Kathy Creek - Jackpot Meadow
Coming Home to Kathy Creek
“Oh, come one—I’m just trying to hang my food bag,” I coaxed the squirrel. His beady eyes glared down at me, and he cussed me out again for throwing a rock at his tree. Standing there beneath that tall cedar tree at the edge of Jackpot Meadow, I started to aim again for the branch, but a sudden glint of light caught my eye, and I took a step closer, peering carefully through the bushy undergrowth at the tree’s base.
I had left Timothy Lake about 10:00 that morning, hiking all day without talking to another human. About noon I had reached the trail junction that pulled me off the Pacific Crest Trail, over a small ridge to Jackpot Meadow. Now, a little after 3:00 in the afternoon, standing in a campsite at the side of the meadow, my feet hurt. I had hiked nearly 40 miles in four days by this time, and I needed to rest. I dropped my 40-pound backpack and surveyed the site.
According to the topographic map, the nearest creek was about a mile away, and my water bottles were nearly empty. I dreaded having to hike another mile—and one more back to camp—for water, but told myself the sooner I got the water, the sooner I’d be done with the chore. At least I didn’t have to haul my full backpack with me, as long as I hung the food bag in a tree to keep it away from any critters that might drop by while I was down at the creek.
Which brought me to the cranky squirrel. To hang a food bag, you tie one end of a line to the bag, and the other end of the line around a fist-sized rock, and then you throw the rock over a tree branch and haul the bag up to the branch. It’s easy if you can throw a rock, which I can’t, but so what? I had nothing else to do all afternoon. Across the campsite from where my tent was pitched, a tall cedar tree promised to be the perfect spot to hang the food.
Or so I thought. But the lively, noisy squirrel disagreed with me. I am sure he was cursing me in squirrel language. That cedar tree was his tree, and he did not want me throwing my rock at his branch! I tried assuring him that I was a trustworthy, loyal scout, but he wasn’t buying it. He continued to fuss and scold, and it was while I was standing there, peering up and through the branches of cedar, toward the meadow beyond, that I caught a sudden, sparkling glint off the meadow.
I peered more intently through the branches, where I saw, right next to my campsite, a tiny little trickle of stream, sparkling and clear, but so small it didn’t even make a gurgle as it wound its way through the green grasses of the meadow. Water!
Laughing, I thanked the irritable squirrel, and pulled the water filtering pump out of my backpack. The water was fresh, cold, and delicious, and I didn’t have to take a step out of my camping area. I filled my water bottles, thankful that I didn’t have to hike another mile or two for water that afternoon.
That tiny creek didn’t have a name—it wasn’t even marked on my map!—so I named it Kathy Creek. That was my last night alone in the woods, but I felt safe and loved. It’s a big world, and my family was far away, but I had the stars and a spunky squirrel to keep watch through the night. That night, I lay alone in my tent, out there in the woods at Jackpot Meadow, miles away from any other human. I was solitary, but not lonely; on my own, but not afraid. I breathed deeply and drifted into sleep, at home in the woods next to Kathy Creek.