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  • My pace quickens into the wilderness. Beside me the last remnants of snow melt carves through the rocks in the drying river bed. The trail wavers over cobblestone rocks and moss through pine tree groves up into the mountains.

    I envy the pioneers, their fear and exhilaration. I know civilization is all around me but after walking out into the wilderness for 15 minutes I can picture an untamed land, savage and uncaring as it once was a few hundred years ago.

    Freedom really is all about fear, the dark unknown in the shadows. A twisted ankle, a slip off a rock, and the vultures above are waiting. That twisting knot is accompanied with a primal electricity.

    I hike on, fording the river over a temporary footbridge. Occasionally I pass another hiker, spoiling the illusion that I am alone. But a few moments later the feeling returns. What would it be like to really set off on a long hike, for a month or a year? To leave civilization behind completely.

    I sweat and press on, upward through the foothills of Mt. Hood. Scrub pine is replaced by towering fir trees. The trail disappears then emerges again. In the distance I can hear the low roar of the falls. I crest the next ridge and drop down into an amphitheater. Ahead of me is a spectacular wonder.
  • Ramona Falls is 100 feet of jagged basalt rock shrouded in mist and spray. I looked at pictures before the hike yet still I am overwhelmed.

    On the return trip, I jog down the jumbled trail. To my left the slope drops down hundreds of feet below to the river bed. I quicken my pace over the natural obstacle course barely able to keep pace spotting the next safe landing for each springing step. I feel alive.

    Above me, carrion birds are circling, waiting.
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