The trail, brown and worn, is thick with roots – it slips and churns through rock caves, sand and dirt. I find myself forgetting to look up, focusing instead on keeping my footing. I remember the river next to me, and all of a sudden, I pick my head up and I see a new translation of beauty. Caleb stops to take the scene in. Rhododendron leaves line the trail – they brush against my face and it feels as though we’ve walked through several (back) countries in the past mile. “I’m almost expecting to see snow up ahead,” Bevan calls back laughing. We nod in agreement, smile at the plausibility, with sweat dripping down our faces.
I haven’t carried a pack this size before. I almost tip over with each defined step and bob from right to left and back to right. Jacob slides under fallen trees, grabbing at the bark to keep his balance. The upslopes are definitely harder, though the downs burn our knees. It’s not much farther, which is good for me because now I’m really breathing heavy.
We climb that last upslope to the site, which sits next to a boulder, and tear the buckles off our packs. It feels like we earned our dinner and our sleep. We laugh with mouths full of potatoes and drink expensive bourbon first to toast and diluted bourbon later. It is almost like you are sleeping in the hammock behind us, with a big grin on your face – hands laced, resting on your stomach. Maybe you are, in some way, but if you aren’t then we hope the toasts reach up to the place you are now. Maybe “up” is the wrong word. Maybe it’s more like “out.”