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He was still there when I woke up, though I couldn't remember why my dreams thought that was important. The sky was just starting to grow light and he was still asleep. I watched him for a long moment before starting to break down my gear to just the hammock, and packed it away.
He woke slowly as the sun poked through the leaves and warmed up his face. By then, the sunrise was over and I sat crossways in my hammock with some powdered breakfast watching him.
His right leg draped over the taut side-wall and he hoisted himself up by the ridgeline, hair mussed and eyes still half-closed. He climbed out the side away from me with a motion born from much habit and repetition, stretching along the way; hips first, then knees, ankles, shoulders, neck, and arms.
I watched with more than just an observant eye.
He walked around the trees that he was tethered to, unhooking and loosening the lines along the way, and approached me from behind. He stood over my head for the same long moment, taking in the sight of me laying beneath him, before leaning over and kissing me, upside down. He made a face, my breath tainted heavily with powdered whatever, but I grabbed his head and pulled him back again, pulled the kiss deeper, and his eyes widened.
I let go, and he walked over to the car, hatchback still open from my packing and concern over waking him.
"Where is it?"
"Where is what?"
"Your toiletry bag. That stuff is vile."
"Left side of the box."
He pulled out a flat black bag and returned it to me, smirking and waiting.
I scowled, but pulled out my toothbrush and toothpaste, dampened down by water from my bottle, and cleaned myself up, spitting into a small garbage bag, and returning the supplies to their pockets. Accepting the effort, he crawled into the hammock next to me and let me kiss him again. I held him tenderly, and he enjoyed the wandering of my hands.
When he pulled away to catch his breath, he rolled to one side, resting his head on my shoulder, one arm on my chest and one leg betwixt mine.
"Frisco. Eight hours."
"No. Dispersed." I couldn't keep the smiled off my face with that word.
"How far do we have to hike?"
"We can camp right off the road if it's not busy."
"What's the rule?"
"Hundred feet from the creek; quarter mile from the entrance."
I'd done the math before I left, and had a decent topo in the car. This was a planned stop, unlike Calamus. At fifteen hundred feet from the entrance, the creek was five hundred feet from the road, and stayed more than a hundred feet for about a quarter mile. There would be plenty of room and privacy for us to squeeze in with anybody else in the area, on either side of the road.
We laid together for a little longer before I started growing antsy.
"What is it?"
"I hate Nebraska. Let's go."
"Eight hours to Frisco."
After four hours of silence and hand-holding, I pulled aside at the Last Days of the Buffalo rest area. I found an empty stretch of lawn and laid down on the grass, letting the kinks ease themselves out of my body through the warmth of the sun. A toe nudged me after a few minutes, and I rolled over in reply.
He knelt next to me and massaged my shoulders, back, and legs. I let my eyes close and mind drift. When he was done, I rolled onto my side and smiled at him.
"My pleasure, though you might want to lay there a little longer while your gratitude fades down."
I laughed, and he got up and grabbed some food. When I was ready to sit up, there was a bottle of my slosh waiting for me, and I chugged it down, cleaned it out, and returned to the car.
It was a bright and clear day, so I pulled off to the side of the road a scant two hours later, just west of Fort Morgan. I didn't get out of the car, just sat gazing westward, a warm hand on my thigh. I could see mountains, and as ever, they took my breath away. I put my hand on his for a short minute, and then pulled back into traffic.
We stopped for gas in Denver before beginning the climb on 70. It was early in the afternoon and there were few cars on the road; that came as very reassuring as my car didn't handle steepness well and we were really getting into the climb. I knew cars would stack up behind me where there wasn't room to pass, and I'd lose some time pulling over where the route widened out to let traffic get around me again, but we were among the mountains. That alone made me happy.
It was closer to three hours than two before we rolled through Frisco. Though the light was already fading, we stopped for gas before heading for camp, topping off the tank to bar any unforeseen issues. While we were there, I made sure the maps on my phone were up to date and plugged in the coordinates for the quarter mile marker.
Thirty-nine and a half north, one-oh-six and a bit west.
The trees were dense enough that we set up side-by-side. If we started swinging in tandem, we'd bump into each other. I lent him my spare bugnet, and we laid out the rainfly over us both. The woods were dark and deep, and it felt like we had the place to ourselves, though there was a tent a hundred feet or so up the road, and judging by the traffic, more still further on.
He was close enough to touch, separated by only a foot and two layers of mesh, and that felt like too much to bridge. It took me longer than usual to fall asleep.
39°33'54.5"N 106°04'58.8"W / 39.565151, -106.082996