Not so this year, and I cross my fingers as I head out on my fifteenth backpack trip since May. J pokes fun at my habit of hiking from dawn to dusk, racing the sun, but I feel compelled to drink in as much country as possible. After two years in this mountain range, there is still so much to see. I should draw it out, make it last decades, but I can't seem to do it.
Dark falls early, leaving me hurrying for a campsite. I bargain with the trail: Fifteen more minutes, and then I'll stop. The pass, I'll camp there and listen to the elk bugle (or perhaps the hunters attempts to bugle). Okay if not there, then Bonny Lakes. I'll stop there for sure. But it's still daylight, so maybe...just a bit farther. I end up setting up camp by headlamp, once again.
Pushing the season and I know it: Though the days are still a serene yellow and blue, shirt-and-shorts weather, there was frost in the high meadows of Big Sheep Basin. The nights turn cold like the flip of a switch. Everywhere, signs that the short, glorious summer is nearly over.
This has been a long, spectacular run courtesy of the trail contracts, many miles (hundreds?) starting in the poison ivy and heat of Hells Canyon, climbing down from 5800 feet to 1600 and back up again in one day. Now I am on the tail end, the contractors just about finished. This is what I dreamed of when joining the Firm..paid backpacking, the rarest jewel there is.
I think I have wrung out every golden drop of summer but I am greedy, wanting more. Wanting things to stay the same forever. Never to change, although I know the inevitability.
The nights in the tent are long though, too long, staring at the nylon walls, too tired to read but too awake to sleep. Each morning could be the one the snow falls, irreversible and final. Each morning, so far, it isn't.