Total Miles: 795.6
I'm sitting on the beach in the Bahamas. The water is an impossibly deep shade of turquoise, the sand as bright and fine as baking flour. The wind blows, filtering through the palm trees and issuing a gentle, constant rustling sound as they sway slightly.
A minute later, I'm no longer on the beach but at a rustic log cabin at the shore of a lake. The screen door creaks as it closes behind me with its telltale smack of wood against wood, and the room is filled with the mixed scent of pine, soot from the fireplace, and a subtle sweetness that I can't quite place.
I'm shaken back to reality by the crack of wood somewhere off in the forest, marveling at where my mind has been in the span of a minute or perhaps two. A tale of two vacations past—one to the tropical paradise we visited a year ago, and the other to a summertime family destination of my childhood. All it took was the piña colada-like scent of my sunscreen one minute followed by a wafting smell of pine mixed with something almost sweet floating on the breeze a minute later. That's the power of scent and memory.
I'd returned from my brief trip down memory lane just in time to snap a photo of black and white butterflies clustered together on clumps of bright yellow flowers. Having seen them floating and fluttering in the air for awhile beforehand, it seemed that they were on their own trail of sorts, leading them to this brightly colored destination.
Breaking out of the trees, we noticed a new and unwelcome addition to the sky—a haze on the horizon that had us all wondering whether smoke from a forest fire was being carried in on the breeze. From how far away, it's difficult to know, though it never worsened and never brought with it the telltale scent of smoke. Passing a northbound day hiker, she commented that it's not unusual for smoke from forest fires as far away as Arizona or even California to show up here.
Later in the afternoon, we came across an Americorps trail crew, training to do trail maintenance in wilderness areas where mechanized equipment of any kind is prohibited. These guys are the unsung heroes of all trails, packing in heavy equipment for many miles to rebuild trails, improve drainage, and remove blowdown, often with nothing but axes, picks, and two-man saws.
Returning to the mountains after less than 24 hours apart, seeing their many slopes and faces made me feel what I imagine parents feel after having been separated from a child for even a short period: endearing surprise at how happy they are to see them again. And the faces I saw were ones that increasingly looked like those of the Southwest—flattened mesas appearing where once there was only jagged rock, and sandy rocks awash in the bright oranges and deep reds of the classic desert motif.
The lack of clouds was perfectly balanced by the cooling breeze that raced across the grassy ridges we spiraled along, and the late afternoon sun on my neck had that feeling not of sunburn but of satiating warmth. A perfect summer afternoon if ever there was one.
Latitude/Longitude: 37.40541, -106.64334