it’s nature day, damnit

Non-fiction, 1/23/09

It was around 8 a.m. on a beautiful Monday in January, a Martin Luther King Jr. Day-kind of Monday, when Logan decided he would spend the day outside. Actually, he had toyed with the idea earlier that morning, while devouring an Eggenue sandwich at Avenue Bread, but it wasn’t until now, at 8-ish, that he became utterly convinced of his plan. His belly was full, the sun was shining, and he felt a seemingly boundless energy welling inside him.

“I have so much energy right now!” he declared, pacing across the Stones’ living room, coffee-filled Thermos in hand. “I’ve got to do something outside today.” The Stone family, who had gathered sleepily around the dining table for breakfast, regarded Logan warily, fearing he might spontaneously combust before their eyes. They knew that Logan’s outdoor plans hinged upon the vicissitudes of Charles, a chronically late-rising family friend who owned a car and hence could drive to more distant, desirable locales in the wilderness. Two days prior, Charles had told Logan he’d be ready to leave at 11 a.m.—a departure time much later than Logan’s liking, but it would have to suffice. Logan just wanted to go outside.

Watching the minutes tick by, Logan’s wanderlust became overwhelming. It was 9:15 and he needed fresh air, stat. If his bike hadn’t been out of commission due to a litany of repairs, he’d have probably left on his own hours ago. Such was the urgency of the morning—or Logan’s morning, at least. His roommate Peter, who also planned to accompany the alfresco adventure at 11, offered to throw a Frisbee around near the local high school. “Can I finish my breakfast first?” Peter asked, half-jokingly, glancing down at the almond-butter toast and forlorn banana on his plate. Logan, meanwhile, could think only of blue skies and warm, invigorating sunshine. “Yeah man, whatever—I mean, whenever you’re ready.” He then proceeded to run a lap around the block, barefoot.

They tossed the Frisbee until the frozen turf began to thaw, rapidly soaking their ankles with frigid dew. It was 10 a.m. now, and Logan started to doubt whether Charles would actually wake up in time. Mulling over their prospects, the two walked back to the Stone house, where they joined Willis in a mid-morning jam session that was bluesy, jazzy, funky and altogether agreeable. Both Logan and Peter felt this was an auspicious prelude to their journey.

Then, at 11:15, Charles called. He couldn’t make it, he told Logan; had to do some homework instead. A weighted silence fell over the house, each family member wondering how Logan would react to the news. They mentally prepared the proper condolences, the gentle reassurances that this day would not be wasted, that he and Peter would find something equally exciting to do. In fact, Peter almost expected his fleet-footed roommate to burst sprinting from the house again. But Logan would not be so easily deterred. “Let’s just walk,” he told Peter. Neither adventurer had any idea precisely where they’d walk to, nor did they care, really—just so long as they were out-of-doors.

Logan assembled a slapdash luncheon of various proteins and carbohydrates and the pair was off. At the bus station they took the 401 out to Fairhaven, planning their route en route. “We could walk along the train tracks to Larrabee,” Peter suggested. “It’ll be nice and sunny.” Logan couldn’t come up with a better idea, so the itinerary was set: walk on the rails to Larrabee State Park, picnic somewhere along the way, and maybe hike Fragrance Lake if time permits. Getting back home was, by unspoken agreement between the two, something they’d get to when they got to it.

They set out on the train tracks around noon, taking the railroad ties at a brisk clip. The sunlight reflected blindingly off the bay, warming them but necessitating a constant Popeye-like squint to see anything at all. A lone red-breasted merganser swam out from the shore, its spiked crest and orange bill in stark contrast to the silvery, undulating swells.

Joyous and carefree, the two exulted in their resourcefulness until they reached the first tunnel. “I totally forgot about the tunnels,” Peter said, laughing nervously. Logan was not amused. The tunnels were incredibly narrow, just wide enough for a train to pass through. In other words, if he and Peter happened to be inside one when a train came by, they’d be screwed. Standing at the opening, Logan said, “Look, you can already see the light at the end. Let’s go.” They walked quickly at first, and when they couldn’t see their feet for the darkness they started running, splashing through mud-ringed puddles until they’d safely reached the other end. Both agreed that the tunnels were perhaps a little too exciting for their tastes.

Shortly afterward, the pair was greeted with an ominous sign—literally, a sign along the railway—stating, “No trespassing…violation will result in a misdemeanor charge,” or something to that effect. Logan and Peter exchanged uneasy looks. “A misdemeanor…that sounds serious,” Logan said, still walking. “Yeah man, that would really suck,” Peter replied. He pulled out a digital camera and snapped some pictures. They continued on, skirting residential areas along the tracks and admiring the million-dollar seaside mansions.

At Larrabee they broke bread, splitting Peter’s whole-wheat loaf and an onion-poppy seed bagel and applying copious amounts of peanut butter and cream cheese to both. They ate while sitting on a driftwood log, facing the coruscating bay. It was a simple, satisfying feast. Peter clumsily dropped the end of a banana in the sand; he tossed it to a nearby seagull that gleefully swallowed the gritty chunk in an instant.

Logan had never seen Fragrance Lake, so they decided to hike the two-mile trail winding up and back behind the beach. It was a cool, pleasant climb, and at the top they found the lake still partially frozen, shrouded in fog. Prying rocks from the mud, Logan hurled one toward the lake, expecting to punch right through the thin layer of ice. Instead, the rock bounced and skidded along, emitting an eerie staccato of laser-like pulses as it struck the ice. “It’s like Star Wars!” they shouted in unison, and soon the afternoon silence was shattered by an intergalactic shootout of epic proportions. When there were no good rocks left to throw, the pair headed back down the trail toward civilization.

“So how are we getting home?” Peter asked. They had talked about hitchhiking off and on throughout the journey, but Peter had never done it, and he was a wimp about such things. Logan said, “We’ll just walk down Chuckanut with our thumbs out—I bet we’ll get picked up in no time.” Sure enough, ten minutes later the two were hitching a ride with a college-aged couple heading back into Bellingham. “So you guys go to high school in Bellingham?” asked the scruffy-looking guy in the passenger seat. Ouch, thought Peter, a low blow. “No, actually, I go to Western, and he just graduated,” Logan said, nodding to Peter. Scruffy-Dude looked from one face to the other, an incredulous smile tugging at his lips. “Are you sure you guys go to college? You look pretty young.”

Later, while on the bus, the two halfheartedly lamented their accursed baby-faces, but talk soon turned to food, as it’s wont to do between rail-weary travelers.

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