The Pool on top of the Lake

when we were in Mt. Shasta

we were told to visit a lake

it was nice and pleasant

and we would have left

but for the trail

we thought went around the lake

we began walking this trail in our flip flops

not expecting much but easy scenery

and stopped when the brush got dense around us

to renew our vows

I promised to cook her more meals

my wife promised things I can’t remember now

there was a guy with a beard as big as his face tinkering on an acoustic

we made out

because how could you not

when everything aligns like that

moving again

the trail began snaking upward

we worried about our footwear

should we keep going?

we got our answer in a young guy hiking barefoot

he looked like he’d been drinking

he was followed by a pair of ladies carrying newborns in sacks

splayed across their shoulders

we laughed at this cosmic joke

if a barefoot hiker and mothers carrying babies could ascend this hike, so could we, we reasoned

I joked that next we’d see a man in a wheel chair up the mountain

we asked one of the mothers where the trail was leading and whether we were close

“It’s not far now. Just keep going”

“where does it lead?”

“there’s a lake up there.”

we were ranking all of the people we met in Shasta based on kindness

I put her at number 4 behind the woman with the facial earrings

manning the counter of the town’s video store

(it’s funny that when you discover a person is pleasant who at first intimidates you — you end up liking them even more than if they didn’t intimidate you in the first place)

but ahead of a man named Rod who was staying at our motel

and told the same stories over and over

and bragged about how he’d gotten all of his information about the area from the locals

the trail continued to rise

then ebbed

then rose again

finally we got out of the brush and out into the open

rock outcroppings unveiled themselves just in time for us to see them

“sometimes the only thing that keeps me going

is the view of you from behind,”

I said.

“stop it.”

“do you need water?”

“nah I’m like a camel,” she said

the trail got more obscure

just a rocky field offering a bevy of options

we scrambled

grabbing roots and branches and kinda feeling bad about it

we met back up with the barefoot man, who was now

hiking with a young couple and a dog

they both had long hair, his blonde, hers brown and in dreadlocks

we flew through the next swath

we couldn’t explain why but we were

and then the hiking got very steep

so that we were almost full-on rock climbing now

my flip flops gripped the dirt with new zeal

at the top, I grabbed my wife’s shoulder and hoisted her up and over

we were 7 of us now

my wife, me, the barefoot man, the pretty young couple, their dog, and an older Swedish lady

we all looked over a small pool of water with a rock wall surrounding two thirds of it

we weren’t saying much at this point apart from

“wow, oh my God, and just lovely”

my wife and I jumped in

the water was tolerable despite the fact that we were 8000 feet up

next in was the pretty young couple

the water was cloudy with dirt

we were all stupid grins and kicking feet

my wife and I swam over to one end of the pool

the one not bordered by rock walls

when we got to that shallow end

we spotted a little patch of land no larger than the inside of an elevator

and after that

was a thousand or two foot drop onto the first lake

I wasn’t sure how to feel

so we stood there for a few minutes holding hands

and then turned around to begin the trek down.

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2 thoughts on “The Pool on top of the Lake

  1. I love the balance between the conversational, the cosmic, and the formal tensions caused by the poetic line-breaks. An engrossing read.

  2. kind of you to say, Michael. Thank you for taking the time.

    I can’t wait to return to this pool. It probably won’t be the same — there is something about happening upon a spot like that, it’s an experience that can’t be replicated. But the Shasta area, in Northern California, is well worth repeated visits, indeed.

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