Augustus Oregon, a township nestled in Oregon’s Coastal Range doesn’t exist, except in my imagination. Strangeness transpires there, and what happened at the top of Copper Ridge is no exception. When bouts of depression take me under into the depths of despair, I seek refuge in the hills above Augustus Oregon. I like to go rucking through the Copper Ridge area because the eeriness of gnarled oak trees, darkened and aged with patches of black bark, comforts me while a Congress of Ravens follows me through the twisting trails. They like to gather in the oaks to keep me company when I reach Copper Ridge Peak. I can tell by their croaking, sounding more musical than the caw sounds they make, that they sense my despair. The Ravens offer me sanctuary.
On the second anniversary of my mother taking her concluding breaths of life, I left my cabin with a rucksack on my back weighted down with thirty pounds of iron plate, gear, and water. I had in mind to take Crossman’s Trail up to Copper Ridge because its terrain challenges me with obstacles like twist backs, passages studded with boulders, felled trees, and ascents that provoke circumspection. I needed to exert myself that Autumn day when the fog rolled into the valley below Copper Ridge, when the forest began its metamorphosis into full fall colors, when the tears ran down my face. I bolted down Copper Ridge Road, the tendons in my legs felt like spring steel while my calves, quads, and hamstrings pumped my legs like pistons.
Thickets of Blackberry vines and Manzanita obscure the trailhead to Crossman’s Trail, but it welcomes those who need to slay their demons or rejuvenate a heart saddened with grief. I reached the trailhead in ten minutes at a brisk 15 minutes/mile march. I bowed before the entrance, clapped three times, asking for a journey to enlighten my spirit. Into the woods, I went, under the canopies of Douglas-fir, Port-Orford-Cedar, and Bigleaf Maple, where the Blackberries and Manzanita stopped their advancement.
Two miles into the woods the trail’s ascent began its rise to Copper Ridge, while the fog accentuated the woodsy fragrance wafting off the forest floor. I approached Boulder Bench, a pair of granite boulders wedged together that my dad and I chiseled out to fashion seating for two. Beams of sunshine penetrated through the lifting fog, splicing its way through the forest canopy, striking the bench, inviting me to sit and rest and savor the memory of my father. I don’t question some mysteries of the ways of the Universe, as the sunshine carried the touch of my father’s hand upon my shoulder.
I sipped water from a canteen, slung the rucksack onto my back, and marched on upwards to Copper Ridge Peak. The trail narrowed, climbed up the terrain, contorting the passage through a debris field of granite dislodged from their moorings eons in the past. This section of Crossman’s Trail cut through the tree line and poses a risk, which a deer carcass crammed between two slabs of granite had exemplified. I strapped on my hard hat after a golfball chunk of granite whizzed past my head. The ascent continued up for another 150 yards where the earth has encased the top of the granite formation and where the tree line reappears. Reunited with the trail and the tree line, I appreciated the insignificance of my life compared to the vastness of the Universe. I wondered how that deer felt at the bottom.
I stopped to sip water, checking my time on the trail—three hours—and estimated that I’d reach Copper Ridge Peak by noon. I quickened my pace to arrive there in two hours. The grade of the ascent carried on, weaving a path into the woods, casting an eeriness upon those who treaded on its floor. Enter at your own risk is a thought that had amused me since I had made these parts of Copper Ridge my home. The sound that silence presents to the ear magnifies the eeriness under the canopy of the woods. One can hear the murmurs of the forest with the spirit of the soul, my dad had imparted to me when we carved out the granite bench.
I checked my watch, 12:15 p.m. it read. I stood on Copper Ridge Peak, surrounded by groves of black oak. Hundreds of years old, their gnarled branches reached out into the air like arthritic limbs of witches of gigantic proportions. Motionless, my heart unsettled, feelings of grief on this anniversary day of my mother’s passing, Ravens, one by one, perched themselves in pairs in the oaks. The Raven pairs croaked musically, passionately, for me. The dominate Raven flew down from its perch in the oaks, landing on a stump in front of me, its eyes, blackened like deep space, pierced my gaze, entered my mind, the Raven, my spirit guide, spoke to me.
“On this day of your mourning, this Congress of Ravens at this moment convenes to accept you as one of our own. Today you become a Raven, you will fly with us and soar with the spirit of your mother and father,” the Raven said.
I felt wings where my arms should be, talons replaced my feet, air current lifted me aloft as my wings spread, my eyes showed me objects miles in the distance. “Raven, how can this be,” I asked.
The Raven soared with me, we ascended, descended, spiraling down onto an oak branch. “I must leave you for now. We shall meet again,” the Raven explained. He flew off to his mate.
The Congress of Ravens adjourned, and then there were none. I reckoned to follow them, but a pair of Ravens, split off from the Congress, croaking in the distance, circling above the oaks, landed next to me. I heard a voice, a voice I recognized, “Come home our son, it’s time to leave,” my mother said.