I trudged up towards Freezeout Saddle, again. This was the third time this year, and each time I had vowed not to undertake the 2,300 foot climb, punctuated with switchbacks to the sky. But here I was. Why? Because there is a lure to the canyon in fall that I can't ignore. It's summer's last gasp, sweetly warm on my shoulders. Freezing at night. But still pretty perfect.
A dusting of snow frosted the summit ridge, but I dropped back into summer, 2,000 feet below. My original intent was to strike out for the Snake River, or at least as far as the poison ivy would let me. But when I got to the bench, I hesitated. It was freakishly warm. Warm enough to stay high.
I love the bench. Three thousand feet above the river, the trail cinches up the canyon's midsection like a belt. There are long fingered precipices that jut out into open space, perfect for camping if you don't mind a half mile trek for water. There are sudden draws of ponderosa trees, vanilla-scented and tall. It's pretty much perfect on the bench.
The thing for me about solo camping is that it is really great, until it isn't. I start thinking about the (probably) tall tale of the woman who vanished here --leaving "ONLY HER SHOE". I think about mountain lions in the grass and bears. Even though I have probably camped for five hundred nights alone, I still think about these things.
But not enough to stop me from going. I found my own personal precipice after wandering pickily for ten miles. I sat and watched the shadows fill the canyon. There was nobody around. Not a soul. I didn't see anyone for over twenty-four hours. It was as if the world had ended and nobody had let me know.
It was actually pretty great. Sometimes people grind me down and I need to escape. People don't get why I don't just day hike. That isn't enough. It takes time and a big, empty canyon.