I call them “heart homes”—locations where Mother Nature packages up some of her finest trees, peaks, waterfalls, flowers, sandstone arches, whatever moves you—and you find yourself leaving pieces of your heart there to collect on another visit. At first it is the mind that meanders back to visit, but then the first pilgrimage is planned and anticipation pushes you home. You fear it will not live up to the memories, but heart homes rarely disappoint. The really special places are given zip-codes in our DNA.
My heart found its favorite spot here in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, although it also has established vacation homes high in the Sierra Nevada. The rivers I fish—Uncompaghre, Gunnison, Cimarron, San Miguel—are cherished friends. We have the luxury of frequent visits.
We recently went on a pilgrimage with a friend, an invite one should never turn down. His place required backpacks loaded for a trek into Colorado wilderness. With our Tenkara rods, elk steaks, and bourbon brownies we set up tents on a ridge carpeted with fallen aspen leaves next to a creek draining through the lovely valley. His heart was home. Ours had met a new place through the eyes of someone that had been returning to that spot for decades. His DNA knows the right bend of the stream to find dinner, and we earned the privilege of that knowledge for another time. That is a powerful thing. As happy as heart homes make us, we fear sharing them and tarnishing the glossy shine of our experience with more footprints. I am grateful to be trusted.
As the three of us emerged from his place in the valley and back into the open hillsides I realized how much those couple of days had altered our vision. We had gone into a location that was previously unseen by us, gained a quick intimacy, and we left pieces of us to retrieve another time. On departing we knew the history, the taste of the water and its trout, and the role the landscape had played in forming the person we now call friend.