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The way to Roman Nose

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OF course, there really is a good road and we found it two summers ago. That day while we stood in the shallow end of the old quarry pond we watched bright red crayfish propel themselves across the silt-covered rock and out of our reach. Above our heads the man-made cliffs went up to the firs against the sky. This was a high quarry, the better part of 3,000 feet above the nearby Pacific. The view to the west was spectacular, but when we came back the following December, climbing through the familiar rain of the Oregon coast, the view was missing and we never noticed. A few hundred feet below the summit of Roman Nose and its quarry the rain changed to snow -- thick, driving snow that coated every tree and bush and blade. Our trusty four-wheel-drive took us steadily up and into the kind of beauty that makes conversation unnecessary. We ate our sandwiches in the pickup and listened to the busy quiet. Then we drove back down the mountain and wrote Christmas cards about not having to shovel the rain.

Since then we haven't found the way again to Roman Nose. This sounds pretty silly, because we haven't moved and neither has the mountain. The problem is a combination of weather, the Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. Of course, for several months we weren't even looking for it. Our local National Forest kept us happy with its myriad side roads running along razorback ridges and around corners for a glimpse of a black bear disappearing into the wild rhododendrons or twin fawns wobbling after their mother or -- once -- two very young bobcats who instantly ran up not-big-enough alders and then seemed to be signaling each other. ``This isn't what mother told us to do!'' They slid to earth and vanished into the ferns. Another day we came to a stop in front of a mother quail who never left her post on the road until her little brood was safely into the salal and hidden from us. She was a quail who didn't.

Quite a few times we were ``on the way.'' At least that's what we told friends who asked. ``On the way to Roman Nose'' was where we hunted for the small, sweet blackberry that grew along the ground and over moss-covered logs and made such special pies. ``On the way to Roman Nose'' led also to the secret patch of Oregon grape. The jelly was deepest red and so tart that grown men shuddered but asked for more. And on-the-way included huckleberries by the pan, pail, or preserve kettle-full. These brought attention to waffles, muffins, pies, jellies, ice cream -- so much so that we never really got beyond being on the way until fall.

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