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Snow on the mountain

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So this buddy of mine is out hiking the Cascades in the Northwest with his family. He's the healthiest guy I know. His youth soccer teams always go undefeated. He jogs, mountain bikes, doesn't eat meat. True, he's just celebrated a bummer midlife birthday, but hey, he still gets out to the Cradle for Dar Williams or Wilco. And his idea of a really good time is to head into the wilderness with some freeze-dried food and some water.

It's a clear, crisp day with plenty of blue sky surrounding the trail thousands of feet above sea level. He notices a tour group of senior campers heading their way, winding around the trees and rock outcroppings. Everyone looks so friendly, so happy, so fit. Out there, communing with nature with his family, my friend said he felt like the king of the world.

It's traditional on this popular trail to greet fellow hikers and share tips on the terrain ahead. He greets the gray-haired campers, who are understandably proud of their successful trek and full of suggestions. Everyone asks everyone else if they have enough water, and they all dote on my friend's young daughter. In parting, a lively lady smiles and says to her, "Oh, just let me guess. You're the daughter, this is your mom. And this is your grandfather, right?"

My poor buddy almost fell off the mountain. Recounting the story to me by phone a week later, it sounds as if he's still shaking his head. "No, no--it's not that bad. But the next time you see me, check out all my black hair."

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