We woke up late a
gain…on purpose really, because waking up slowly in a camper in the woods with the person you love more than anything, limbs all tangled together and warm under a blanket is heaven on earth…so why rush getting up? He made me coffee, as he had done every morning, and then made love to me, as he had done every
morning. We decided to fill our day with fly fishing. He told me to bring my hammock because I had forgotten it on our hike the day before. I watched him and was lulled by the sway of my hammock, the whipping sound of his fly line arching back and forth and the sound of an Idaho river.
A week ago, we had only known each other over video chats and using text messages to bridge the 1,800 miles between San Antonio, TX and Missoula, MT. This is the beauty of the Red String that brought us together—A random post to my Insagram of a retro camper and an impulse of wanderlust I had of living in one—on the last leg of a road trip that I had taken myself on in a rental car with no cruise control to see how far north I could drive in the week I had alone that my kids were with their dad. Now there he and I were, camping for a week cut off from all pinging data on our first “date”. ￼ When we got back to camp after fly fishing, it was dusk. I went to go bathe in the river,
which is an absolute treat in the perfectly clear and icy cold water of the Saint Joe River. I walked back to our campsite and he called out to me from the camper, “Get dressed! I have an idea!” He grabbed his binoculars and his gun and suggested I take my phone to take pictures because, as he said, “You never know what we might see.” I became absolutely giddy with excitement because he knows the potential of seeing animals better than anyone there…he’s hunted that land for years. We got in the truck and followed the most beautiful dirt road I have ever seen up the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. One of my most favorite things to do on the planet is to explore dirt roads in the mountains, how did he know? (It’s that Red String, he would tell me.) As we drove, he told me stories of his hunting trips, and we stopped here and there to look at mountainside meadows through his binoculars for Elk and Moose.
We talked about our children and our mutual love for camping as we drove further and further up higher elevation. And then…we saw it. A very steep, very rocky narrow road branching off. The kind of road a rational person would decide too sketchy to take a truck up. “How adventurous are you?”, he asked. I said, “Very!” We didn’t know what was up there, all we knew was it was going to be good. We drove to a place where the road leveled off and decided not to drive further because it was downhill from there. Off to our right there was a grouping of boulders. He said, ” There will be a view there. You game?” and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. We parked, put our jackets on, he grabbed his gun, I grabbed my phone to take pictures of, whatever, and we walked up the ridge line to the boulders. What we found at the top took my breath away.
We were looking 360 degrees out across the top of 100 miles of the Saint Joeseph National Forest. It was the top of the world and marked by a trail marker about four and a half feet high. Who knows how many fellow adventure seekers over how many years it has taken to make that trail marker what it is…and it was #wanderlust magic. When we got closer he said, “Oh wow! There is a geocache in there!”
The lid was tight and rusty from the conditions, but he managed to get it open. In it were four pieces of water damaged paper with the notes, front and back, of folks who had stood on that summit dating back to 2008. A log of visitors. Just a hand full, but with a lot to say. From the cursive of one woman’s writing we learned that we had stumbled across Junction Peak. I found a place to add to it: “July 23, 2016. Today I looked out across heaven with the other end of my Red String. -RTY”
As I stood there taking in the most beautiful view I have ever seen, I was overcome with emotion. Grateful for being one of the few that has seen beauty that could never be adequately described with words or through an iPhone picture. Full of love for the man that had found me despite the span of distance between us, and thankful he loves me the way he does. Full of love for my children and my father. Relief from the chaos of selling my house, moving into my 1975 Airstream, surviving a sepsis infection, clawing my way to forgiveness and letting go of past disappointment, and flooded with love for my mother long passed. And as I was feeling all this, my soulmate walked over to me and held me and I exhaled deeply for the first time in years.
We stood there for a few moments (or lifetimes) when he said…”I want to show you something very, very cool.” This man had taken my breath away with a week of awesome so, of course, I got all tingly in anticipation for what he was going to show me next. He said, “Stand here beside and behind me a little and plug your ears.” He then took his gun from it’s holster, pointed, and shot across the mountain range and in the same split second he looked at me and said, “Wait for it….” and oh my god!!!! The sound of that bullet echoing through the canyons blew apart time and space and I let out a rush of laughter! He asked if I wanted to hear it again and I said, “Hell yeah!” BOOOM…..SWISH!!!! It echoed for miles! Then he said, “You’re turn.” He stood behind me, wrapping his arms around mine to steady the recoil, and whispered a quick lesson on shooting. I was intimidated for a second and told him I didn’t think I was ready. He just said matter of factly, “Yes you are.” I squeezed the trigger, his grip over mine, and BAM!!!!!! My ears rang from the shot as that bullet’s echo rolled through the canyons. We could hear it, then it would disappear, then we would hear it again. It was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life that sound. We were completely alive on that mountain together, and I realized that the sound of that bullet cutting through time and space represented our Red String doing the same.
Love. Everyone is looking for it. Life can beat it out of you…many give up on it or talk themselves into thinking they don’t need it. We all need it, it makes us better. Needing it makes us human. Be patient, try standing quiet on a mountain with an open heart, and listen very hard…you just might hear the echo of your red string cutting across time and space looking for you.