In The End, Style Might Be All We Have
The sun hits my face for the first time. Legs move swiftly feeling light. A twinge of pain remains in the quads, but it begins to fade as I warm up. The quiet morning provides plenty of time for observation. I notice the colors of fallen leaves. The creek that was stained two days ago, filled with glacial till, is now crystal clear. I’ve passed this spot three times in the last forty eight hours. The subtleties went unnoticed my first time by.
As dark settles in we get to work. Reflection on what had just occurred could come later. Cutting simultaneously we work mostly in silence. A full moon rises over the ridge. Long shadows are cast from burnt trees in the moonlight. Occasionally one of us needs a hand and the other obliges. Cumulatively each stroke of the blade begins to make a difference.
Front quarters, backstraps, and tenderloins are loaded into packs. I suck in the cold evening air and sip the last of my water. Rolling the carcass downhill we cross our fingers and hope that a Grizz doesn’t get to the hind quarters before we return. Shouldering heavy loads we head for camp. Sidehilling across a steep burn leads to a knife ridge that decends sharply toward the valley floor. By 10:30pm we are back in camp with half an elk.
With each trip the route becomes increasingly familiar. Using techniques more akin to siege style mountaineering we methodically complete the task at hand. Over the course of three days we ferry loads down the mountain.
In less than 24 hours we have the entire elk in camp. A quick nap and we continue downhill hauling the first load to the truck. Motivated by cold beer in the cooler, I push the pain of bruised hips from my mind and continue. We arrive at dark. Having planned on this possibility, we utilize gear stashed in the truck and make camp for the night.
As my quads warm up I relax into a steady rhythm. A new day and an empty pack gives fresh perspective on the job ahead. By lunch time we are back in camp. Another nap and a hot lunch has us ready to press repeat. Night fall finds us once again camped at the truck, this time with an entire elk. All that remains is one last round trip to pull camp.
Over the course of 6 trips, in and out, and nearly 40 miles, I question whether or not it’s worth it. For five days my dad and I didn’t see another person. We hunted and camped in wild country. Luck allowed us to harvest an incredible bull. Part of me swells with pride over what we’ve accomplished. Aloud, I wonder to my dad if that’s just ego talking and I’m a bit ashamed. Without hesitation my dad says that the style in which we do things is often all we have control of in this world. We should be proud.