The three months that I've been back in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have been filled with work and stress and studying and more work, and I have devoted one, count it, ONE full day to getting my butt away from the pavement and into the backcountry.
It is for this reason that, even with an impending presidential visit to prepare myself for, I forced myself to leave civilization behind and carried myself up into the Teton backcountry. And because I could not leave all sources of stress behind, I chose to take my dog, Bridger, with me.
Bridger has been living the existence of a leash dog.
Bridger has never been into the Teton backcountry.
Bridger has never been into ANY backcountry.
And Bridger has certainly never carried a pack, slept in a tent, or encountered any wildlife more exotic than the chipmunks that get him all riled up when we walk around the housing area.
Hell, he barks at statues because he can't figure out what they are.
So it was with anticipation, and slight trepidation, that I proceeded to pack my belongings for the one night trip up Teton Canyon into Alaska Basin.
Bridger eyed me warily when the new red doggy backpack came out. He's generally game for anything, though, so he didn't really flinch when the harness went on and the backpack was attached.
It didn't even really seem to slow him down.
It did, however, alter his width so that instead of harmlessly streaking by my friend Jeanne and I on the trail, he took us out at the knees.
But once we figured out how to dodge him, he added an entertaining element to the trip.
My fears about him running away were allayed as he kept pretty close to us the whole time. He must have figured out that running away meant that he was stuck with that stupid red backpack.
But as we climbed higher up the canyon, my spirits rose. The scent of the lupine was intoxicating and the colors of the paintbrush, columbine, monkeyflower, and countless other flowers were breathtaking.
It brought back memories of the many other trips along the Teton Crest Trail that I've done over the years with many other friends.
When we reached camp, the dog sacked out......
and I took in the familiar scenery of Alaska Basin.
The backcountry is a refreshing place. You end up spending a lot of time just staring at things and trying to figure out how you fit into the bigger picture.
It's a place I've spent a lot of time, but, after being away for what feels like so long, it never felt so much like home.
It took me a year and a half to get back here.
After I got back, it took me another three months of trying to fit in and get things right before I could even think about where I really am.
Now, though, I know for sure that I have gotten one thing, at least, right.
I have come back to the right place.
Here, with good friends, my dog, and the mountains I love -
Here, with my head back in a good place and my soul repaired -
I'm back where I belong.