{Strong Enough} To Bend

It was a hot, high noon in July as I topped Pyramid Pass headed down canyon on an eight day backcountry trip to the heart of the Bob Marshall. I’d seen the burn scar late last fall after the fires subsided. I knew the devastation that lay ahead, but as I rode through it with fresh eyes of summer, I felt my heart strings twinge and the insurmountable lump in my throat form. I worked to fight back tears as my eyes took in the charred landscape sending more heart pangs deep in my chest and feeling them make way to the pit of my stomach. Gut punched. Heartsick.

Tears welled, and I pinched my eyes shut feeling them trickle down my dusty cheeks wondering if that were the one drop of moisture that I might feel all damn day on the twenty odd miles of barren trail ahead. My throat swelled and felt dry. I reached out to the burnt and gnarled alpine fir and felt it’s brittle branch snap as I pulled my sooted hand away and brushed it against my jeans. I watched the powdery dust plume with every step my horse took, and I lifted my eyes skyward. I didn’t ask why. I didn’t care anymore, but the thirty plus years of memories flooded back; memories of green, of the tree with grandpa’s initials carved in it marking his presence in the Bob; miles upon miles of memories riding different horses for long hours down this Young’s Creek drainage I literally grew up in. And I know the heaviness of those memories I felt, my parents and Aunt and Uncle feel ten fold as they ride these same trails.

I can’t begin to explain in any sort of tangible fashion the amount of space this place has in my heart or that of my family’s, and no matter how much I tell myself to not be attached to such earthly places and things, it can’t be helped. Or maybe I don’t want to help it. Being of the mountains, this place is steeped in every memory, every fabric in the tapestry of our life here. I know this place made me. It shaped character. It made me tough. The drastic change of the landscape, in some places almost unrecognizable… it just feels like a well aimed kick by the meanest son of bitching mule you’ve ever met.

I recenter myself in the saddle, open my eyes, and look ahead. I have to look ahead. We all have to look ahead. And as hard as that may seem, I look again at the curled, burnt, little pines that turn earthward after a fire, almost as if they signify a slight circle of hope. Little sprigs of green bear grass show their tufts here and there, the fireweed blooms it’s brilliant purple, the birch leafed spirea softening the blow of black. The quiet bubbling springs and elk wallows that never before revealed their presence now show as if to remind me this too will be beautiful again one day; even if it never happens in my lifetime.

Strong enough to bend. That’s what it means to see something that means so much through it’s worst of times. This new reality of living through fire reminds me what true rejuvenation means, it reminds me to grow and change with it, to love it thoroughly and wholly, and let it’s scar be a part of my family’s story of how we were all strong enough to bend.

Remember there is always beauty in every state of being in this life. We’re all strong enough to bend, and we’re all better for it when we do~

Happy Trails💕


7 thoughts on “{Strong Enough} To Bend

    1. Hi Heather (& Peggy) —

      I’ve had a note on my calendar to send you both a little note on this day, and to my surprise I received a little email directing me to this post! One year ago today, I flew across the country and stepped into your home. Thank you for welcoming me and making feel like I belonged!

      I read your post and it reminded me of the area we camped in last summer. I remember talking to Kylie (sp?) on the ride in about the area which had burned 30 years earlier. I felt like my life was burning down around me. Then you, Kylie, Jason & I took that long horseback ride on the last day, and I saw fresh new growth! I knew that the burn was an opportunity to cleanse the toxicity from my life and rebuild. I knew it would take time. I’m in such a better place than I was 12 months ago, really better than I’ve ever been. Sharing your home (when I say that I mean not just the ranch, but the wilderness areas you enjoy and care for) was the first step in my rebuild. I know the most recent fires have been devastating and I know it will take time to get used to the new views, but it will come back!

      thank you both again, and let everyone else know I say “Hi.” I will be back to see you sometime, hopefully sooner rather than later. 🙂

      Happy Trails, Dominic.


      1. Hi Dominic- You’re always so generous and kind with your comments. Thank you for sharing your story and for entrusting us to show you a piece of the Bob. Which, in turn, always reveals a piece of ourselves we never knew existed. I’m glad to hear you’re doing well, and I definitely hope our paths cross again. ~Heather


  1. a beautiful tribute to your family, to the bob, and to yourself. being strong enough to bend and to move forward are lessons we must keep re-learning, it seems. thank you for the post. i am always happy when one shows up in my inbox ❤


  2. This is great Heather. What I read is not only your soul but your heart. The photos you captured are beautiful even in the burnt scars of it all. It’s the sun that shines through those scars that you capture so well. People say a photo is worth a million words. I think your photography skills capture more heart and soul than most. You are really in “your prime” with this! ❤


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