The beast

Oreos. They remind me of something. Baseball? The Sandlot? Being a kid?

Probably all of those things. As a kid, I was never a great camper. Truthfully, I was never even an enthusiastic camper. I was also crap at baseball. But as the Oreo crunches under my teeth tonight—here at a solo campsite high in the Rocky Mountains—I wonder how I got here.

A shrill bugle breaks through the darkness. Somehow, I know what it is. The reason crosses my mind: I’ve now spent more nights camping in the Rocky Mountains than anywhere back home.

The wild call came from an elk. I’m beginning to know the west better than the east.

You want s’more?
Some more what? How can I have some more if I haven’t had any at all?

Yes. I want some more. I want some more Oreos and some more camping and some more adventure. After a four day recharge in Denver, I’m posted up at Rocky Mountain National Park, and I’ve unwittingly wandered into the middle of an elk rut. That’s when they get down to Discovery Channel business. So, as you can imagine, there’s a lot of excitement in the air. There are also oddly-large numbers of senior citizens who come to witness this spectacle with binoculars clearly lifted from the Hubble Space Telescope. (Baby Boomers—y’all are weird.)

The Elkmoot is cool, but I’ve yet to mine a deep, philisophical lesson from it. The best I can offer is this: nature is primal, it’s live or die by the thinnest of lines, and the shrill calls piercing tonight’s calm are a constant reminder that people are just animals. Sometimes, in the midst of politics and news cycles and technology and turmoil, it’s nice to remember that.

I’m not far from Denver, really. But, I am a world away. Being back on the road feels right. Cranking up the radio and watching the planet roll by has started to feel more like home than the memories of my apartment in Memphis. But as I drove down into the valley near the ski town of Estes Park, close to the entrance of Rocky Mountain NPS, I saw an inescapable reminder of how far I’ve come, an inescapable reminder of home.

It was sitting on the side of the road.

“I know this car,” I thought, as a swerved off of the highway to take a closer look. “I know its bells and whistles, or lack thereof. I know how to put it out when its on fire. I know where the tiny metal button is—the one on the floor, the one that activates the “bright” lights, if you’re lucky enough to have them. I know just how to tune the carburetor on the first day of Fall. I know this 1966 Mustang. It’s good to see you, old friend.”

The dented sheet metal on the side of the road was impossible to ignore. Its 60-year old bones were the same ones that carried me down the highway alone for the very first time, well over a decade ago.

Looking at it, I remembered—the feeling was the same.

It’s freedom, I guess. Pure joy. Pure excitement. That’s the feeling you get when you crunch down on an Oreo, though it only lasts a split-second. It’s the feeling you get when you’re 16, clanking down the highway in a weary old race horse. And it’s the feeling you get when you’re 28, sleeping in a tent an awfully long way from the roads where it all began.

Yes, I think I’ll have s’more.

Rocky Mountain NPS

Editor’s notes: Check your snail mail this week, fellow adventurers. Please join in the fun by tagging your own epic adventures #SouledOutside on the IG.

A quick look at the photos will tell you that, yes, I have traveled through the seasons. I’m not sure what the weather is like at home, but here in the Rockies, Fall has taken hold. The nights are colder now than anything I’ve felt since Montana. For once, my tendancy to over prepare means I’ll be relatively toasty inside the tent.

Speaking of the tent: apologies to my brother, the real owner, she had a spill at Canyonlands. It looks like she’ll return with a few good battle scars, but mostly no worse for the wear. Think Lando flying the Falcon in Jedi. “Not a scratch.”

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