She was ahead of me into the rocks, past boulders bigger than a house, past the Indian cave paintings, back and forth along the switchbacks, always ascending, steady under her pack.
We crossed an alpine meadow with yellow grass and on the far side a line of white-trunked birch trees, and after the birch trees vistas opened to the heat-shimmering desert below.
The last part of that mountain is a hand over hand climb up the steep northern slope. We pulled ourselves to the very top and the cold wind washed over us and the sun poured down and the limitless world stretched green and gold in all directions beneath a hazy blue.
I was as nervous as I’ve ever been, and told her my ruse: that hidden somewhere on this peak is a small white container with a sign-in sheet, and it has the signatures of everyone who had ever climbed the mountain, and did she want to sign it?
She searched the peak, hardly bigger than a kitchen floor, turning over the rocks and long flat stones. Finally she found it, deep in a crevice, the dusty old PVC pipe case I had made and buried there. She took the cap off, and there was not a sign-in sheet, but a note, in my handwriting, that said,
Marry me, Kayla, you, the other half of my heart...
She looked up from the note with the white sun blindingly behind her, and I was down on one knee with the ring, and she said "yes, yes, yes."
That night, after a supper of antelope jerky and dried dates and homemade bread with wild grape jelly, we lay down under a soft thin blanket. The full moon shined above the mountains like a lantern. She nestled closer into my shoulder and asked if I would have thrown her off the mountain, if she had said, No?"
Justin Butts is a local farmer and business owner.