birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Taking a hike

I stopped on the trail behind the group--well, I'm always behind the group when I'm hiking.

The first time I went backpacking in the high Sierras, I was 22 years old and with a group of twenty college students. We were at the tree line--well, I was at the tree line. I don't know where the rest were because I had lost sight of them twenty minutes before when they rounded a bend in the trees and were eaten alive by the sugar pines. I was hot and tired there on the tree line; it was an August afternoon and above 8000 feet elevation - and probably over 90 degrees hot. Well, there were no animals, along with no trees. There were no people - not from my group or any other. I was tired and thirsty, and I knew I hated hiking.

But I've digressed.

This other time - where I started - I was on the trail in the San Gabriel mountains, with a different group of people. Older now, mostly coupled with young children. My friend Mary was ahead of me - at the front of the group [which tells you a lot about me and about Mary and how we approached life]. Suddenly I heard a thud and the rattle of a snake's tail - once you've ever heard that sound you always know.

I rushed to the front, while telling my husband to keep our two year old with him behind - well behind. There was Mary staring down a 7-foot rattler that had been sunning itself on the side of the trail. Richard said it hadn't been moving, and Mary said, "Well, it needed to move!"

I screamed, "Stop! and stay absolutely still!"

Mary did and she and the snake kept eying each other for FOREVER. Finally the snake lowered his head and slipped off into the shady grass.

And, Mary charged ahead.

Do swans count?

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