Eighteen years ago, I drove across a corner of Wyoming on my way to graduate school.
I fell in love.
With the sky, with the vistas, with the canyons and the rock.
Oddly, I didn't go up to the northwestern corner, where the famous national parks are.
Fell in love, but fleetingly. I bought guidebooks and trailmaps and daydreamt about returning for long backpacking trips through the Wind River Range.
Graduate school intervened.
I went to the nearest mountains in brief snippets -- a weekend here, a day hike there. Somehow, the 2+ hour drive to the western edge of the sierras, eventually changing to 4+, seemed prohibitive, so I didn't spend much time up there. El Bandito, native New Yorker, is still a city boy at heart, and that too probably constrained my travel more than it ought.
I finished graduate school, sloughing off the weight that years of situational depression had pressed into my shoulders. We started to take vacations! again. My daydreams returned to the mountains. Finally we planned a Canadian trip, exploring the Canadian Rockies and travelling across to Vancouver.
I fell in love again, scrambling up trails, eating my sandwich in the rain, standing in a glacial basin with a ridiculous grin on my face. El Bandito and I had stupid fights in Vancouver that trip, because I didn't want to be in a city. I didn't want to be heading home. I wanted the mountains.
We've been back to the Canadian Rockies, for short but intense bursts of mountain hiking most late summers since, except when injuries have gotten in the way. We've been snowed on, rained on, hiked in beautiful clear skies. I'm already dreaming of the next trip.
This year, however, we took advantage of an offer from friends, and went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Spent 5 days hiking in Grand Tetons, watching the smoke from wildfires near town and glad they were in the next range over -- a place I also wanted to hike, but not when the canyons are filled with smoke and flame.
The town was strange, although probably no more so than most somewhat isolated, very touristed mountain areas. Not a non-white face to be seen.
Leaving was easier this time. Not because the mountains were any less beautiful, not because the hiking was too hard (far from), not because I'm any less in love. But because I had two more mountain trips planned for the late late summer. Because I knew that 10 days later, I'd again be sauntering down a trail, breathing in the vistas and the thin air at altitude.
And probably, because my life is so full. Oh, I dream about packing it up and moving to the mountains. Of saying "screw this job" and going freelance, which would give me so much more flexibility than currently. But my friends, El Bandito, El Bandito's job and preferences, this city, and did I mention circus? I'm not ready to give those up just yet.
So my love for the mountains continues to be a long-distance affair, with intense passionate bursts refilling my heart. Happiest on a mountain-top, or a trapeze.
Maybe I just don't like gravity.