I put the most brutal and meaningful hike to celebrate Isaiah first up in the week. Isaiah and I did Kerby Peak back in 2016 and it nearly broke us. Kerby Peak was one of the few spots where Isaiah became lucid and would talk to me, which was a common pattern I’d see in only the most remote and hardcore of natural locations. The further away we got from cities, the more Isaiah opened up, pulled down his hoodie and engaged in conversation. I wanted Audrey to experience the beauty and hardness of this hike, and see what Isaiah saw as we ascended Kerby Peak, hiking a total of seven miles, but the hike up went from about 2500K elegant to 5500K—making a very punishing hike to the summit.
The Kerby Peak Trail is located in Southern Oregon outside a small town called Selma. The trail starts out pretty simple from the parking area, but then pretty quickly begins to climb out of the Fir and Madrone forest into the older growth Douglas Fir stand. This type of forest is my favorite type of forest, possessing some of the most brilliant colors of green I have ever on this earth. We slowly zigged and zagged the switchbacks through some of the grandest moss covered trees I have seen in my life.
I kept making dumb jokes about each switchback being the last switchback, as we made our way through the lush forest. It had been raining for a couple of days and the forest was very damp and cold, but the climbing elevation kept me warm as I chugged my way up the trail. Eventually we begin to break out of the forest into a more rockier elevation, which at first glance looks like it could be the summit, but pretty quickly you realize this is far from the top.
We kept working our way through the slowly thinning landscape. I needed to make frequent stops to catch my breath and cool myself down, and Audrey and Poppy were very patient with my slow pace. After a quick stop for lunch right before the summit, we finally rounded the rocky summit and made our way to the top of Kerby Peak. The weather didn’t fully cooperate, but it didn’t diminish the emotion of the locating the rock where Isiah was standing back in 2016
I was able to get a video, but as you can see, we weren’t able to stay up there very long. I have to say the experience isn’t what I expected, but it felt like exactly what we needed to keep processing what has happened over the last couple of years. There was a lot of emotion and wind up top of Kerby Peak, providing a much needed cathartic relief from everything we’ve been through.
Poppy led the way down off the stormy and dark summit, taking us down through the rocks, along the trees that are getting thicker and taller with each step we take. We made quicker time getting down, but you still had to be mindful of where you stepped as you wound through the gravel and rocky trails along the ledges.
While the weather didn’t cooperate, I feel like the hike was exactly what we needed. It is so beautiful and hard all in the same moment. I have felt pretty helpless for the last couple of years when it comes to doing things for Audrey when it comes to her grief over Isaiah, and I feel like sharing Kerby Peak with her was one of the only things I could do that would have the required impact—both emotionally and physically.
Kerby Peak was the perfect place to begin our journey this week. The mountain worked us hard right when we needed it the most. We agreed that we would come back each year to do the Kerby Peak hike and celebrate Isaiah. Maybe next year Audrey can see the amazing view that Isaiah saw from the top back in 2016. Regardless, I trust the intensity of the hike, the beauty and hardness of the mountain, will provide us with whatever it is we need. I feel like Kerby Peak is another part of the Isaiah story that Audrey and I can share together. I did a lot of that summer alone with Isaiah, so I am looking forward to sharing as much of it as possible with her, so that we can use it to remember him help her keep him close over the years.