Work had been relentless, and getting out of town on time proved difficult.  The initial leg of our trip was 14 hours, and we were hammering the whole way to make time.  The next morning though, we eased on into the mountains, through northwestern New Mexico, down into Durango, made the pass into Silverton and then hit Ouray.  The mountains have a way of both easing and tensing at the same moment. They are both awe-inspiring and terrifying (especially as you work through those mountain passes and switchbacks!). It was good to be back.

Arriving in Ouray is a milestone, but climbing the very slow switchbacks up the mountainside to our base camp is another full 30 minutes alone.  On the way up, the air grows crisper and the noises mellow and soften, as the forest thickens around you. There was little snow around, and the aspens had just dropped their leaves. Aside from the evergreens, the world around us stretched brown and bland, but there was something gorgeous in it.

We settled into the house, worked through dinner and a couple bottles of wine while mapping out our hunting plans the next day in front of a roaring fire.  Sunlight was late the next morning, but we were all up early like school kids excited for Christmas morning. Layered up, we marched into the mountains, anxious for the adventure ahead.  By lunchtime, I wasn’t feeling good and made my way back to the house. It wasn’t long after arriving that I realized I had fever and began vomiting violently. This played out until around midnight; a series of sweats, terrible chills, a raging headache and regular sprints to the commode.  Around midnight it all eased up, but at 4:00 a.m. I awoke to familiar sounds; in the next room, Tim had caught whatever I had brought up from Houston, only his would last 30 hours.

We arrived to hunt the day before a full moon, and as a result we saw very little game at all during our hunts.  However, hiking the mountains, sitting, spotting and breathing the mountain air was soul satisfying.  It awoke my senses, gave me clarity and opened my eyes to the details of creation that are often lost while in routine in the city.

We left the mountain without any tags filled, no meat for the freezer, our families left in want.  If our lives truly depended on our ability to hunt and gather, we had failed. However, this trip was rewarding in ways that can’t be measured.  How do you qualify the renewed energy, vision and sense of purpose? How do validate something new you’ve learned about yourself after hiking numerous elevation gains over several miles each day, as a predator in search of prey?

You don’t. You just know, deep down inside, that you’ve fulfilled some sense of purpose. You’ve filled an innate need that each human has, a genetic trait that we were created with, that lies dormant in so many of us because of our lifestyles, the structure of society and the domestication of people.  We feel it, deep down, and so we go back, challenge ourselves again, and test ourselves to see who we truly are. GO

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