You don’t have to go far to get away. Turn off the road. There are no paths to follow but the braided creek. It’s slow going, bushwacking through the willow and poplar, backtracking around impenetrable bramble thickets, working your way downstream. Everything is young here: the clean-scoured gravel bars, the thin trees, the sword ferns growing tender green from the debris of winter floods, the creep of trailing blackberry vines, and have you ever seen so many wild strawberries? You cross the creek barefoot, holding your sneakers and grimacing at the cold. On the next bar you find an opening in the willows wide and flat enough for a tent. You’re a quarter mile from the road, from the speeding cars, the people, the big houses, the flat, manicured lawns of this horse farm suburb, but all you can see are willows and sky. All you can hear is the water running towards the Middle Fork, towards the Nooksack, and on towards the sea.
The creek rushes by. You’re a city dweller, used to traffic, to trains, to sirens, and dogs barking. Here, the noise of the water is so loud it quiets the night. In the morning you wake to birdsong. You make coffee on the campstove, retrieve a cinnamon roll, only slightly smashed, from the bear bag you strung up between two skinny alders. The sun rises over the trees. You pack up the tent and stove, wade, barefoot and grimacing, across the creek, scramble through willow and poplar, around the bramble thickets, and back to the road.
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