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Places where animals rule still exist nearby

Andrew Scot Bolsinger —

The sheer power of the animal beneath me isn't truly understood — until he is, in fact, beneath me. Barely beneath me that is, as his gallop — downhill along a twisty, tree-lined creek bed nearly knocks me from my — lofty perch.

Wiley, my steed for the day, has quickly figured out who — is riding him. Wiley has also quickly figured out who is in control. So — I have I. The reins in my hands may as well be pom poms.

Remarkably, this tremendous mass of sinewy muscle, perched — precariously on the tiniest of legs, doesn't stumble or slip during the — foray down the hill, even with my tremendous mass of, well not sinewy — muscle, jiggling to and fro along his back.

Finally, he stops. The descent took all of five seconds — and the battle of wills we had been waging is effectively over. I surrender — and slide off his back to rest. The rest of the day, I am his passenger. — He is the captain.

It's a beautiful, if bumpy, day.

Lush meadows with views of California mountains give way — to prickly trees and harder ground, which in turn gives way to a rough, — arid landscape with desert-like features, before merging again into a — dense forest full of conifers.

Soon, the glistening ripples of a creek come into view, — flowing past rocks made smooth over generations of gentle polishing by — the water's touch.

The scene changes radically, even though the entire six-hour — journey likely doesn't travel more than 20, who knows, maybe 10 miles, — through the Horseshoe Wilderness Area in Northern California and Oregon's — Soda Mountain Historical Monument.

Somewhere we cross a state line that has no marker, no — boundary, no way of knowing that someone on a map once drew a line and — said a division would be right here. One step, California. Another, Oregon. — One step not a monument because the leaders blocked it. Another step, — a monument, because the same leaders deemed it so. The left foot steps — into a place utterly different from the right, we are told, but not a — single clue suggests its anything but the same. Out here, it is the same.

We traverse a short while along an old "highway," that — was closed by the Clinton Administration and remains now little more than — a nice trail. Today, it's a wonderful trail that gives a short break from — weaving along creek beds, ducking under tree branches, and riding perilously — along steep banks. These place have names, but again, there is no way — to know them. They aren't noted on road maps, or documented with little — signs and historical markers. They just exist, named by the people who — have seen them and enjoyed them enough to name them.

The sheer lack of human touch is brilliant and unusual — in its own right. This is land that many hope will soon be designated — "wilderness" by the United States government, preserving it from roads, — and cattle and logging, all things that would inevitably make it more — tame, normal, and degraded.

It's wilderness, even though many don't want to call it — that. But it is. I am less than an hour's drive from my beloved "downtown," — and am utterly lost.

Wiley is not lost. He knows exactly where he is going, — making turns along steep banks that make little sense to his rider. Through — the horse's eyes, and nose, he is as familiar with this place as perhaps — any other he knows. My eyes sneak glances at non-descript scenes of color — and life in between moments of eyes bulging as Wiley decides that we will — move faster, no matter how many times I object.

I take comfort that despite all of his power and confidence, — Wiley would likely also be a bit skittish if we were on my urban turf, — rather than me on his.

Majestic peaks rise in a craggy heap, standing as a testament — to time.

Lunch along a creek bank. A few moments on a rock, surrounded — by broken limbs and dead-fall trees that make bubbling pools often only — seen on a calendar. A walk down a meadow, through field grass so wild — you wouldn't consider such an indignity as cutting it.

A bright, lazy sun matches the lazy lope of Wiley later — in the day.

The journey reminds me that there are still places to — go where one can be alone. There are still places where the animals know — the way better than humans. There are still places that are special, uncultured, — uncivilized, even if culture and civilization lie just outside them. This — area is one of them.

Wiley is at home and in control. I am lost and completely — out of my element. Having a place like that is a good thing for us both.