Driving through the wind-shaped hills of southern Wyoming, I make my way toward my favorite place on earth in anticipation. The smooth, rippling hills jut and swoop down the slope of the mountains in soft greens and browns, beneath an expansive sky of blue and grey flat-bottomed clouds. I stop for gas and a quick bite in Centennial before heading up into the mountains.
Hills of green joined the moody gray and subtle blue of the sky mirroring in the still water of Lake Hope, creating a truly awe-inspiring scene before me. I drove deep into the forest before slowing to a stop. I decided to hike through to water’s edge. I slung a day pack over my shoulder and grabbed my beach chair with one hand. And as I trampled my way through the thick brush of spring, I realized there were no signs of other campers or hikers, or families stirring, only the sound of my footsteps, my breaths and my heart beating wild.
So, there I was… (that’s how all good stories start out, right?) In a remote region of Ireland, hiking up a mountain with a massive rucksack weighing me down and a camera bag strapped over my shoulder. The wind was whipping at me in bursts of seventy and eighty miles per hour, nearly bowling me over. As I staggered with each step up the crooked, narrow steps, my mind went numb with the task at hand and for awhile I lost track of progress and simply inched forward. The day was cloudy and warm, and the fresh sea air from the Atlantic blew in a subtle chill that kept me cool enough to go on.
When I must travel for strictly business, my heart saddens and my mood sours a bit, but when I can incorporate a side trip or two, or five, then I suddenly go from sourpuss to a little kid on christmas. I want to do anything and everything, yet there’s always a restriction on time, so I must identify what it is I want to do and experience. On most of my trips, I am traveling for me, and for you, dear reader, but when I’m tied to a business obligation, I’m unable to wander and discover those wonderful, yet lesser known gems of the world that I love to find. I must keep it short and sweet. So when I’m planning a side trip, I figure out what it is what I want to do, or an experience I’ve yet to have in my lifetime. Those are the two options that I weight, almost every time. And this is, of course, dependent on where in the world I am traveling to.
Up until recently, I often backpacked into the wilderness to escape the world of man, and to become lost in the wonders of the natural world. I had always refused to be that guy who used power tools while camping, because it affects the wildlife you see and hurts the environment. I have always feared poisoning one of the last remaining natural areas. But what that entailed meant that I traveled rougher, with less gear, and less comforts. I used to build a fire strictly off the land, and lighting it with a flint and steel kit, but on my last trip, I decided to try something different and it worked out extremely well. While that practice is invaluable, especially for wilderness survival mastery, I know that I may rarely go that route in today’s day and age, because of new technology. I will always carry a flint and steel kit with me, because you never know when you might need it. But I may never travel the same again.
Forests of green and brown pine streamed by as the search continued. And as gravel and dust billowed behind the cars, we ascended the mountain for a few miles until we found what we were looking for. A large dispersed campsite with a fire ring of rocks manifest itself just over a hilly pass. My family and I parked our cars and began exploring the area. The largest of campsites sat nearer the road, but hidden along a game trail, through a thicket of pine, sat a beautiful private site hidden from view of the other tents. It had its own fire pit and a space just large enough for my tent.
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