We pulled up in the parking lot, spilling out into a strong, fragrant bouquet of pine, cedar and oak. The air was cool and moist to the skin. “Here we are!” she grinned, taking me by the hand and leading me up a path through the park toward the sound of a dull roar.

Walking uphill, we passed a small concrete seating area where two young men and a woman sat. They looked extremely white-trashy… parkas hanging open, smoking, throwing butts on the ground.  Bits of conversation drifted toward us as we walked toward them. “Don’t start with me,” one of them men, standing, snapped, as the woman looked at the ground. “I don’t f*ckin’ need that f*ckin shit.  I don’t need no f*ckin’ bitch…”

The three of us glanced at each other with raised eyebrows as we walked past. “Classy,” I thought to myself. Here we were, in the Great Northwest, surrounded by miles of gigantic, humbling mountains, drowning in the fresh scent of Western pine, high up in the Cascades, and you would have thought we were on the set of Jerry Springer. The inarticulate, banal, dysfunctional Future of America was sitting there on those benches.

Joy walked ahead as a smiling Jena led me by the hand further down the path. We walked out toward the viewing platform. “Don’t look!” she exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear. “Wait!”

We walked to the edge and I turned to look. Snoqualmie Falls thundered some 200 feet into a gorge below us. Tiny, antlike figures scrambling over the riverbed boulders far below us gave some perspective to the distance.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Jena asked.

Rather than marvelling at the falls, I marveled at this woman. She was so happy, so positive, so upbeat. So proud and pleased to be in this place that was part of her homeland. Her happy blue eyes and blindingly white smile lit up the grayness of the place. She looked up at me, happy, proud to show off the rugged beauty of her home state.

She reminds me of my ancestors… hardy survivors who took wagon trains across the Rockies and the Cascades to be in places like this, worrying about cougars and bears, their wagons scaling mountainsides that would be difficult or impossible by automobile. Ancestors who wanted to push the boundaries, explore the unknown, see what was over the next ridge.

One more reason why I am in love with her.

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