I used to keep notes about my hiking and photography outings on loose sheets of paper that were quickly lost. One day while in Office Depot I grabbed an inexpensive notebook to see if I’d prefer keeping my notes in more permanent form. I think it may have cost all of two dollars. It’s a simple notebook from Roaring Spring Compositions, designed for children I’d guess given that the cover asks for your school and grade. It was quad ruled which I liked as I tend to wander without the guiding hand of the grid. It measures 9 3/4″ by 7 1/2″ and was made in the USA, presumably in Roaring Spring, PA.
My first entry is from December 28, 2003 and starts with a visit to a National Wildlife Refuge — but not Ridgefield as you might expect. No, this was Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Sacramento NWR complex down in California. My wife and I spent Christmas with family in California and she flew back while I took the Subaru and planned to visit the redwoods and the refuges near the border.
After a quick visit to Colusa I drove the auto tour at Sacramento NWR, but only once as a sudden snowstorm was blowing in and I needed to hurry to get across the coast range to the redwoods. I didn’t make it too far before discretion proved the better part of valor and I retreated to spend a couple of days in a hotel in Redding. Once I-5 reopened and it was safe to drive back home, I canceled the trip and arrived at our house just hours before a nasty ice storm hit Portland.
For each visit I keep track of what animals I see and I try to make notes about how the day went, although some days I never get round to filling in the notes. Every once in a while I’ll make a little drawing in the notebook, but rarely so, for even a caveman of Lascaux once called them “rather crude”, and he was being charitable.
Flip over a few pages from the aborted California trip and there’s our first visit to Olympic and Mount Rainier National Parks in the summer of 2004. Then comes my first real visit to Yellowstone a few weeks later (we visited for a few hours when my wife moved to Oregon but that hardly counts).
There’s my first (and only) visit to Japan in 2005, then my first visit to Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina a few months later that at long last re-introduced me to alligators. And a few months later a return to Yellowstone and my first visit to the Tetons. In between the big trips most of the pages are scrawled full of visits to Ridgefield, long ago I taped a map of the refuge to the inside of the back cover to help me keep straight the small lakes along the auto tour.
Flip a bit more and there’s my trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons in 2006. Another visit to Huntington Beach in December of that year, my first time out after my stepfather passed away unexpectedly, when the quiet serenity of the off-season provided much needed comfort.
Another visit to Yellowstone and the Tetons in the fall of 2007 which was my last. Good grief has it really been that long since I’ve been there? In the fall of 2008 I went to Rainier and the Olympics instead and saw my first hoary and Olympic marmots, continuing an obsession ignited by Yellowstone’s yellow-bellied marmots.
In 2009 instead of my usual fall hiking trip I took a spring trip to the redwoods in California, my first visit since the snowstorm aborted my attempt back in 2003. The big trip of 2010 was our visit to Maine to spread my mother-in-law’s ashes.
Where will 2011’s big trip be? Wherever it will be, it won’t be recorded in this notebook. My June 5th visit to Ridgefield filled the final page.