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My first sunset - Priest River, Idaho

My first sunset - Priest River, Idaho

Reading the signs as I passed through Sand Point, Idaho, around 5 p.m. I learned that I still had a ways to go until Priest River. As I kept passing other camp sites along the winding lakeside road my mind was in knots…just pull off and settle for one of these sites or push through to my pre-decided destination which could very well be full for the night? Risky business, this push/pull of fear and faith. Things worked out – amazing well, in fact. A case of “chance follows design”? Not only did I get a camp site as soon as I pulled up, but I was able to set up camp, see the sunset over the river and make some friends with a neighboring family from Spokane in the first hour. After a great birthday dinner of salmon and sauteed veggies, salad, beer and Toberlone for dessert (a real b-day splurge!) I sat by the fire thinking about faith and fear. How easy it is to be scared and worry…and how testing it is to have faith that things will not only work out, but for the best. Turning off my headlamp after dinner it was amazing to see the difference that light makes. It is easy to be confident when you can see everything in front of you. Whereas in the darkness, with only the flickering light of the Alder burning fire, fear easily wraps around you.

As I sat by my dying fire, I was spontanesouly serenaded with the “Happy Birthday” song by my neighbors who then invited me over to spend the evening roasting marshmellows and makings Jiffy Pop over the fire. For all the safety concerns from family, friends and myself (a tiny bit) I couldn’t have felt more safe that I was not only staying next to friendly folks with a big dog, but the camp site gate locked down from 10 pm to 7 am. Rising early, I made eggs and then started to pack up camp. The Army Corps of Engineers do an incredible job of upkeep here – not only was there firewood, but a kitchen prep area and HOT showers, which I couldn’t resist. Best quarter I ever spent!

Swinging Bridge over Kootenai River, Idaho

Why do we get more fearful as we age? Is fear an offspring of knowledge? Not book knowledge, but knowledge of what getting life is worth and attachment to that life? On the road to Glacier, I made a pit stop along Highway 2 and ended up at the historic Kootenai River. Not planning to hike, I found my trusty Teva flip flops leaving the john and heading down the trail to the breathtaking Kootenai Falls. As I hiked over to the other sight – a Swinging Bridge across the river – a little voice kept fearfully nagging about all my gear in my car as sitting prey in the parking lot. Is this our protective instinct or just paranoia? I was surprised to be overwhelmed by fear going down the grating of the stairs crossing the railroad and then crossing the suspension bridge. Two 10-year-olds gleefully bounced across the bridge, which made me quiver as I looked down through the narrow wood slats into the rushing river beneath. I’ve never thought of my self as having a fear of heights, or really a fear of anything except scorpions, great white sharks and treading water in the bottomless ocean. Is this a fear of heights? or of falling? or of death? If I truly have faith, then isn’t any fear futile?

Swinging Bridge over Kootenai River, Idaho

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26 was a defining and adventurous year for Julie Williams, a Portland, Ore.-based communications consultant.

This blog chronicles Julie's crossing of the quarter-life threshold and coming of age on her solo road trip across seven Western states from Aug.-Sept. 2008.

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