Grateful for the Trail

In the midst of winter I finally learned that there is in me an invincible summer.

Albert Camus

It is a week for gratitude. I give thanks for all the usual things that elderly women are grateful for: my daughters, grandchildren, friends, good food, good company. But as a hiker I also have a lifetime of memories for which I am grateful, memories of the trail, moments of wonder. There are lots of them, of course, but here are a couple that stand out, reminding me on difficult days in the dark of winter that I am a hiker, and that matters.

I remember the night I awoke under a full moon on the High Divide of the Olympic Mountains to the sound of muffled hoof beats, the shadows from a herd of elk passing gently through my camp not far from where I lay, surrounding me on all sides with mothers and their calves. I wondered how it was that such large animals could step so softly upon the earth, and if I might ever learn to move that way.

I remember the night I awakened in a high camp in the Bighorn Mountains, dazzled by lights flashing overhead, fearing a thunderstorm for which I had not prepared on that cloudless night. I unzipped my tent and lay on the ground, watching the Perseid Meteor Shower transform the dark sky into an explosion of light, feeling myself at that moment a light in the sky, soaring above Cloud Peak, the Bighorns, the Rocky Mountains, my little life suddenly transformed.

So it is that on a cold night in this isolated corner of the state, I descend into layers of goose down when I go to bed at night. The calendar may not yet claim that winter has arrived, but in this cold north country there has been snow on the ground for over a week, and the nights are long. It will be a long time before so much as a blade of green grass can be seen here, and when that happens it is a cause for celebration.

But in the meantime I have memories of the trail, of elk passing through my camp, of a meteor shower lighting up the sky, of a life spent on mountain trails. . .where anything can happen.

Published by Colleen Drake

Colleen Drake (AKA Teacup) has over sixty years of hiking exerience (yes, I'm really old) and has seen some pretty big changes over those many years. Join her on the Solitude Trail & share some of these adventures while exploring with her the value of solitude in the wilderness.

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