Although I was hiking by myself for the first two days in the mountains, I was never completely alone. Through the trees, I could hear birdsong, even though I often couldn't identify the birds. I saw humans sometimes, mostly young people who reminded me of my students, in pairs or groups of three. The other hikers I met were mostly men in their thirties, alone and eager to talk, giving me all kinds of helpful advice about what trails to take. One trail near a popular waterfall was filled with people of all ages, including a woman who was hiking with her mother and her daughter: we stopped to chat. A young woman who went by me at such a fast clip that I barely had time to read the back of her t-shirt. The words were upside down so it took me a moment to read them: "If you can read this, pull me back onto the raft!"
I saw wildlife too. Without my mother or Artist Friend or Signing Friend with me, I couldn't even begin to identify the many birds that swooped past. Tracks and scat in muddy clearings let me know that large creatures lived nearby. I saw deer, including one grazing on a lawn in town, mountain goats climbing about a rocky summit, and an elk that ambled along a path, chewing on the bushes that grew near the edge.