Perhaps it's been the strange state of the climate, but maybe it's the urge to do something different, or it could be I'm pregnant and have a queer craving-and no one would be more shocked at that circumstance than I-but I've been finding myself drawn toward the outback of our Sahel a bit more as of late. Screw the nearby trails I could reach on foot for a walkabout, I'm wanting tundra. Those mountain badlands.
The alpine calls upon banshee-howl winds in a siren's sing-song voice. My sense of curiosity, which has either gotten me into horrific amounts of trouble or led me to grand adventures in the past, gets piqued by this geo-environmental pull. My feet itch as I pull on my boots and start to grab my pack.
Part of me questions if I want to be up there before the snow gets flying-if it ever does. Just one of these possibly fleeting last times. After that, it's harsh winds, bitter cold, and reading the slabs for omens of avalanche. I could make it there, I've got the gear for it, but I guess it's all a matter of what I want to carry and be ready for. Perhaps that's prima donna of me, which would be addle-brained; there's neither time nor place for prima donnaism in the outback.
I grab my pack, stuffing it with things to eat and water. My layers are chosen under the auspice of weight and warmth, knowing the divinity of motion. The hounds watch me, knowing one gets to accompany me on my trek. One of them gets to get lost with me for a few hours out in the nameless places.
Up top, chilled wind caresses us as we stop for water and our snacks. Milarepa curls close to me, not because she's cold, but because she enjoys being close when we stop. She slurps her water eagerly and eats her treats as though it's the finest of meals. After that, she leans against me for company whilst I somewhat absently stroke her coat, surveying my surroundings.
We stand upon a primeval lake. In the summer, it's been joked, one would expect to see a t-rex, or perhaps some variety of velociraptor. This time of year, perhaps a mammoth or a smilodon. It is a place that exists out of time in the context of human understanding. You could tell someone there were dragons or yetis out here, and, most likely, not be lying.
From here I can see a formation called the Citadel. There are stories of deep winter backcountry skiing from its summit and full on climbs up it in high summer. From my vantage point, it's just a neat piece of geography to behold. A signpost in this stretch of never-never.
Were we so inclined, there is a trail, which starting in Mexico, cuts through this territory, along the Roof of the World, all the way up to Canada. The other day, Sabina and I half-joked about doing the whole thing. It's only thirty-one hundred miles, after all. Someday.
A gust buffets us, and I pull away from Milarepa. She looks up at me expectantly, wondering where the next part of our adventure will take us. I smile warmly as I re-shoulder my pack, letting the enchantment of the alpine wash over me like a half-frozen mist, patting her head in the process.
"Time to head back down, sweet girl," I say to her, and then toss her a final treat before we start walking again. "Thank you for keeping me company."