The Nikwax Journal: Reflecting On The "Wild" In "Wilderness"

Updated: Jun 6, 2019

Journal Entry Contributor: Lori LaBissoniere

Last week, a favorite hiking trail of mine was closed due to threatening "Wildlife Activity."

I had heard the news of the death of a 29 year-old woman, earlier that week. A cougar, or at least it was assumed, had taken the woman's life.

Grateful for the precaution, I set off to find a new trail. I crossed the highway and braved a 7-mile, unmaintained road leading to Top Spur Trailhead and entered the Mt. Hood Wilderness.

I only planned a quick hike, but the gnarly road up and promises of a killer view of Mt. Hood warranted a longer stay.

It was hard to believe that this wilderness could possibly be any safer from "wildlife activity" than the other trail I was avoiding, but I was willing to take my chances. With mountain peaks on my mind, I meandered through pristine Oregon forest, taking note of the abundant plant species.

As I carefully forged my way down the steep drop-off switchbacks to Cairn Basin, I passed a viewpoint of McNeil Point, and finally took refuge in the heart of the basin. Pausing beside the volcanic boulder-lined glacial stream, I snapped these pics of Mt. Hood's Northwestern side.

Chance encounters with wildlife are a necessary risk when entering any wild area, but I'll take my chances. It's similar to how a surfer enters the ocean knowing sharks could always be underfoot.

(Though perhaps I should have brought my bear mace on this specific day, as there was word of a black bear sighting at Top Spur the same day of my hike...)

In the wilderness, it is Risk vs. Reward. And for me, the reward of hiking in the Mt. Hood National Forest almost always outweighs the risk.

Guest Contributor: Lori LaBissoniere

Lori is an artistically-gifted, environmentally-conscious veteran of the snowboard industry, who hails from Oregon.