If I could find a bull with his lungs in his hindquarters, I'd make a damn fine hunter. So far, I've had only fleeting glimpses of disappearing bulls. In two days, this country has taken me down a few pegs. I've quietly told Nichols I'll be happy with any legal bull. We spent sundown today overlooking a grassy bowl with snow still lingering in the shadows of the trees while a beaver pulled a vee of cold water across a pond he'd built. It was a perfect place for elk, but none showed.
Now it's dark again, and we're on the long, cold ride back to camp. In the timber, I can't even see my horse's mane, much less the trail. There's no option but to surrender, sit back, and trust him. At last we come out into open country under a dome of stars so clean and sharp they almost hurt to look at. In three days-elk or no elk-I'll head back to a smaller life, to the world of telephones, shaving cream, and worry. But for the moment, this country has stripped the scab of daily existence clean, leaving just the core of what it is to be alive. What I know is that I'm exhausted, sore, almost numb with cold, and strangely happy. I only know that we are headed for camp and the promise of a drink, a hot meal, and a warm sleeping bag, all just a few miles ahead, somewhere below the lowest star in the Big Dipper.