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Friday, September 13, 2013

Book 4

We are well situated here at Bent Barrow Farm in regard to nature. While our 113 year-old farmhouse sits on what many would consider a small parcel, we do have what feels like the world's biggest backyard. Bent Barrow Farm sits in the South Fork Valley of Western Washington's Cascade foothills, and with a fit mount and a weekend's time, I could ride out on our neighborhood logging roads and deer paths and make it as far as the 7,000-ft. Twin Sisters. With a free summer, a game mule, and a machete, I could traverse the neglected Pacific Northwest Trail to Montana. With a free hour, however, I am limited to difficult footing or very short spurs that end, like the pipeline trail, at gravelly drop-offs or precipitous, densely forested slopes. There’s the trail that ends above Ennis Creek, its gravel cul-de-sac offering little pleasure beside the burbling sound of the falls below, and the one that ends on the rise below Lyman Hill’s impassable north slope. Lyman Hill is just a little taller than New Hampshire’s famously difficult Mount Monadnock, for scale, and is our closest geographic feature beyond the Samish River. There’s the Bear Walk, which requires a mile of road riding and which was recently logged, anyway, but which hides pounds upon pounds of chanterelles in its least disturbed corners, and Lex’s Walk, beyond, which has been sculpted by motorcyclists into a sandy roller-coaster track. There’s the Hilton’s gravel slide, which covers the natural gas pipeline a mile from here and which is littered with hoofprints and lead shot—the former left by Fenway Bartholomule, the latter left by our neighborhood’s least discerning target shooters. I am a target shooter too, but I don’t fire towards the pipeline and it’s “Warning! Natural Gas!” signs. I'll leave that Darwin Award for another contestant, thank you.

From the perspective of an equestrian, Bent Barrow Farm is well situated. Springy, groomed bridle trails and a covered arena would be nice, of course, but the mere presence of trails—any trails—is a boon. I grew up riding horses in Central California's expansive country, so my perfect ride would involve cantering up a sprawling ridge: golden grasses bowing before flying hooves. Shadows pooling under spreading live oaks. Sun. Space. A clearly visible horizon. Here, though, I get the next best thing. Picking our way among roots, Fenway Bartholomule and I exit a primordial forest onto a steeply climbing gravel road. We stop and look behind us. To the east, the glaciated peaks of Mounts Baker and Shuksan peek out from behind the Twin Sisters in their lacy bonnets of spring snow. The south fork of the Nooksack curves away to the north, a ribbon binding quilted squares of orchard grass and blueberries, corn and kale and cattails. In front of us, a replanted forest slopes into the tuneful marsh of the Samish headwaters. A pastel softness defines the scene, a special quality of light unique to the first emergence of brilliant sun on an otherwise rainy day. We turn southwest to a view across the blue and rolling Chuckanuts to the tulip fields of Skagit County and the southern San Juan Islands. We are twenty minutes from home. 

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