BOWEN COLUMN: There are no small things

Published 9:30 am Friday, August 19, 2022

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There really are no small things. I learned that lesson on this Monday, again. Here on our second day, a ‘small’ thing happened out of the blue that was the highlight of the journey.

Todd and I slept in a little on Monday because of the difficult Sunday hike, having not arrived at the campsite until 11:15 p.m. As I tell it to you now, I have to scroll down in my memory, because I didn’t take any notes on the trip. That tells you a bit about our exhaustion both during the hiking and after reaching camp. You put all your energy into fighting the terrain — the hills, the swampy trails, crossing all the rivers — and just soak everything into your body and your mind. Then, when you get home, you reflect and tell the story. Funny thing, most of it comes right back, as if you are still walking that trail.

We left the campsite about 10 a.m. and hiked a good eight hours, perhaps to 7 p.m. This trip was a clockwise-hike around Heart Lake, although Heart Lake itself is far, far below us and away from us, not to be seen for four days. Last year, we went counter-clockwise (well, and a little bit in circles, too, as you remember). After almost a mile exiting the campsite to the trail, the first site was a deep creek or river that I remembered from the last day a year ago. Then things really starting coming back.

This Monday was the same hike as the last day last year, in reverse order — which is significant. We crossed that deep creek, passed the campsite where we stayed with the cowboys from Idaho; and as we crossed the creek, we saw the Teton Mountains looming to our west with the sun reflecting off of it. That was one of the key memories I had from the last year as we started out on the final day of a trip that will always be unmatched, I expect. But there’s more: We also passed the very spot where I had my eye-to-eye encounter with my Grizzly. I did a short video of that spot, wishing I could put a monument there, as you all know the impact of that. Then we ended up in the camp site that Todd and I found after we had been lost those few days. It was a great reunion, in a way. The bad news is that — due to the recent Yellowstone flooding up to the north — the mosquitos were rampant, more so here than in any other place.

So, when we arrived, I took my back pack and went to the beach of the river and unloaded everything because the mosquitos do not like the running water. Every morning and night required an hour of packing or unpacking. When I got to that special spot — which was a landing with rocks and fallen trees as the Snake River split and jutted off for about a hundred feet before reconvening — I sat for a while in the cold water of that swift stream in this section of the tributary that curves sharply to the right before it joins back in with the rest of the river.

Of course, I remembered the very special moment when I reflected at that very spot last year. It was the morning after we found our way, and while Todd worked away a hundred feet back up at the camp site, I had a ‘moment’ down in water. It was here, where the river divides then joins back together again, that the Lord and I had a little conference. After a while, I had to leave the water and the reminiscing and get dressed for bed there on the river bank. I left all the wet clothes hanging on the base of an uprooted tree so they could dry during the night. Then I rejoined Todd to try to get some much-needed rest. That Monday’s hike — about 7.1 miles and much of it uphill — was one of the hardest days we would have. Truth is, it was a killer. But we made it.

There is still that one small thing I wanted to tell you. At some point about mid-day, we stopped to rest kind of at the top of the hill overlooking the Heart River. For some reason Todd stopped a good ways ahead of me. We rested for, maybe ten or fifteen minutes, then I got up, put my backpack on, and decided to take a picture of the river flowing majestically down below. After I took it, I looked up, and I saw, to my amazement, a black bear running across the river. I grabbed my phone again and tried to get the picture, but it had gone. Disappointed, I thought maybe I had gotten it unknowingly with the few pictures I took before I saw it. And, sure enough, there it was: two pictures captured the young bear, one as it was about midway in the river, and one as it neared the bank. I still smile at that. Oh no, it wasn’t the face-to-face encounter of a year ago not far from that very place. But it was a neat moment, a feel-good down inside moment, even though it may seem but a small thing. And I remembered then, again, that, really, in hiking nor in life, there are no small things. Especially when it comes to seeing a bear in the wild. Again.