An extended backpacking trip through the wilderness helps me turn the volume in my life down. I stop and look around. I notice the vast expanse before me. The way the light at dusk seems almost surreal and unnatural. The speed at which clouds move during the late afternoon at altitude. How serene the cool alpine breezes sound through tree branches creaking and bending above me. How fresh the mountain air feels in my oxygen-deprived lungs. How little any of the problems I carry with me on a daily basis matter. I become grateful for another day of good health. For a warm house to go home to. For a loving wife. For happy, healthy children. For a comfortable bed. Then, I start to notice the people I am hiking up the mountain with. They are people I have been hiking with for most of my life. The same tired jokes become expected. Stories of past trips are relived. Conversations drift aimlessly and we eventually realize that there is nothing left to talk about. We sit around a warm campfire, look up through the forest canopy at the vibrant night sky and enjoy the company we keep. In that moment I realize these are some of the closest people to me. These are the people I have lived my happiest moments with. People I have shared the most laughs with. People I have made it to the summits of mountains with. Memories are fleeting but one sticks out for me tonight. A few years ago one of these people tapped me on the shoulder as I sat quietly on an ancient boulder to watch the sun set over a distant lake we spent all day hiking to. He sat down next to me and handed me a flask of scotch he carried in his pack. I took a long pull from the flask and so did he. We sat next to each other for a long time. Neither one of us said a word.
Rest in peace, brother. Your flask of scotch will be missed.