I’ve washed it, but my hair still smells like last night’s campfire.
I’m fine with this.
Being able to throw our gear into the car and head to the mountains still feels kind of miraculous. It feels too easy, not only because we can see the distant peaks from our house but also because I no longer feel as much resistance in myself to leave home.
Since I was a kid, I feel like I’ve been running towards the “next thing.” The next school, the next job, the next city, the next house. And with all that running and planning (and lets be honest, stressing), I have mostly just wanted to spend my free time at home where things are orderly and predictable and safe. But since our move I feel grounded. I’m not anticipating some big life change anymore - I’m here, I’ve arrived. So suddenly I want to explore. To go out and SEE all that is waiting beyond my known horizons. Is that crazy? Maybe. I’m still wondering at this shift in me, wondering if it will stick.
Our first stop yesterday was the ranch my Dad renovated years ago, the ranch where we spent most weekends the summer before I started high school. They still had a herd of trail horses back then, and my daily routine was to grab a bridle from the barn and head out to the pasture to ride. I’d pick a horse, find and old stump, and scramble aboard - and then we’d set off through the dandelions to explore. It is a testament to those sweet horses that they never tried to buck me off, though I’m sure they rolled their eyes at me more than once. The ranch remains one of my Most Favorite Places.
I always feel like the land there remembers me and that it welcomes me back. It’s little things - like the rainclouds parting to spill sunshine on my back as I meander through the aspens where I used to sit and watch the horses graze. It’s the summer smell of warm pine and the way the trees creak in the wind. It doesn’t matter that it’s been years since my last visit - it always feels like I never left.
From the ranch, we headed north and into Wyoming in search of a place to camp for the night. Our path led us through a passing storm and, for awhile, rain and mud splatters were about all we could see. But as we came through to the other side, everything was transformed as the rain-darkened earth enhanced every other color in the landscape. Pictures cannot do it justice - everything was shimmering and glittering in the late afternoon light and the whole valley was set aglow.
We ended up following my parents, in their Toyota 4Runner, down a rough and rocky dirt road in search of the perfect camp site. Now our car, like our puppy, has pretty terrible ground clearance. It has 4 wheel drive, but as Eric says, it was made to get you to the grocery in a snowstorm, not conquer a mountain. And I suppose, now, that I have to concede that point. The road was full of challenges - the biggest of which had me scrambling to direct the wheels from the outside while Eric navigated from behind the wheel, both of us trying to keep the car from bottoming out in the middle of nowhere. In the end we had to turn back - the road won out - but we ended up finding a secluded little spot on a road we COULD drive, so all was well.
Though distant thunder rumbled and a few showers threatened to rain us out, a fire was started and tents were pitched. Dinner was cooked (food prepared on a campfire really DOES taste better!) and we settled in for the night with the lowing of free-range cattle as a lullaby…
…that later turned into an alarm clock. After a night of deep silence, a gang of youngsters working their way through the forest helped us to greet the day. A quick breakfast and romp with Ponder - and then we were homebound, through a land that’s still blooming even as the first leaves are turning to gold.
And now we’re home and I’m sitting on the couch, my legs propped up on the coffee table. We’ve got a grocery list and I’m planning out jewelry pieces for the week. It’s almost like we were never gone - except for that campfire smell still lingering as a reminder.