Editor’s Note: ‘Along the Trail’ is a weekly column written by David Hewitt of Switzerland County; and covers all things dealing with the outdoors, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.
My head pounds with each step while my thighs burned. My breathing was fast and ragged by the time I broke through the tree line, somewhere above 12,000 feet. I throw my pack off and take a seat on top of the mountain, my pulse coursing through my ears, I consciously tell myself to catch my breath, “Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth”… “slow, slow”…
Once my breathing was under control in the high, thin Colorado air, I leaned back against a huge rock and took in the sights. Every direction was a new post card view, a new vista to see. This was true wilderness. High country, the kind of place where you could be lost and never found. Spruces, live and beetle killed litter the mountain side miles to the valley below.
Through my binoculars, a small glacier could be seen, unknown miles away in a distant gorge in another section of the San Juans. I took a slug of water and let the gravity of where I was sink in… “How did a small town, Midwestern boy find himself perched on top of a mountain in the Rockies?”… “Who’d have thought?” and a smile crept across my face and a deep sense of satisfaction filled my soul.
I glanced down the slope to my hunting partner who was leaning on his own pack and I’m sure having the same thoughts race through his head. I thought to myself about the adventure the hunt has provided so far, grateful for each moment. The sheer size of the country, the difficulty of the terrain, the magnitude of peaks. My chest rose and I sighed taking it all in. My mind tried to absorb as much of it as I could.
My thoughts raced while the wind whipped my already burnt face. Ravens drifted on the breeze…I found myself lost in the moment. The country is immense, vast, no houses, just wild and beautiful. A man could lose himself out here, literally and figuratively, but at the same time, find himself. It’s a place to test your metal, a place that will push your buttons and your limits. “How could anyone not believe in God when in a place like this?”, goes through my head…I look at the simple longbow lying in the soft grass next to me and I grin thinking of the challenge that I’ve had chasing elk with such a privative weapon and shake my head at the folly of the idea and the almost unthinkable odds of success.
Twenty minutes into our hiatus and it’s time to get on the move again…We’ll hike and still hunt our way down the slope. If we’re lucky, we might bump into an unsuspecting elk, but in all honesty, getting an elk into bow range would just be icing on the cake. The experience alone has been enough to stoke my fire and feed my childhood dream of hunting in the mountains.
I shoulder my pack that now somehow feels a few pounds lighter, throw back another pour of water,and tighten my boot laces. I find my footing on the steep slope and head out…it’s been a good day.
– David Hewitt