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“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” These are the insightful words of John Muir, famed outdoorsman and conservationist. I found much truth in these words as my family’s van, packed tight with skis and thick snow suits, ascended into the snowcapped peaks of Mount Hood. The mountains exude a sense of calmness, a sort of peaceful silence, that allows you to reflect on your inner self in a spiritual way. When I am in the mountains, I feel at home. This is where I find myself, where I’m confronted with my thoughts that have been hidden behind the smog of city life. The air is crisp, and with every breath I take, my mind becomes as clear as the icicles that cling to the frosted pine trees.
Last winter break, my family and I decided to make the short two-hour drive to Mount Hood, for a weekend full of skiing and adventure. I hadn’t skied since I was a small child, so I had a feeling of nervous excitement. In the early years of my parent’s relationship, they came here every weekend and skied together, so this place was special to them. It had a sense of magical nostalgia to it, and I could tell they were eager to share this place with my brother and I.
To my surprise, the nervous butterflies I had in my stomach completely drifted away as we got closer to our destination. The cool mountain air calmed me, and I almost felt a sense of relief. The longer I stayed, the more tranquil my mind became. We stayed at a small but cozy wood cabin near Timberline Lodge. Every morning, I woke up to the smell of my dad’s fresh brewed coffee, and sunlight reflecting into my room, off the snow banks that cascaded down to my window. We’d get dressed in as many layers as possible, make sure our skis were secured to the roof of our car then embark on our short drive to the ski resort.
I’ll admit it, my first time hitting the slopes I was a bit rusty. My legs wobbled as I struggled to get my feet latched into my skis, and I slowly made my way down the bunny hill just praying that I’d reach the bottom without crashing. After a few runs like this, I started feeling comfortable, and decided I’d be able to handle some trickier terrain. I was convinced by my parents to try out “The Magic Mile”, a run that sent you up a mile-long chair lift, on the exposed face of the mountain side. As I rode to the top, kicking my skis together and watching the snow tumble to the ground far below, I saw skiers and snowboarders whizzing past boulders and trees at lightning speed, and I started seriously questioning my decision of coming up here. Luckily though, it was too late to turn back, because it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
As I made my way down the mountain, I felt the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. The wind rushed past me, and with a smile on my face and my hair wildly flying behind me, I truly felt free. This was the day I discovered my love for the mountains, and the sense of liberation that being there gives me. Now, every winter when the sky turns grey and the first snow begins to fall, I can hear the mountains calling, and I must go.