After hiking mostly uphill all day, our legs were tired, backs sore with our pack straps pulling into our shoulders. If the topo was accurate we would soon reach flatter land where we could camp. But it's easy to imagine being farther along that you are, even with a map. The mind plays tricks - this bend HAS to be it - only to find one more switchback.
But the last bend in the trail does exist and this was it as we turned west and stepped out of the hardwood canopy into a high boggy meadow. Knee-high grasses and colonies of wild blueberries greeted us. Our chests expanded as we breathed in the cooling late afternoon air. Pausing, then exhaling with audible sighs in tired satisfaction.
Not only would this do, it was perfect.
We made camp, gathered nearby stream water, and gobbled down a dinner of rehydrated rice and beans, gorp, and cheese. As the sun slipped below the next ridge a chill settled in.
We drank hot chamomile tea spiked with spiced rum as day gave way to night. We stretched out on our backs, held hands, and gazed into the star-filled moonless night.
And there we were, floating on top of a spinning Earth while the stars gazed back.