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October 2013, vol 9, no 3

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Donna Buck


Mineral King in the Sierras. Hiking is something at least we still enjoy together. The trail narrows, now a winding path of slippery soil. There are fewer shafts of light as the forest grows dense. It is so cold and I'm grateful for my layered clothing and wool socks. I pause to shift my pack, regretting the extra items he warned me to leave at the trailhead. My blood sugar is low. I long to stop for tea; no time, he says.

We notice unusual scat as we climb. Bear? I have my whistle; I know what to do. Hadn't I bragged about dispatching a couple of bears on the all-girl cross country trip two weeks ago? More scat. Bear for sure. Two more switchbacks: off to the left, a brown bear and her two cubs. The mother is clambering up the embankment toward us. He tells me to blow the whistle NOW.

This I hear about later, as I do with many things. But I do not hear him now because I am a blur in retreat. He throws rocks at the angry bear, gives up his pack, backs away. A mile later he catches up with me. He has to; I have what's left of the food. The tent and the whistle. Still no time for tea.

tucked in the closet
your black turtleneck
spring cleaning