Kali Lightfoot

First Day in the Wilderness Area, Mount Adams, Washington

It’s a long hike from the trailhead
to Looking Glass Lake, “lake” a misnomer
for this little tub of lava rock

catching rain so prettily in the foreground
of Mt. Adams. 12,000 feet of lonely glacier
hang there above the lake and me.

Never have I been here before this long day
in this green uniform with newly
minted badge and nametag, shining with

bravado only possible to the truly clueless.
Never alone like this, backpacking
all by myself, the sun setting

behind all that hard-packed snow
in 38,000 acres of wilderness.
Little alpine flowers cling

to the rock by the lake. I cling
to my tent pole, thinking too much
about the little pile of bear scat, blue

from huckleberries, bear-eaten joyfully
no doubt—was he ambling through this lovely
scene—sometime not too long before right now?

I am about to pitch this tent, a few hundredths
of a millimeter of ripstop nylon
between me and bears, wind, snow, rain, darkness

and myriad things that walk
in the night. A dead branch drops,
pings against the lava rock, spits itself

into Looking Glass the almost-Lake,
and startles me. Wide-eyed, I the almost-Ranger
wonder if I’ll see a second day.

Kali Lightfoot worked as a teacher, wilderness ranger in Washington state, executive at Road Scholar, and most recently as founding Executive Director of the National Resource Center for Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes. She earned an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2015 and her poetry has appeared in Illuminations 29, Mom Egg Review, The Wildest Peal: Contemporary Animal Poetry, Split Rock Review, Silver Birch Press, and received Honorable Mention in the Science Fiction Poetry Association national contest. She has written reviews of poetry for Bookslut and Green Mountains Review, and has work forthcoming in Solstice.