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A Mother's Day Bouquet for My Spare Moms

Spares are good to have. Spare batteries. Spare socks. Spare energy bars. Spare moms.

Take it from a grateful hiker: That last set of spares totally reigns supreme, a realization that clangs loud bells inside my head each year as Mother's Day draws near.

Good fortunate has been my kind companion in the maternal figure department. My own mom was a simply stellar person, a championship-grade human being whose love, selflessness and resilient good cheer still causes me to marvel at how much goodness can get packed into a single individual. Sure do miss ya, Ma.

Mrs. WHappily for me, about the time she exited I got to know couple of outstanding women who were shining lights in their own families—the wonderful Gloria Winkley and the fantastic Sue Beatty of Southern California. Over time these 2 terrific ladies became the best spare moms a hiker could ever hope to know.

Our paths first crossed years ago when I, a Midwest refugee still finding his way in the world, was getting passed around from neighbor to neighbor as a decent-enough housesitter/pet-caretaker.

Mrs. BAt some point the families of Mrs. B and Mrs. W both took enough of a shine to me that they let me, the wanderlust-afflicted backpacker, stick around their houses even when they weren't traveling. As such I sort of turned myself into a spare kid.

How did I pull that off? By never messing up flower-watering assignments while the folks were traveling. Take note, future housesitters of America—stay on task.

Our individual connections to the outdoors are strong but different. One major common denominator is flowers. All of 3 us go a little nutty over all things floral, though around my house here in the Pacific Northwest I've come to accept that in the garden I have something close to a black thumb. It's a great year in the flower beds for me if my row of tulips elects to pop out each spring.

For my flower fix, I tromp deep in the backcountry for grand wilderflower displays that sometimes are measured by the acre. I confess I'd rather hike 10 miles than dig 10 hours in a quest for a great show of flora.

Rose ParadeMeanwhile, like my own mom, Mrs. W and Mrs. B—both active with with a fabulous nearby arboretum, Descanso Gardens; both very involved in their community's Rose Parade efforts (I've become a total fan of the Rose Parade)—are certified wizards with flowers in their own backyards.

Mrs. W cultivates a few dozen lovely rose bushes and wall of pink hibiscus; Mrs. B will knock you out with her mini-botanical garden of floral delights, many blossoms so uncommon they are easier to grow than to pronounce.

Lupine, paintbrushAn added bonus for me: Both live within short walking distance of a steep fire road that winds 4 miles up to a San Gabriel ridgeline that, if you hike a few more miles to the west, brings you to Mount Lukens, which has sprouted cellphone and TV towers  and, at 5,066 feet, is the highest point within the borders of the city of Los Angeles.

I have hiked that section of mountains (I call it "the hill") hundreds and hundreds of times, usually stopping at the 3,850-foot ridgetop to gawk at the Mount Wilson and other San Gabriels filling the northern horizon.

To the south lies downtown Los Angeles, Palos Verde and Catalina Island. When afternoon sunlight hits it just right, the Pacific Ocean shimmers and ripples with golden light. What a bonus: a way-above-average hiking route just a short stroll from your driveway.

Beargrass, lupine, paintbrush and RainierMrs. B once hiked halfway up there with me, a fine day of warm sun and far-reaching views. (Nice goin', Mrs. B; way to be a hiker). Many nights Mrs. W has shared her backyard patio with me, the San Gabes rising straight up over my left shoulder, the glow of a setting sun shining just above my propped-up feet.

Man, that's good living. So how did I, the random tumbleweed who just happened to roll into the backyards of these 2 tremendously nice women, get so lucky?

I can't explain it; I can only deep express appreciation for it. Thus I say thanks so very, very much, Mrs. B; a bow of thankfulness to you, Mrs. W. That spare boy in your extended family is really, really grateful.

Photos top to bottom: Mrs. W (right); Mrs. B (left); a Rose Parade photo; various wildflower shots I've snapped in the backcountry, many times with my mom or spare moms in mind.

Posted on at 4:06 PM

Tagged: Mother's Day, mom and spare moms

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Thank you for sharing your memories, pictures and story telling talent! I too am grateful for "spare moms" in my life! Your post from last year is also a treasure, as we celebrate this special day for all the "Moms" in our lives~

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