Two young women drifted over like butterflies to sit with us at the pub. Their skin glowed and their arms chimed with the music of many bracelets. Their hair flowed long down their backs. One was headed for six weeks to work for a packer in the Wind Rivers. The other, to a heliski company. They had no real plans beyond that. They were gloriously adrift, like I used to be.
"Well, they probably look up to you," J said later. But I don't know. I probably look like an older lady who has never, could never, have experienced drives across country, road atlas on the passenger seat, chasing fire or wilderness, a new job every season. It's not so much that I miss that old life, the taking off and leaving, constant, constant, but the possibility, the endless years ahead of me, that I miss. It's strange to form the fabric of a new life, a settled life, while still trying to be wild.
Do other people feel this way? I don't know. This is why I left at three in the afternoon on a Thursday and hiked up to Maxwell Lake for the night, waking up with ice on my sleeping bag. This is why I hiked in torrential rain because it was the weekend and the other choice was to stay home. This is why I run, bike, take trips. I'm trying to hold on.
This weekend, four of us hiked towards Echo Lake, a three thousand foot climb over three miles, and we met up with other women doing a day hike. Why is it only the women out here, we wondered? But it is, all women of a certain age, the men at home puttering. Echo was beautiful and remote, nobody else venturing up the eroded "trail." We scrambled up the goat trail and down to Billy Jones lake, a place where perhaps two hundred people a year venture. Maybe not even that.
When is it enough? I don't know the answer. My friend and I sat drinking a glass of wine and we agreed: if something happened to us tomorrow, we've had rich lives and we would be okay to go. I don't know if you can get any better than that. I watch the young women leave the county and hope the same for them, when they get to be my age, countless, impossible decades from now.