountain was born. Today, the basalt breaks away in chunks, cracks, crevices and bands that show off eons of geologic time.
The Saddle Mountain Trail begins a cool forest stand of mature alder trees and soon opens onto grassy meadows covered in a riot of wildflowers. While water is rare, there are cool springs that seep to replenish a surprising number of wild plants. The flowing water offers a distinct sound that also soothes the soul.
“Well, the trail starts out steeper than you think, and you soon appreciate the many switchbacks that help ease your hike, noted Shumaker. “They also provide fine places to rest, enjoy the view and gather a little more energy before you move on.”
She shared another excerpt: “Soon we’re here at the top. I feel kind of like I did when we saw the deer, proud and strong to have made it to the top but also tiny as an ant compared to all the beautiful things around me. how can I feel big and small at the same time?”
Perhaps that’s due to what Shumaker called “the 50-mile view.” For on a clear day, you can see the entire Long Beach Peninsula up north and then all the way to Nehalem Bay to the south.
It is the sort of awesome that will put a smile on your face.
“That’s really the feeling you get when you hike to the top of saddle mountain," added Shumaker with a smile.
Be sure to follow my Oregon adventures via the new Grant’s Getaways Podcast:
Each segment is a story-telling session where I relate behind the scenes stories from four decades of travel and television reporting.
You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon travels and adventures in the Grant’s Getaways book series, including:
"Grants Getaways I," Photography by Steve Terrill
"Grant's Getaways II," Photography by Steve Terrill
“Grant’s Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures,” Photography by Jeff Kastner
“Grant’s Getaways: Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon,” Photography by Jeff Kastner
“Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures with the Kids,” Photography by Jeff Kastner
The collection offers hundreds of outdoor activities across Oregon and promises to engage a kid of any age.
My next book, “Grant’s Getaways: Another 101 Oregon Adventures” will be published in the Fall of 2022.