The Hundredth Meridian

Up From Michigan

Fontenelle Creek ran fast and brown at the crossing, the waves flashing backward, flooding islands of willow that bent before the strength of the water to show the gray undersides of the slender leaves. I left the jeep at the trailhead on the near side of the ford and commenced walking, taking along only binoculars and a new pair of yellow elkhide gloves.

I walked very quickly up the trail through the dark cold woods and across the two shaded openings in the trees to Bear Trap Creek. The creek was high with the late spring runoff, all the stepping-stones covered by domes of clear foaming water. I walked straight through it, feeling the snowmelt soak in around my feet, and up the opposite bank in squelching boots. On the grassy rise beyond, a snag lay across the base camp where Kovaches used to put a hunting trailer before the Forest Service closed the road, overlooking the creek where it descends the steep-sided canyon. Beneath the flooding, the changed meanders cut since fall by the runoff showed plainly. It was hot in the open bottom, going between the willows growing over the trail on the creek side and the wildflowers and sagebrush rising steeply with the terrain on the other, and before I had walked half a mile the boots were dry and the socks inside them only damp. Baked by the sudden heat, the red clay trail fixing the tracks of deer and elk was rigid underfoot. I pushed hard in spite of a bunged knee, drawing down air to the...

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