I enjoy the chance to get out alone. For me, it’s about connecting to what is real, and re-centering. I get out often enough that it doesn’t take very long for my mind to move beyond the distraction of the gear I’m using, or the cold, and begin to wander and reflect. Something like a difficult climb, or exposed section brings me back to the present, but as soon as I’ve moved beyond that critical moment my mind goes back to working out whatever it’s working out. In those moments, everything feels very intentional. Even the sun tracking across a valley feels slow and methodical, and I feel like one small piece of some great whole. On this trip I was the first out, which is what I’m always shooting for, and had been following a set of coyote tracks for a half mile or so. As I followed the tracks I thought about the coyote making its slowly through the center of the valley just like I was, neither of us critical to the story but both equally important. At some point the tracks darted off in another direction, probably after some unfortunate smaller animal caught out in the open at the wrong time, and the two of us went our separate ways. I was packing up to head back when another solo hiker came over the falls right to where I was sitting. They were surprised to see me, I think, even though they had been following the only set of tracks out there all day, which lead directly to me. It was nice to get going again though, back to the routine of trudging along to the sound of the wind and my spikes clanking against my pack.