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A 75th Birthday Hike With Smokey Bear

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As we made our way up the East Inlet trail our fellow hikers were a wonderfully mixed bag -- from family day-strollers to seasoned backpackers inward and outward bound. There were also long periods spent without conversation as the wind whistled through the pines, first from far off, then coming nearer and nearer. We also listened to the sound of a creek cascading over the rocks and a shrill cry from a hawk, all accompanied by the footfalls of our boots and the click, click, click of our trekking poles.

We finally shed our packs and looked far off down the canyon we'd just come up. We savored lunch; then it was time to reverse course and start back to the trailhead.

Over the next three days I would hike some 20 miles with Roger, never at a loss for new topics to explore based on our many years of mountain memories. Roger also spoke openly about his experience as a combat sergeant in Vietnam. He said he was convinced that his decision to go into the forest service and the healing quality of the time he spent in nature allowed him to recover in ways many of his fellow soldiers have never been able to do.

I would later discover that just a few weeks before I arrived, the sky that during that birthday hike had seemed bluer than blue had been all but obscured by the smoke of raging wildfires. I wonder what the world will be like when I set out for my 76th anniversary hike.

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WHEN YOU GO

www.visitgrandcounty.com

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Jim Farber is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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