The West May Have Bigger Mountains, But the East Has My Heart

I grew up hiking in the White Mountains. But I never fully appreciated them until I moved away.

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A Hero's Journey

When Rue McKenrick came out of the desert in West Texas in January 2020, he’d been without water or food all day. So the little convenience store he spied just north of Big Bend National Park at first seemed like a mirage, an answer to his prayers.

He imagined gorging on ham sandwiches, ramen noodles, whatever they had, but as soon as he stepped inside, the clerk lunged behind the counter, fumbling until he grasped a handgun and then steadied it to point the weapon at McKenrick’s head.

“Who are you?”

McKenrick is a short and sturdily built 40-year-old with crows feet creasing his eyes and a kind, open manner. Still, very, very few people move about on foot, carrying backpacks, in West Texas, and the clerk had been robbed a week earlier. He’d assuaged his fears by buying a gun. Two, in fact. The second handgun was in his other hand now, behind his back.

“Who are you?” the clerk said again.

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