Total Miles: 501.5
Ridge near Skáidecohkka – July 18, 2016
The climb out of the canyon feels like an escape from the walls of rock and the giant river. The confined space pushes people into a single line that seems crowded after days where I saw no one. Shelters and cabins make it too comfortable. The long, thin river boats make it too easy. But cabins are harder to build up high and boats do not climb mountains.
As the trail winds higher, I give up on it too. It feels too preditable, contouring around the sloping mountains, clinging to their sides and heading for the lakes and river valleys. It feels like reading a book I already know the ending of.
I leave it for the ridge the trail winds under. The steps come, climbing up, soaking in the freedom to wander.
Every day I move south. The trees grow higher, their branches thicken. The mountains show less wear, more cliffs and edges. The open tundra flees upward. I will miss this freedom to move when it’s gone.
There will always be time to follow cairns, signs, and trails. To walk one to the next and help wear a grove into the earth. To step without thought. To trust the path. To just move.
But not now, not with the world open around me, my mind on fire, my senses alive. Now, I rejoice to wander and walk the unused ridges, to stare out and pick steps that are all my own, to stumble over reindeer antlers every hundred steps, each left to fade back into the earth because no one is here to pick them up.