It began 22 years ago. My husband and his best friend had a trip planned. Our friend challenged me to come along and bring my boys, then 3 and 18 months.
"Bring a chair and sit there. We'll do everything else."
I nervously went along and a love affair was born. Every summer since that August so many years ago I have packed up our family car with gear and taken my boys to the mountains to camp. It didn't matter the age, my pregnant condition, or the weather predictions. Pack n Plays, baby swings, toys, bikes, coats and swimsuits, cooking gear, lanterns, coolers, food, sleeping bags, tents, first aid kits, and so much more have filled every tiny crevice of our car then truck then Suburban. If Bret couldn't come then I would load up the boys and we would go without him. Sometimes if work permitted he would join us on weekends but often times I went at it alone.
It was on these mountains that I caught my first fish, saw my first bear, hunted my first deer, stayed awake to listen to the coyotes yelping and elk bugle. I sound like a guy.
I overcame my fear of thunderstorms after being stuck with my children all alone in a tent in the most ferocious thunder and lightning storm that I had ever experienced. I learned how to cook on a camp stove, in a dutch oven and over a fire. I am much better in a camp kitchen than my home kitchen. I learned to love the outdoors.
I gained a confidence and independence that filtered into other parts of my life.
We had a favorite area that quickly became my "happy place". My children believed that this was where the 3 little pigs lived. And so that it what we called it. The 3 little pigs.
Every time I've wanted to run away from life, this is where I've gone. Even If I couldn't actually take the time to literally go there, my mind would at least allow me to visit.
On May 29 a fire was left unattended. That fire, or what some have described as an uncontrollable beast, has devoured my mountain. It has become the largest wildfire my state has ever had. The lookout tower that my boys all climbed and "marked" is now a tower of twisted metal. The aspens that crossed the road letting us know we had 3 more miles until we got there will no longer quiver in the breeze. The fresh scent of pine after a rain storm will never, in my lifetime, smell the same. Not in this forest.
My biggest sorrow is that I will not be able to continue this tradition with my youngers and my grands. Their memories of our trips to Westfork will be short and limited. Their adventures were few. And my grands will never know their Nana's happy place. Yes, we'll go back. But the landscape is forever changed.
One irresponsible act led to indescribable destruction that is irreplaceable in my lifetime.
BUT - I have my pictures. I have my memories. I have great family stories to tell. I have a love for the outdoors that I am forever thankful for.
Here's to you Kim for challenging me to do something that would forever change my life and My Bret, who had the trust and confidence in me to let me pack up and go each and every summer.
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