I sometimes remember places I have hiked by the people I was with. I have moved so many times in my footloose, glorious life, that some trails and some people have faded into memory while others are sharp and bright still.
There's the Tranquil Bluff trail on Mackinac which will always bring back one special person to me besides the memory of the crunchy leaves that covered its surface like a patterned carpet. There's the Abel Tasman Track in New Zealand, where three of us coastal neophytes were caught unawares by the tide. Fishhook Creek, the trail I hiked with Deb so many times and the trail I ran the morning of my wedding. And the Thimbleberry Trail, where I walked with Carolyn the day my marriage was ending.
I've left all these trails, and all these friends, behind. Some of them still hike the same trails, but who knows if I will ever cross over the pass in Deadman Canyon with Kim and Cindy again? Will I ever camp by Lucky Chance with the other Cindy and the gang, watching a bear come into our camp?
Sometimes my heart feels full when I think of how far I have come and how long it would be to go back. And then I realize that there is no going back. I have tried to keep the trails of the past and the friends of the past as part of me, but some have slipped away. You have to want it badly enough, to thumb through the old pictures and to keep up your end of the telephone line. To hop on a plane with your backpack and your hope that people remember you.
This is the other side of the mountain, the downside of the excitement of seeing new territory every six months, every few years. The thrill of a new guidebook, the joy of meeting someone who loves to hike as much as you do.
I am not sure how to reconcile this, not really. Never move again? Probably not an option. I believe we only live once, and I want to squeeze every drop of it by seeing as much as I possibly can. The lesson, I suppose, is to fully appreciate the trails and the friends you have for the short time you have them. People come and go; trails endure; new people discover them. The cycle continues.