The yurt was just five minutes behind me. Not far on foot, but still it had vanished– swallowed by the deep green pine trees, and the pale blue fir trees, and the soft brown of deadfall and pine needles. The loose rocks of the road tumbled beneath my boots as I walked, kicking up sweet-smelling dust from the dried-out wash of last spring’s runoff, and with a quiet clatter they fell back along the road the way I’d come. As far as I could tell, it was the only sound on the mountain.
I walked on. Up ahead through the trees, I could see the faded gold and green of the mountainside that climbed to a jagged silhouette above me. I followed the road towards it, kicking dust into the late summer air. When the dust cleared the treetops above me, it was carried back down the canyon, past the yurt and the trees, and towards the distant highway.
I reached a gap in the trees, stopped, and turned to look back towards where I’d come from. All around, to the left and right and all behind me, the trees fell away to small, wind-picked shrubs. Tenacious, whip-thin, they dotted the slope until, as if they all agreed at once, they vanished completely leaving nothing but grass and bleached white rock to make up the rest of the mountain. Before me swept the deep green sea of trees, filling the length of the canyon beneath and stretching towards the horizon where they vanished in a soft blue haze.
I turned and kept on, following the road and feeling the gravel crunch beneath my feet. The road curved with the treeline, until it took me to a rise that cut a strand of pines in half. Beyond the pines, the road split; one path cut up into the mountainside, climbing sideways towards a distant lake set like an opal in the soft gold grass, while the other cut left and dove back into the trees.
A curious thought hit me, then: it didn’t matter which path I took. Not really. I came to the yurt to get lost– to be surrounded by the wilderness. And here I was in the wilderness, with mountains ahead and forest behind me. Struck with the realization that, no matter where I went from here, it was all wilderness.