I like to go hiking with my niece Elizabeth whenever I can. We have certain aspects of temperament and brain chemistry in common. Some of it is the sort of thing that causes Dave to shake his head and mutter Brewster girls and wonder aloud why we don’t fall down more often. It’s not that we’re willfully oblivious so much as that our thoughts are highly curated and the sensible ones don’t always make the cut.

We might spot something shiny in the duff and bend down and try to pry it out, without noticing it’s a Sasquatch’s toenail. And we’d get away with it and continue merrily on our way because that particular Sasquatch was bored and in need of entertainment.

Last hike we were on, we spotted a hornet’s nest in a tree, clearly abandoned—a third of it appeared to be missing—but what a beautiful creation it was! We were basically in a sodden marsh and the footing was treacherous, but we both got closer and closer for a better picture and it wasn’t until the ground had just about sucked us solid up to our ankles that we notice the HORDES OF HORNETS tornadoing out of the thing. And apparently hornets in a recently damaged nest are on the pissy side. Maybe if we’d actually been able to run we would have triggered a meaner response from the insects but as it was they were content to remain amused and watch us shluck our way out. Brewster girls, they thought, shaking their little furry heads.

So the hike we just came back from was one I wasn’t even going to look up. I’ve been there before. It’s a straight out-and-back to a lighthouse on Sauvie Island and the trailhead is at the end of a dead-end road. Elizabeth asked if we should bring the trail guide along, and I said Nah, you can’t go wrong. So out we went on a clear path that soon dumped onto a narrow gravel track and we blathered away for a mile and a half and then there was this house and a truck and a woodshed and the sound of duck hunters. I did not remember any of those things from when I’d done the trail before. Or the gravel track, for all that. I remembered it as a walk through the woods bordering the Columbia River, and this wasn’t that. So we turned around and went all the way back to the parking lot and Elizabeth hauled out the trail guide, and doggone if where we went wrong was approximately eighteen inches past the trailhead, where we were supposed to follow a thready track onto the beach instead of taking the Very Obvious Path.

“I thought you’ve been here before! I thought you said we couldn’t go wrong!”

That’s what I thought, too. And wherefore this accusatory tone?

Elizabeth was feeling a little too smug that the only thing she’d done wrong was to take my word for something, so at this point I would like to mention another hiking day. A day in which, for reasons which escape me now, I asked Elizabeth when the last time she wet her pants was. And she got that foggy faraway look you get when you’re peering into the distant past, and then suddenly brightened up and said “Oh! Last week!”

Anyway we promptly threaded our way to the beach where we were to walk for a half mile and then find a way up to the woods and pick up our correct trail. After a quarter mile, and a little time to think about my earlier blunder, it occurred to me to wish we’d left some kind of sign so we could find the parking lot again, and Elizabeth said “We could always follow our footprints,” which totally had not occurred to me. Which sort of puts a shine on the younger Brewster girl this time, and none on me, but don’t forget that pants-wetting thing.

We talked so much we solved most of the plot problems I’m having with my book in progress, which, at least tangentially, involves Sasquatches. It was one good idea after another, springing forth fully formed. I was elated.

We made it to the lighthouse just fine. It was a beautiful spooky day hung heavy with vapor off the river and on our way back the sun began to shred up the mist and perching eagles began to emerge from the fog, like good ideas.

Now to watch them soar.