The yellow dog and I were off on a two-hour jaunt in the woods the other day. She would lark ahead, following the trail and her nose. At intervals, determined entirely on her own, she would come trotting back to check in. I like that in a dog. It tells me she's thinking about me, that she isn't just out on a solo romp. I like that in people, too. I have several friends who, unprompted, will call or send a message or drop by just to see what's up. I try to do the same with them. It feels good on both ends.
DULUTH — I spend isolated moments of each day now anticipating an upcoming adventure. Six of us — trail-tested friends — will soon slip our canoes into a Canadian wilderness lake and push off. We'll spend 10 days on the trail at about 3 miles per hour — the perfect speed for travel in my opinion. Much about the trip will be familiar — we do this every year. We are, in many ways, going home.
MEDORA, N.D. — We're trying to give the two bison a wide berth, but it isn't easy. We're hemmed in in a tiny meadow bordered by a wall of clay and juniper-choked drainages. The two of us are no more than 25 yards from the closest bull, who has raised his massive head to deliver a deadpan stare. Duluth's Ken Gilbertson and I have come upon the bulls during a week of backpacking in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park Badlands. We've been hiking all day in a cold, slanting rain. Our boots are caked with a sludge of bentonite clay.
I wasn't sure I wanted to go. A steady rain tapped on the porch roof. The temperature was 37 degrees on this early May morning. But I had told the yellow dog we would get up and go for a run in the 660-acre woods. And, as Robert Service wrote, "A promise made is a debt unpaid."