The guys stopped at the bottom of the run and skinned up the side of Easy Peak, leaving me to my own devices, but I didn't mind. I knew they wouldn't worry about me. I looked off into the sea of mountains, a set of ridges and valleys that I am coming to know. I could see some of the lakes I have hiked to in summer, still dreaming under a veil of ice.
|See the turns? This is the face of East Peak, 9400 feet.|
For most of my life I have spent much of my outdoors adventures with men, both working and off duty. This was mostly because that was the pool to draw from, working for the national parks. They were like a band of big brothers, most of the time. They played hard and worked hard, with no in between. I loved their enthusiasm and fire. It was easy with them: no hurt feelings, no quarter given either.
When I fought fire in the early days, there was an added, never mentioned policy for women: Be able to hang with the guys or go home. This pushed me to places I never thought I would reach, mentally and physically. I don't remember the names of all the guys I stepped onto a fireline with, or even hiked with, but each one helped me become better athletically.
I've fallen in with more women lately, and I like that too. I don't know where they all were back in those days, but they are here in this little town: skiing the steeps, rafting the rivers and scaling the mountains. My outdoors adventures with them are different though. We talk more, about our lives and our dreams. We slow down for each other, sometimes, without thinking the other is weak. I've let go of the competitive streak that used to make me want to be in front, all the time.
I climbed slowly down Easy Peak. The guys were somewhere below me, making their way up to another run. We wouldn't meet up again today. I knew they were there, though. If I needed them, all I would have to do was call.