Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Harris Creek Trail

My An Arkie's Faith column from the October 13, 2021, issue of The Polk County Pulse.

The warm Indian summer sun lit up the countryside as we headed out in my cousin’s new Jeep for an outdoor adventure. We made plans to eat lunch at Baja Rios and then continue to the Cossatot River State Park. I had hiked the Harris Creek Trail at the State Park several times and wanted to do the hike again. The trail is a 3 1/2 mile loop that follows along Baker Creek and Harris Creek and has a breathtaking overlook of the Cossatot River.

The four of us happily chatted, as we hadn’t seen much of each other for quite a while. While we were driving down Highway 71 into Potter, the SUV in front of us started behaving erratically, moving across the centerline into the oncoming lane and then suddenly correcting back into its lane. Just as we got to the bridge coming into Potter, there was a tremendous bang as the SUV crashed into the guardrail, then spun around and slammed into the guardrail on the other side.

As soon as the Jeep stopped, my wife jumped out of the car and rushed to the scene. The SUV was severely damaged, but a woman got out and was able to walk over to the guardrail and lean against it. I reached for my phone to call 911, but the call did not go through. I kept trying, and on the third try, the call went through. I explained what had happened, and the 911 operator assured me that someone would be right there. While I was making the 911 call, my cousin was clearing debris from the accident off of the road. The entire suspension had been ripped out from under the SUV and blocked the road.

My wife talked calmly and quietly to the woman. She said that she was OK but appeared to be injured. My wife tried to get her to sit down, as she seemed to be going into shock. As vehicles made their way around the accident scene, my wife shouted at several cars, asking if they had a blanket or towels, but no one stopped.

In just a few minutes, law enforcement and the ambulance were on the scene. My wife talked to the sheriff’s deputy and the ambulance driver and told them everything she knew. As my wife got back into the car and we headed south, everyone was visibly shaken, and the mood in the Jeep had gone from cheerful to somber. A short while later, we saw a car driving too fast down a side road, and we weren’t sure that they were going to stop at the highway. After you have witnessed an accident, you are on high alert and notice everything about your surroundings. Before the accident, we had been carefree, visiting and having a great time. But the accident changed the mood in the Jeep

The conversation turned to stories of close calls that each one had experienced. When you have a close call or you witness an accident, it sticks in your mind. It’s not something that you soon forget. By the time we pulled into the Baja Rios parking lot, our nerves had settled a bit, and our hearts weren’t racing quite as fast, but the accident we had witnessed but still on our minds.

We had a wonderful meal at Baja Rios. Their chile relleno covered in white queso with a side of hot green salsa is one of my all-time favorite meals. The daughter of an old friend of mine sat at the table next to us and recognized me. We reminisced about my friend, and I remembered how we could have deep discussions about things we didn’t necessarily agree on and remained good friends. 

After a great meal, we needed to work off some calories, so we headed down to the Cossatot River State Park to hike the Harris Creek trail. After finding a shady spot to park the Jeep, we started our hike. The trail begins in an old shale pit. There are areas covered in moss, and the color contrast between the light green mosses and black shale is stunning. As the trail begins to climb, you get views of Baker Creek. Once you get to the top of the hill, after an elevation gain of over 300 feet, the trail takes you through an open stand of hardwoods with glimpses of Baker Creek to your left.

Further down the trail, Baker Creek runs into Harris Creek, and there are some fantastic overlooks. The views along the trail are breathtaking. Some sections are steep and rugged, but the trail is well maintained and well marked. The day was hot, but there was usually a breeze to help cool us. By the time we made it back to the Jeep, we were tired and sweaty. 

After our hike, we drove the Jeep on many back roads between Highway 278 and Highway 246 before making our way home. It had been a wonderful afternoon filled with good food, family, and experiencing the natural beauty of our area. But we couldn’t help but wonder about the woman in the accident. How badly had she been injured? We had experienced a lovely day, but the accident had ruined her day. 

God wants us to have beautiful experiences like we had hiking the Harris Creek Trail. Jesus tells us, “I came to give life with joy and abundance.” John 10:10 (VOICE) But we all know that life has its ups and downs, and every day isn’t filled with joy. Some days are difficult. God wants us to help each other through those difficult times. We are to “show kindness and compassion toward each other.” Zechariah 7:9 (NABRE) Compassion is simply a kind, friendly presence in the face of a difficult time. Compassion starts with the understanding that everyone you meet is fighting their own battles. That frame of mind makes it easier to treat others with love, compassion, empathy, and understanding. We are all facing challenges.

Gentle Reader, we can’t heal the world today, but we can begin by showing compassion. So many of the problems in our world stem from a lack of compassion. If we would show kindness to others even when we disagree with them, it could help change our world, one compassionate act at a time. In 2 Corinthians 1:3 (NIV), Paul gives God this title, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” I love that description of God; “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” And Paul goes on to say, in verse 4, that God “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Do you have compassion for others? Who do you need to comfort today?

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