Riding to the Top of the World

1268982_origThe Wind River Range sawtooths roughly north-northwest, riding the Divide with chutzpah. Its spine joins mythos and legend, and its stories are harsh and more real than the pulps and the glitzy vision of John Ford or the fantasies of a people driven to leave with no ken to what’s ahead, just knowing that what’s behind wasn’t good enough and anything out there has to be better than, bigger than.


Guernesy Ruts WY

They passed it by, circling south of the Tetons, the ruts still etched deep in the hardpan, narrow gauged. Odd though, not the hoofprints, and you would think that strange but for the burden of a nation and the bits of flesh and bone marking their passing.

Hope has weight and substance, it leaves a mark when the way is fragile and unforgiving.



Unmarked grave: Oregon Trail WY

A half million strong made the crossing, those who fell left their mark in blood. It always wins out, blood, it must. The land is sere, soaking it deep. It remembers.






Horse team road grading, Wind River Reservation, c1922







wyoming-reservation-oil-rigEastern Shoshone and Arapahoe live in uneasy truce, the rez stretching to the north, east and south, the land undulating, undercut in places, and where prairie grass once whipped and tossed under an onslaught of God’s breath, now cranes and rigs and towns sit smug and ugly and unrepentant.



View across Bobcat Creek. Absaroka Mountains, WY

The range is mostly eleven, twelve and thirteeners, snowcapped even in high summer, dropping sharpish to the flatter valley. Opposite are the stray peaks, climbable on horseback, past Chimney Rock and outlaw dens, pockets of wildflowers: lupine, arrowleaf, Indian paintbrush and astor ignorant to all but the briefest of showers and the feckless nature of the seasons.


1268982_origAt eleven five, we strung out, nose-to-tail and some dismounted, most didn’t—wise, the vein so narrow as to barely accommodate our beasts breadth, though I spun in lazy arcs through the panorama of red desert to the ancient Black Hills, hiccoughing over the spurs to the north, then back down the knife-edged majesty playing peekaboo amidst the promise of interesting times.


Mt-wood-lake-wildernessCamp lay in a glacial sculpture, bowled out and nicked with purity, the sounds of water tinkling over boulders, noticeable only close up for the air’s thin and greedy to keep its own counsel.



Liberty-Bell-Stars-735The sun yields early but not the light, the granite a reflecting pool of stone, lightening the sanctuary and teasing out the stars one by one until ebon-on-black eases and squeezes the sequins tight-packed and you see the colors, the red giants, the yellow-peach’d G’s and the tepid indigo and you’d think cool but you’d be wrong for they burn hot hot hotter than Kelvin could have imagined.

dsc02130The paint was sturdy, sure-footed. He knew his job, freeing me to be a passenger, a luxury in a dangerous world. The guides carried rifles and pistols and ropes and the panniers swayed side-to-side on mutton-withered mules and wide-body draft crosses, acclimated to climb, to move steady, sure, feet measured in the thousands, ridged and then steep, laying along necks stretched down and out, balancing them, balancing me, and your gut dug into the horn, and knees bent, gripping tight, you wrapped your arms around his neck to hold on, the reins loose and  drooping and no one said don’t because no one could breathe or think other than Oh God don’t let me fall, don’t let me slip, I’ll never stop.

And you wouldn’t, couldn’t.

bones_on_rescue_creek_trailThe skeletons littered the glades, horse, elk, bear and we trolled for memories and put away the cameras because to be you need to see, not through the lens but through the heart.


When I close my eyes, I feel it still, fitting like skin.


About Nya Rawlyns

Crossing boundaries, taking no prisoners. Write what’s in your soul. It’s the bass beat, the heartbeat, the lyrics rude and true. Nya Rawlyns is the pseudonym of a writer who cut her teeth on sports-themed romantic comedy and historical romances before finding her true calling in the wilderness areas she has visited but calls “home” in that place that counts the most: the heart. She has lived in the country and on a sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay, earned more than 1000 miles in competitive trail and endurance racing, taught Political Science to unwilling freshmen, and found an avocation in materials science. When she isn’t tending to her garden or the horses, the cats, or two pervert parakeets, she can be found day dreaming and listening to the voices in her head.
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One Response to Riding to the Top of the World

  1. mo883mpetersdesires says:

    This is beyond majestic, beyond description. How eerily, wonderfully lovely. Thank you so much.



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