The whole twilight expanse of the tree-toothed eastern Olympics is there before me, but I can only watch my fragile feet, whistling nervously as I stumble downhill in the deepening dark. Somewhere on the slope the sound of tumbling rocks gives away two elk. They're also headed back—and in an instant the path to camp is clear and safe. I've been following all along the old etchings of their broad hooves, the paths of their ancestors, and of mine. I thank them deeply for showing me the way one more time.
We share the sunrise with four bear, plodding across the valley slopes, heavy maws dripping with the sugary blood of late-season huckleberries. I chew them myself as I walk among the galaxies, pale blue orbs adrift and brimming in the expanse of burgundy leaves—the sweetness washes over my tongue like a hurricane glimpsed from the timescale of mountains.
Upslope across wandering streams that trickle along and suddenly plunge into stonecutting canyon.
Ground grades into wall as I scramble up what seem like ancient trails, set down with the gentle grace of age, grasping slick sedges and loose rock and the hope that things will turn out just fine. Around me now are the far horizons of mountains; they're curved downward like spines, Farallon Giants bowed in adoration to something far greater and more terrible than even their own ageless power.