We lounged around a campfire one night gazing longingly at the stars, sharing fishing stories with happy endings, and trying to ignore the clamor of a party in the camp next to us. My Uncle Steve looked at me from across the fire and said, "You should come backpacking with me sometime." He told stories of mosquito infested creek-side camps, and spotting bears from afar in the mountains. He painted a wonderful picture of the mystery and majesty of "the backcountry". A place of stunning vistas and quiet solitude. A place to camp alone on a pristine mountain lake with freedom from the throng of urbanites that crowd local lakes and campsites. I was enthralled.
|Me and Uncle Steve|
The next weekend we hiked into a shadowy canyon full of towering cedars. We reached the river after a long descent. It was low so late in the summer, but still plenty cold. We crossed the ankle deep water barefoot, with our boots tied together hanging from our necks. Our camp near the Canadian border was remote and wild and beautiful. Above all, it was peaceful. We sat around the fire that night under a drizzle of rain, listening to the trees swaying in the wind. We were so deep in that canyon, and the trees so thick, that with the rain clouds above, the forest was pitch-black dark. For the first time in my life, I felt content.
I was experiencing the wilderness in a new way. A way that I knew had changed my life forever. It was a revelation.
I watched my Uncle Steve as he talked about backpacking trips past. His face an orange glow by the firelight. I loved him so much right then, and I felt so grateful to him for opening my eyes to this new world. This sacred world, hidden beyond reach of both the idle and the occupied. I felt like he had entrusted a great secret to me, and I wanted to tell him what this all meant to me... But I'm a man after-all, and my voice normally betrays the true substance of my heart... "Uncle Steve" I said, "Thanks for bringing me out here. This is awesome.”