The bottle was nearly empty. Craig lifted it over his head and poured the remaining water onto himself in order to cool from the blistering Yellowstone sun. Today’s hike from the trailhead to the southern end of Shoshone Lake will take him four hours. The heat may add more time as the weight of his pack along with his guitar make it tougher on him physically. The well-worn trail leading to the country’s largest lake not reachable by roads is a wildlife photographer’s dream. Elk, bison and even a porcupine have watched the solo hiker with caution as he walks past. A Clark’s Nutcracker sat high in a lodgepole as if he was a sentry. His echoing call a warning for his fellow feathered friends of the impending intruder. The mosquito population grows as he reaches the northern end of the lake. Half way to camp.
Craig makes a quick stop for water and to rest his weary legs before returning to the trail. This is not unfamiliar territory to him. He spent his summers while in college working the restaurants at Old Faithful. He was, prior to arriving in the park, a heavy drinker and drug user. A television junkie and struggling college student on his last dime. A chance conversation with a female in a creative writing class planted the seed for him to work his summers there. So in May of 1985 he shot his last dose of heroin into his arm and boarded a Greyhound bound for Livingston, Montana. Forty something hours later, as his feet touched the beautiful Yellowstone soil, he knew that nature would be his cure. There was no explanation of the power those surroundings were to him. The breathing taking peaks and scenic cold streams did what rehab and alcoholic anonymous never could. The back-country and his fellow summer seasonal employees became his rehab. The park was his sponser. The park gave him life. A week after his arrival he journeyed to this very lake with a group of employees he barely knew. In truth, that was his first taste of nature sober. He hid the physical withdrawals he was suffering from his fellow campers and relished life in the now. Craig realized he was a changed soul.
So twenty-five years later he closes in on the same campsite he visited those many years before. Still single he sold his home of fifteen years and emptied his savings. He traded in his new Camry Hybrid for a ’64 Beattle and resigned his job at the nuclear power plant. All these years the powers of Yellowstone beckoned him. With his car loaded with only a small backpack, his guitar inside its stickered carrying case he returned to the land that once cured him. He was to change his profession to writer.
He reaches the campsite physically exhausted but exuberant. His body was not adept to the strenuous hike as it was those years ago. Yet he had satisfaction in knowing that on this trip his physical suffering was fatigue and not withdrawing from demons that once controlled his life. He reached into his backpack and pulled out a six-pack of coke and placed it into a mesh bag. He strolled to the edge of the cold lake and place his drinks in natures very own cooler. His shoulders hurt from the straps holding the weight of his pack. The sweat on his back was cold as a small breeze blew across the lake. He spent the afternoon setting up the his home for the next week. He set up his tent, gathered wood and hung his food on the bear pole nearby. After a quick nap he returned to the edge of the lake with pen and paper in one hand and guitar in the other. He sat comfortably on the beach using a log as his back rest and tuned his guitar. Alone, he played and sang a beautiful rendition of The Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil” as if the lake was his audience. Afterwards a mountain chickadee sang his song. Perhaps a response to the music still echoing through the forest.
For Craig, nature was around him. As he listened to the chickadee singing, he knew this was his new beginning. Just as it was for him years before. This time it’s a life of creativity and words on paper to share with the world.
This is fiction written for the speak easy at yeah write #97.