The road my friend and I took to get here, a crashing tumble off a rocky mountain and just possibly the roughest road I’ve ever seen, bears no relation to the gentle thing you see above. Even that turned impassable just around the bend, where far below in a gorgeous mountain valley,* two cowboys on horseback galloped back and forth herding cattle. The bawling, carried up to where we were by a stiff breeze barely in the forties, seemed an oddly domestic touch at over 9,000 feet in the wilderness.
This is national forest, of course, and with any roads at all, one might think it not so wild, but you are absolutely on your own. Consider that for many miles in any direction, your cell phone will not work, there may not be another human, it gets cold as shit, and there are bears. If your 4WD breaks down, you spend a night in the woods and hike out if you can. Break your leg alone, you bleed to death. This concentrates the mind and makes you feel like you’ve done something significant when you get home. (Distracted by our toys, we miss the encounter with a greater energy, but out here you can feel it.)
Vast areas in the West are just like this, especially in New Mexico. There are kingdoms so wild, their natural laws defy casual belief. An hour away from here and almost to the highway, this same friend saw a pair of wolves take two calves down, right in front of their mothers—ten years ago, that was. The way he told the story made me think the circumstances were unusual. Although efforts to reintroduce wolves have been ongoing for some time in other places—not here, I thought, although I could be wrong—the sense was different, more like: up here in these mountains, far back in the woods, we have always had our lobos, but you don’t go tell the world.
I can’t believe I get to do this. I can’t believe I ever was afraid.
* Nearby private land