Bone tired, frayed pants, scuffed boots, cut hands, cramping thighs, painful joints, and the sunlight filtering through the aspens above us. It is the last day and we’re moving as little as possible while reading trail literature by Tolkien, Chatwin, Rothfuss, and Bear.
The memory of spending nineteen days in the woods hasn’t sunken in yet. In our minds, we are already back in town lying in our beds watching a show and thinking as little as possible about swinging a pick for six hours in the dripping grey chill that defined most of our mini-immersion. But it wasn’t all that bad.
Big Deer Creek is a small drainage that runs from the Bighorn Crags into Panther Creek, which itself runs into the Salmon River. A fire ravaged the Big Deer area back in 2000 and since then most of the 18-mile trail had been cleared save for a single mile in the very middle. That section hadn’t been touched for over nineteen years.
What we found when we got there were haystacks of trees six feet tall hugged by thickets of young trees so dense that you could not see ten feet while standing amongst them. It took us a hitch to clear them all and when we were done, we found that our trail was choked in grass, rotten logs, and thorns. It took us another hitch to snip tree trunks, retread, and generally remake the trail.
With only two days off in-between each hitch, we felt the weight of roughly 18 days of manual labor on our bodies. We were more than relieved to reach our truck after the six mile hike out and only slightly peeved to discover a mouse had made a home (and a toilet) of our truck bed. We drove to a campsite listening to old country, passing RV’s with names like Ascension and Leprechaun. They kicked on their generators as we were going to bed.
But instead of generators, all we heard as we fell asleep was the sound of the Salmon rolling boulders smooth with its powerful waters and with thoughts of sinking our weary bodies into our beds at home… That is, everyone else most likely fell asleep with such soothing thoughts. I, on the other hand, was kept awake by a terrible question: Did I leave my bedroom window open while we were gone?