We left late yesterday, leaving the scorched whitebark pines of our fire at eight thousand feet and dropping off the lonely, trailless ridge through beargrass and scree to an unnamed lake. There we found a trail that wasn't on the map, winding its way along the creek. "Hey, bear," we called out at likely spots, but we didn't see any, just trees and rocks and water and the trail. We passed an outfitter camp, the hunters eyeing us curiously, shadows already pooling in the canyon. At dark we stopped at an old cabin crouched next to Burnt Creek and slept on the porch. The moon, and a little mouse jumping on my head, kept me awake most of the night staring at the sky.
We woke up in the crisp darkness and now the trail stretches before us, silent and knowing. This trail, this forest, this river, they will be here long after the ache in our backs and feet fade away and our footprints melt into the dirt. We are just passing through on our way to the rest of our lives.
C. carefully crosses the creeks on rocks; I give up and splash through. We run into a trail crew rebuilding a bridge: they have just dropped a chainsaw in the river and are staring fixedly at the beams that remain. We inch across on one of the logs. Only a mile and a half to go. It seems to take forever. Finally we see the holy grail of the trailhead sign and collapse in the grass. Some bicyclists pedal by from the campground and look faintly alarmed at the sight of us. C. reads her kindle, having carried it 16 miles. Our ride out will be here soon. We are in the last days of August. Autumn is waiting, just around the next bend in the trail.
|View from our fire|