I dropped them off at the Sol Duc trailhead. My daughter and her tall, dark and handsome trail mate, their backpacks fully loaded, bear cans bulging with eight days worth of food, sleeping bags, cook stoves and canisters of fuel, extra clothing, medical kits, compass and maps, one tent between them, crampons and ice axes, whistles to ward off bears and mountain goats, backpacks fully loaded, rising up behind them, they steadied themselves with their walking poles, as I took the perfect picture. They smiled broadly at the camera, but underneath I wondered if there wasn’t the slightest hesitation, a notion that half the fun had been preparing for this 70 mile trek through wilderness and mountain peaks. Now there was no turning back, and for a brief moment it looked as though they wished they could. I certainly felt that way, thinking that the backpack on my daughter’s back loomed largely over her 5’2″ frame. It seemed she could be knocked over with the simple flutter of a black crow’s wing, not to mention the blustery winds she would meet at high elevations. I only had to imagine her having to negotiate an elk path 6000 feet up on the edge of Bailey Ridge, maneuvering across fields of sideways snow–all with provisions enough to fill a small house on her back. Sure she had an ice ax, but would she be able to get to it when she needed it? Everything was tightened down to the last screaming seam. Youth was staring back at me. There was not another word I could say to change anything. It was me who had to let go, it was me who felt the full weight of worry. Letting go. I gave them both a hug, wished them well, and carried my own burden back to the car, thinking that it was times like these when people thought about God, and needing that omniscient being to take care of what you could not.
I recalled the voice of the ranger, echoing loudly in my mind, “Helmets are highly recommended on this trail.” This would call for a prayer to the gods, hoping they would hear my humble plea. Then, I started the car, turned on the windshield wipers and drove back towards 101, counting down the moments that would equal eight days with no cellular connection.