During the night the clouds floated in and brought a cleansing rainfall to the forest to the west and the plains to the east. I awoke on Thursday to the dark skies and drizzle that persisted, occasionally increasing, and lingered late into the night. Friday morning and perhaps into the weekend, the forecast promised sunshine, clear skies, and mild, soothing breezes, and the view of the mountains undoubtedly would be splendid. But on my first seriously rainy day since I started at the Forest Service, the view of the mountains vanished in a mix of dreary clouds. Low fog tumbled over them, almost as if poured like a cream falling from the blur between the foothills and the sky. And the slow, steady rain, although not a downpour, rang loudly on the metal roof of the office building.
Our structure looked more like a converted warehouse, and the garage-like building next door where we stored our supplies, forms, and brochures didn’t even contain a false ceiling. Only when a tractor-trailer drove by could approaching vehicles be heard over the noise of the rain. Visitors were few and the day trudged along unexcitedly.
Engrossed in reading the monthly bulletin from our regional headquarters, I heard the familiar cow bell and my boss casually appeared at my desk. His baseball cap, which I never saw him remove, finally came off as he shook whatever excess water he could from his hat and head. The green brim and fabric were thoroughly saturated from the rain and his hair was pressed against his head from the rain, the cap, and its nearly permanent placement.
“Keeping dry out there?” I asked snarkily.
He just smiled. He, too, was one of those soft-spoken types. “Yeah,” he finally commented after removing his jacket, “it’s a little damp out there.”
“I believe I heard you say you were up at the historic site this morning with the interns. Are they all settled in up there? Do they need anything?”
“Yes,” he nodded slowly, repeatedly, after a delay in responding. “They’re a good team. Young, but good.” My boss amused me with his Wyoming mannerisms and conversational style. Most of what I learned from the humanities brochure about the Wyoming manner of speaking certainly applied to him.
When I stood next to him, which I’d only done once or twice, we just about looked the same height. I often thought he could pass for my brother, if I had one living. He wasn’t the kind of leader to inspire me to charge up San Juan Hill, but he struck me as a decent guy who liked his job. He certainly didn’t belabor points or sugar-coat policy updates. He just told people how it was and left it at that.
“I didn’t even hear your truck pull back in here. The rain is so loud.”
“Yep,” he said, glancing up at the ceiling and the clatter it generated. Nearly a month and I still couldn’t tell if he disdained me, appreciated me, or even remembered my name. At least I had Bonnie for a small bit of office banter, as dull as it was.
“Hey Bonnie, you busy?” I peeked my head in her office after our boss disappeared into the back of the building towards his desk.
“Just the usual stuff.”
“ I want to update the brochure display by the front door, but I’ll need to check to see if everything in the garage is already on display. It might take me until lunch time. Do you mind listening for the phones and the radio?”
“Sure that’s fine. In fact, I think there is a new brochure for the Creek Lodge. It changed owners not too long ago and I am not sure if the brochure that is out is the newest one or the previous one.”
“The Creek Lodge, is that the one on Highway 14?”
“No that’s the Moose Mountain Lodge. The Creek Lodge is on the main highway near the pass.”
“Got it. Okay. I’ll double check for that, too. Thanks.”
I left the main building and stepped down towards the garage, thankful that the two buildings included a cover over the space between them. As I opened the door, the smell of damp cardboard reminded me of my scattered apartment. Having made steady progress, at least my place did not smell as potent as this room. From the pounding sound on the roof, it wouldn’t surprise me if somewhere this building was leaking and pool of water and an aged, dilapidated box of outdated brochures were blending to form a mess I did not want to discover or clean up. Suddenly my apartment didn’t seem quite so putrid, and at least it benefitted from scented candles.
With the rain, the low clouds, and even the wind came the forebodance of an early autumn, even though we were barely a month into the summer season. I felt like the warmest months of the year were slipping away from me and I was still rearranging my apartment. Maybe I should just leave for a few days and take off into the mountains. Then I could see the Moose Mountain Lodge and the Creek Lodge, or the historic site, or just spend a weekend outside of my apartment.
The front moving through would bring a little cooler air tomorrow, but the next few days would be sunny – perfect camping weather, well to the extent that I camped. I bought a tent and sleeping bag about a year ago. Making a list of supplies I still needed would be helpful. My first serious attempt at a campground last fall resulted in my sleeping in my car because I forgot insect repellant and I would have been eaten alive just setting up my tent. And while I did remember my spray on my second outing, during a Texas storm, the downpour prohibited any activity outside my car. Even once the rain stopped, the wind blew so strong, I could feel my car swaying in my sleep. My nylon tent would have flapped wildly all night.
As much I enjoyed the outdoors, I never wanted to spend more than one night away from home. I hated going more than a day and a half without showering, especially washing my hair, and even though some campgrounds included showers, lugging all the stuff around for one night took the fun out of the experience. Not that camping was always fun. I remember the first night in my tent, last fall at Willow Point in Central Texas. I’m so glad I bought that air mattress.
“I need to get all my gear out, maybe this weekend, and force myself to get into the woods and enjoy the mountains.” Between the rain on the metal roof and the distance to the next building, no one could hear me talking to myself. Sometimes saying the words aloud made them stick when I lacked motivation. Besides, I really wanted to explore the mountains. Why was I needing to convince myself? Perhaps the remaining boxes in my apartment beckoned to be unpacked, but the call of the mountains grew nearly as loud as the summer rain on the thick, metal roof.
NEXT: The Invitation – Part 10