We turned in early on our second night in the wilderness, and we both slept well, and in the morning we packed up, and we left the wood for the lucky campers who would find this campsite next, and we skipped breakfast and hiked down the 1.5 miles to our car, and then we drove to Sweet Sue’s, where we each had a plate of blueberry-banana pancakes with real maple syrup, and it was good. It was very, very good. It was the best plate of blueberry-banana pancakes I had ever eaten in my life.
I thought of how lucky we were, and of how I would brag to my friends about how I had hiked with Jeff into the wilderness to repair our already strong, now incredibly strong bond, and how doing so had made even a humble Pop-Tart into something magical. I knew that within hours–if not minutes–I would start worrying about things like deadlines and traffic and why I hadn’t yet managed to snare an attractive, big-hearted regulator. But if there’s one thing a couple of nights in the backcountry will teach a man (other than the necessity and absolute joy of manning up), it’s this: You can regret the past and worry about the future all you want, but there’s really only now. Right now. Right now, bug-bitten and slightly damp and tired and smelling of rain and a fire from two nights ago, and sitting with your good friend Yogi at Sweet Sue’s, off the Giant Ledge, but still filled with memories of it. Still somehow on the Giant Ledge forever, carrying around a great big chunk of the Giant Ledge for the rest of my days on earth.
“This is living, Yogi,” I said to my friend as I swallowed a forkful of blueberry-banana pancakes.
“This is living,” my friend replied with great but manfully restrained emotion. Then Yogi looked at me. There was something in his eyes. It was peace, and it wasn’t just the peace of the satiated-bear-who-just-ate-at-the-garbage-dump. I was positive about this. It was something more profound. Yogi had also felt the mystery and the magic of the Giant Ledge, and he too was carrying around a big chunk of the Ledge and he would carry it until his dying day and it would not be heavy. It would not be a burden. It would be a blessing. That’s what I was seeing in his eyes.
I was so moved that I almost stopped eating my blueberry-banana pancakes.
Writer at large Steve Friedman’s third book, The Agony of Victory, will be available in paperback in November. He is still looking for a regulator.