The forest is last to relinquish winter. Snow still sticking between its toes, it has thousands of shadows and shades, ways to hide from sunlight. On these days of last melt, snow packs down hard on the unexposed trail, creating a thin slice of ice, a layer of water sits on its top.
My hands grip fern, turf, searching for the darkest earth below me. I’m on all fours placing one limb in front of another, hoping to find the firmest soil. I read the forest like braille.
The trail hangs on to the valley as if stapled, tacked on. Cold gusts follow the shape of the mountains, on their way to meet the current of the river.
The Clackamas pays sly attention to my insecure movements. It would take me as I am, all limbs reverted back to bones, a boulder covered in moss, willing to hide me, partially, in its current. The wind and hills will cover my voice.
I refuse to slip.
A warmth curls upwards, the sun finds a clearing. The trees across the river turn gold. My feet hit soft snow. I look back up to the denser part of the forest, I can see light tickle the ribs of the trees, slanting beams down to me. My hands are warm, my eyes tired.