There are a select few. You know who you are. The core that never has to “catch up” not matter how long it has been since they were in the same hemisphere. Small talk is shelved. True progress is achieved. It’s not that we don’t care what the others have been doing. It’s that we seem to be more interested in what we are doing.
Such was the case recently as Lady Luck dropped Chuck Wagon and I on the same geo-coords for one hot minute in Wyoming. Grandiose plans of a multi-day adventure in the Wind River Range dwindled to a single morning hike by the time everything shook out. Still, even the simplest idea can surprise you in the end.
The plan is simple enough: Drive up to a familiar ravine at the base of Casper Mountain. Start walking. We decide that the AM is prudent to allow for plenty of time to meet our respective families for dinner. I awake in a haze of fine whisky and tobacco. The sun has already made its way well past the horizon. Mornings, in such a state, are relative. I stumble into The Benson’s side door near mid day. It’s nice to be there, and reminisce of times of old (another relative term used by us under 30).
Paranoid signage, posted incessantly along the hardball, warn of dire consequences if the slightest bit of Goodyear should stray from the designated path. We opt to stash the truck in the driveway of a long time friend. To abate any worry, we leave a decidedly well composed, note scrawled on a scrap of paper and shoved in the window.
“Went for a walk. Couldn’t find the meter. Thanks for the spot- ChucK B + justin W.”
Boots tight. Water filled. Brain still misfiring a few cylinders. We reconnoiter an evasion trek route up a draw into the trees. A possible soft-compromise by a rugged looking mountain lady in a fiery red mumu does not deter. We drive on.
My lungs instantly remind me of the relative percentage of oxygen at this altitude compared to the rich sea-breeze I am accustomed to. A local grouse encourages us up the ridgeline, though, and soon enough we enjoy postcard views of our hometown. From there, we scramble up an ancient granite spire to see more clearly. The lack of O2 in my brain tells my body and my companion that this may be an ideal location to pause for a bit. I dig out the rest of a soggy Blimpie sub that is squashed in a corner of my pack, and share it with Charles. Truly delicious. Now the sun is just past its peak. We gaze south, up ridge, and it warms our faces in the crisp fall breeze. A second wind.
Call it a personality flaw. It seemed that both of us had sub-consciously decided to summit this beast far before we verbalized it. Maybe it is the unknown, the prospect of Man vs. Big Hill, or some unknown primal instinct. Something inside drives us up, and up until there is no more. A few brief stops for posterity, a short conversation with a fully exposed wiley old tree, a refreshing saunter up a bare snowfield. It turns out that The Mountain I remember from my youth is really not that intimidating.
“We are there, man.”
The wind is picking up now. We turn to face it, and gaze north. From here, you understand the meaning of Wyoming. End of The Plains. A knee jarring tumble back down is not nearly as appealing as the ascent. The decision is made to hole up, out of the wind, in the protection of a young aspen grove. I discover some bags of Earl Grey pilfered from the Benson’s stash and brew a batch. Charlie tinkers with some of the fancier outdoor gadgets I have acquired. We both sip the tea as we stare skyward, and are hypnotized by the rustling green and golden leaves.
A bit of creative route-finding, and a few photo ops make the descent an easy one. Arriving back at the vehicle, we drop our gear and move to thank our valet. The somewhat worried tenant that emerges is relieved to learn that she does, in fact, know the operators of the black pickup on her property. She offers micro-brew and macro-conversation. It’s a great cool down for our aching thighs. After some solid discussion of the better tunes of the late 80’s and 90’s, we graciously thank our host. The sun is now low on the horizon, and it’s time to roll down the hill. I arrive home to find a hot plate of almond chicken, rice, and green beans. There are not too many things better than home cooking after being in the wilderness. Thanks, Mama.
Short hikes turn into summit treks if you aren’t careful. Though the core is cruising toward separate final points, our stories are parallel. We are on the same heading…
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