…In the Coastal Range of Central California
The first few hundred yards are the easiest and quickest. Civilization soon gets behind and below me in my initial haste. I change to the regular and slower, upward marching that gets my heart, legs and lungs in a pleasing synchronicity.
I adjust my senses for possible sudden signs of wildlife as the unfamiliar trail narrows and the foliage thickens. I am not afraid of the coyotes, tarantulas, and bobcats, but a harmless lizard will make a sudden move that says: snake!
The only dangerous plants are the shiny red and green bushes of poison oak and the needle-tipped leaves of the yucca plant, both easily discerned.
I enter a cloud and its moisture brings welcome coolness to my face and arms.
The continuous, regular rhythm of my lungs’ halations helps me purge the feelings and thoughts associated with other humans and their works.
There is no trail to guide me further. I find a deer track.
The foliage is watered by Pacific fogs and low clouds at this elevation. Patterns of moisture flow through the undulating and twisting canyons, and through the convoluted layers of sedimentary rock below the surface.
Trees, bushes, grasses, mosses, lichen.
I don’t want to twist an ankle or break a bone by slipping into a hidden hole or crevasse. No one knows where I am.
The delicious danger of this part of the hike makes my heart beat with more urgency than called for by the exertion of the climb. My senses are at their peak alertness and I feel fully alive and vibrant. I am not fearful, nor am I careless. I am positive in every movement; I neither hurry nor plod. I observe everything around me directly, without being conscious of my observing.
This steeper climb taxes my legs and lungs, but the adrenaline generated by the adventure helps me easily overcome the burden.
Without time and almost without space, except for the flow of greens and browns past my eyes, I march upward.
I enter a different vegetation zone. Things are deeper green, and denser. Smells are damper, more pungent. I step over trickles of water seeping from beneath the layers of fallen leaves and dead tree limbs.
I break through the top of the cloud. The foliage is too high and thick to permit but small bursts of direct sunlight. The dryer air has a lightness that stimulates me to quicken the pace.
I suddenly emerge into a clearing, the sun slanting from the right. I stop, back up slightly to scan the open area from the shade, and allow my breathing and heart to resume slower rhythms.
I’ve worked up a sweat.
A large rock formation in the treeless area ahead offers time in the sunlight.
The sounds of the birds envelope me. They have become untouched friends over the years. I am gladdened and relaxed by their chattering, chirping, clicking and warbling. Even the raucous jays are part of this pleasant symphony.
I see the ridges of the nearby mountains for tens of miles.
I doze, aware but unfocused. No questions, no concerns.
Time no longer exists. I am where I am.
I have joined with the forest and its mother, the mountain.
I am home.