I live here, but I am new.
She is my guest, but she has been here many times before.
I am getting acquainted with all the trails and only take the long ones on weekends – days off from work.
She knows this place like the back of her hand.
I live in housing with four walls and have not yet camped seven miles out under the stars.
She has spent many October birthday weeks 4 X 4 camping at the end of Salt Creek and taking daily forays further into the wilderness.
Salt Creek is closed to wheeled vehicles now, open only to those visitors on foot. But she remembers exploring after hearty dinners around the campfire.
She is older than I – not much-but her memory is sharp. Her memories are good. Very good. This is her favorite place.
Now she is showing me around, introducing me to my own neighborhood. “Right over this hill,” she says, “right around this rock, I found a couple granaries and pictographs I don’t think the rangers know about. Over there, you can see a panel if you have binoculars. The ranger pointed that out, but I have never seen it.”
There are other things she teaches me too, like how to eat well while hiking or camping. What to prepare. Which items to bring. What footwear to choose.
Hiking alone is always inspiring. Wandering is fine. But sooner or later you need a hiking mentor to show you the good stuff.
I doubt I will ever attain her status – the ability to cook chicken cacciatore for eight and then pack it to the hut on Nordic skis.
But I do aspire to her confidence and belief in the abilities of others. Also, her calm patience when backtracking for a lost camera. The camera that carelessly slipped from my pocket and to the ground right after I took the eagle picture. The backtrack that added an extra mile to the ten for which I had steeled myself. The backtrack that we felt acutely in the heat of the day on the last two miles that terminated our trek and restored us to hot running water.
Never-the-less, we venture on another trail today, unflagging. Well-guided. Mentored. Ever learning.