By Martin D. Trees

Walking the Loop Road Trail around Strawberry Mountain in White Salmon can yield more than just a quickening pulse on those uphill sections. As I walk north in the cool morning shade I pass a schoolyard of laughing children, two bicycle riders, one couple walking their dog, two logging trucks, one fire engine on a call and two ambulances with sirens wailing. There is one chimney smoking, two leashed dogs barking, one backhoe digging, one Jazzercize class ending and three smiling "good mornings" from passersby.

Turning west into the early sunshine I hear the strengthening breeze in the trees and nest-building birds overhead. I see two sleeping calves, one grazing horse and twenty goats watching my every move, one fully-stocked garden center, eight boats without water and two cars blocking the sidewalk. Three passing Subarus have their fog-lights glaring when there is no fog and two more people smile and add their morning greetings.

By the time I round to the south and into the bright sunlight where the west wind funnels through the Gorge I have received eight friendly waves from strangers in their cars. I accidentally spook one rabbit and leave undisturbed two dogs lazing in the sun. I pass two purring cats, one crow eating carrion as another stands watch, one field of bare blackberry bushes, one larger field of thriving Scotch Broom, one energy-conserving windmill and a pickup truck weaving onto the wrong side of the road. There are four unbuckled drivers, five unrestrained kids in cars and one 35 MPH sign uprooted and lying in the dirt. Also, four cars have snow tires chattering, three unleashed barking dogs cause me to quicken my pace and one UPS deliveryman smiles and waves.

Further on the trail when the wind is to my back I look up and see three snowcapped hilltops. Looking down I come across twelve discarded aluminum cans, three bottles, four empty cigarette boxes and one pair of white sports socks (mismatched). There is one fast food restaurant cup, one Ball's Franks wrapper and several metal rods that seem to have fallen from a passing truck.

These road-harvest items compete for space with the springtime explosion of lupine, hound's tongue, miners lettuce and daffodils which are themselves framed by trees of wild cherry blossom and budding oaks. I see three meticulously-kept gardens, two neglected lawns, three tastefully-built new houses, two ramshackle homes and fifteen satellite dishes, large and small.

But one thought strikes me most on this four-mile excursion as I memorize all these items, good and bad. It is the realization that any community is simply much greater than the sum of its parts.

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