Last night, Bud Robert couldn’t decide if this was a trip to cure something or just a trip to end everything. This morning, it doesn’t matter because his canvas backpack is packed, and the first sight of the Trailhead entices. He carries two weeks worth of provisions, even remembering to pack the small campfire espresso maker Ruth had always used and a pound of the good coffee ground fine, enough to last at least a month. This is it. The old truck is parked next to the horse corral where Howard and Gordon can pick it up if he doesn’t make it out before the snow flies. They are sworn to secrecy and they will tell no one.
He tightens the waist belt and shifts the sixty five pounds on his back until his shoulders move freely, snaps his chest strap tight and then grabs his hiking staff. Bud Robert breaks the law by walking past the USFS registration box, ignoring the required forms to fill out, as he starts up the trail. His bad right knee feels surprisingly strong. He knows that later the weight will bring pain and that he will soon regret everything he has packed, just like he always does on any extended solo Wilderness trek, But the adrenaline of entering a wild place already feels therapeutic. Leaving the horses behind was not easy. Bud Robert wants it to be simple and free of responsibility, whether it is the end or just another trip that he hopes will bring an answer to some question he is still too ignorant to ask..
The difference today….. as he marvels at the green canopy of subalpine firs crowding both sides of the trail, all his senses sharp in a lush late june landscape still smelling of recent rain, which itself is a mere five mile preamble to the deeply prehistoric breathtaking view at the notch in the East Fork Trail where it comes out on the Continental Divide, still covered in six feet of snow….. is that no one will be terribly worried about his whereabouts regardless of what happens
Bud Robert smiles as he remembers Ruth’s favorite saying when he became too worked up about things on the farm; “The single greatest impediment to happiness is taking yourself too seriously.”
EXCERPT from MERCY
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