But one thing I'm just not good at is getting through dense downfall. Some people, like J, are graceful at climbing over downed trees and navigating through snarled thickets. I trailed along in his wake on an exploratory adventure, feeling like an elephant crashing through the woods.
His idea of a good time is finding a long-gone ghost trail on an ancient map and trying to follow it. I had some misgivings, based on past adventures, but in the end I put pants in my day pack (because sometimes, you just have to wear them when the brush gets thick) and hoped for the best. We were heading up the South Fork of Big Sheep, where a trail once went into the basin. For the first two miles we could find the trail pretty well, but after that it vanished in a wet meadow. An elk bugled somewhere near us. There was nobody in sight.
I felt a little grumpy, always a sign I need food. After eating, my enthusiasm came back. We decided to climb to the top of the ridge and see if there was a way to descend to the Tenderfoot Trail. I've only been on Mount Nebo once, and if there is a wild heart to this wilderness, this place is it. Rarely traveled, it is a place of magic.
We negotiated the talus, finding game trails to take us to the top. I learned long ago: follow the deer trails. They pick the easiest way to go.
"Foot prints!" J said in disgust as we descended toward the Tenderfoot trail. Still, we didn't see anyone until our last hour of hiking. A hunter lay out in a meadow, napping in the sun. I'm not fond of the out of county assault that begins in the fall, but it was nice to see someone appreciating the warmth of the October sun like we were.
We came to the parking lot to find several pickups, hunters for sure. Yet we had only seen one person all day. You can spread out here. That's one reason I like it.
I don't go off trail alone that much anymore, not because I'm not capable, but because it's better with someone else to help unravel the puzzle. I was remembering all of my off trail adventures when I noticed J racing down the road to the car. "There's BEER in the car!" he said. I didn't care about the beer, but there were chips in the car! I picked up my pace. It had been a good day.