On the other side of the mountains is a trail. It starts on our side, but it's long, and full of people, and the rocks don't even get properly interesting until you're well along it, so it's so much more worth it to just drive to the further parts. Cross the divide, come down the other side.
I know it isn't real. I know I've never been here. I know it isn't in Colorado or New Mexico or Oregon, because it has too many traits of all of them. The deep, golden grass, the fall colours, the lichened, mossy rocks, the clefts and ravines, the truly precipitous mountains looming all around. The light. Always, I visit in the golden hour, in the morning, the evening, as we chase the fading light, as the thunderstorms move in, the sun goes down. We come up from too far back. We come in too late, further down. It's the western side of the not quite Rockies, of a treeless stretch of the Blue Mountains, too steep and barren and grassy to be quite any one.
We walk, we run, we hike. Sometimes, I am alone. Sometimes, my mother is with me. Sometimes, someone else, a third who walks beside us. Ahead. Behind. Sometimes, there is no one else at all.
In the fading evening, I once more come down the trail. Reach the end, an end, a parking lot, and drive down into the grassy plains. The roads are empty. There are houses, few and apart. This isn't even farmland, here, just open space, maybe some grazeland. Eventually, down the winding road, I reach the motel, nestled alone in the angled crossroads of this another another pointless empty highway.
It's flat, long, and narrow, a string of doors under a canopy, parking lot all along it, as all such places are. It's colourful. It has a sign with lights on.
The woman in the lobby hasn't seen whoever I'm looking for. Apparently I already have a room. I thank her and go to bed.
Or do I rather go out again? Because there's also a pub, a steakhouse, a bistro. Not here, but... somewhere around here.
Do I go there, and ask? Do I go and meet my mother? Order the steaks, have some beers. Wonder at the impossibility of it, will we ever have time to make the trail properly, get there early enough to go, end to end?
It's too late for her, of course. She's too old these days to make it all the way. But maybe I could. For her, for myself, for the memory of a memory...
But right now, it's still too late for any of us. Too late in the year. Have to get back too early in the morning. Whole trip is over, right?
Morning comes round, all too soon, all before even the rest. I go, I head out. It has been a long time since I've brought my mother here, or perhaps that she has brought me here. It's winter, now. The light is all wrong, all day long, grey and barren. The golden grass is brown. The sky is empty, all too blue.
I go down, west, away from the mountains. The trip is over. It's time to go home.
I go up, past the motel, past the houses, winding and curving through the hills. Into the valley, the canyon. Into the mountains. Past the lot, at the end. Past the trailheads all along. The light's all wrong. The trail is closed.
There's nothing there, anyway. It isn't real. It's just a dream.