A Place to Hide

Ever since I was a young boy, I have always enjoyed the outdoors. Much of my time was spent in good company, enjoying one adventure after another. Such is not much of a challenge for a young boy with half a mountain at his disposal. But it was more of an involuntary adventure, that helped me learn something somewhat profound about myself, and like many of life’s lessons, this one was to be learned alone.
The weathered peaks of the Rocky Mountains in who’s shadow I grew, are home to some of the most stunning views I have seen. Be it the warming green colors of spring, or the bleak and silent white that blankets the landscape during the sun’s winter vacation. It was during one of those cold winters some thirty years ago, that I spent a weekend at a winter cabin around 7500 feet above the sea. My childhood friends and I had gone for a bit of a nature walk, finding a clear creek flowing noisily through the coniferously quieted forest. All of us, fishermen at heart, were drawn to it like a bear to honey.
You are probably imagining some sort of disaster, or unpleasant encounter with the icy stream. Or perhaps a group of kids getting lost wandering about, valid concerns every one. But I’ll save those stories for another day, for this story is a happy one. And one I’ve been lucky to relive many times since, including once just this week.
As my friends and I played near the creek, looking for fish that obviously knew how cold it was and wouldn’t come out. A gentle snow began to fall, first very light. But it quickly turned into one of those beautiful and blinding snowfalls, with flakes so big they seemed like strings of cotton. It seemed to only take a few minutes to start accumulating on the partially snow covered ground. Though still a youth, blind to sense most common , I did have a good sense of direction, and never felt concerned for our safety. But the deepening snow, yielded a valid challenge to the developing survivalist within me. I announced to my friends, that a shelter was to be built. Like any young boy, I probably called it a fort, but shelter it would become. The three of us set to the challenge, and began constructing our fort, for some reason, on a small island in the creek (as I mentioned, blind to common sense).
It didn’t take long to have a small woodpile, turned into an igloo shaped hut. We packed snow in between the logs, mostly deadfall aspens from the previous summer. The quickly accumulating snow did much of the work for us. And it seemed like in no time at all, the three of us were huddled inside the cozy little space. The breeze was gone, the noise of the creek as well, and the insulated little shelter we built afforded us both a physical, and physiological security. So much was my satisfaction, that I spent a good part of that afternoon watching the snow deepen from the safety of my temporary home. It is hard to explain the bliss I felt, watching nature do her thing, from the safety of my self made sanctuary. Knowing that I could have spent the night there, an albeit uncomfortable night, but you know what I mean.

Not much has changed in these mountains since, despite all the global warming I keep hearing about. It still snows, it still rains, and for some damned reason, I am still up there, hiding out from bad weather underneath something. The cloudy veil of youthful stupidity, has been traded for a more mature version with aspirations of grandeur. Just yesterday, I found myself once again, enjoying the satisfying discomfort of watching mother nature shower the mountain with rain. I did so from a small pocket of stone, at the base of a cliff. Were it not for my detrimental desire to endure, I would have missed some of natures most beautiful scenery; The green glow that every plant seems to show, almost like a celebration in their annual race to flower. The perfect lighting of sunshine peeking around a dark cloud so heavy, it seems to cling to the side of the soaked mountain. A misty rain that turns to snow before your eyes. And of course the lightning, dangerously close, the cracks make the hair on your neck stand.

And then there is me, enjoying it all. Putting myself to the test again, as well as my gear. Knowing full well I don’t need to, but like the younger version of me, taking great satisfaction with the knowledge that I could. Knowing that my equipment will work, and always pushing the envelope.

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