I spent my first seven, and then eight of the next eleven years, in Janesville, Wisconsin. My parents still live there. I ran countless miles there – road and trail, cross-country and track – there, and there are still probably several loops I could run by memory, with my eyes closed. Kerri tells me it's a cute town, and each trip back, I still find more new stories to tell her. I grew up there, and it will always be part of my history, but it feels less and less like home, and more and more like the place my parents live.
I lived several years in Minneapolis / St Paul; I carry many fond memories from each of the two schools I taught at, and, again know of several loops I could likely run with my eyes closed. I ran my highest mileage weeks in St Paul, and set many of my personal best distances and times there or in the surrounding area. Kerri's sister has lived the last few years in Minneapolis; my brother has lived in Minneapolis, St Paul, or one of their suburbs most of the last ten years. Many of our closest friends – the friends with whom we talk of our someday cul-de-sac-opia, Kerrtopia, commune community – still live in the Twin Cities. But the Twin Cities, too, feel less and less like home, and more and more like a big city where many of our best friends live.
Much of Minnesota and Wisconsin once felt like home, truthfully; as I've told Kerri, I make memories best through physical association, through sweat, and I've left gallons of sweat on so many of those roads and trails. Many fond memories have I still of those adventures, challenges, spur-of-the-moment ideas. I'll always treasure the adventure of those years, but there, too, all the familiar roads and trails feel less and less like home, and more and more like a place I know well, have studied, carry somehow in my DNA.
Three summers I spent in the Sawtooth range of central Idaho, three summers looking forward to every opportunity to play in the mountains, to run and scramble and hike and climb, to summit big peaks and look out on bigger vistas. Three summers I spent swimming in these alpine lakes and fording these alpine creeks and navigating through these thick, brushy Lodgepole forests. Three summers I spent coming to love Idaho's wild places and rugged peaks with every fiber of my tired body. So much blood and sweat have I left on these trails, and so much more will I yet leave – but this trip, it felt less and less like home, and more and more like a place of unfinished business, a place we'll come to know and love together, sometime in our future. But that future is not right now.
A year I spent in McCall, teaching outdoor science. It was a good year – snow science was something I hadn't taught before, and I was able to spend nearly as much time drinking good Scotch Ale as I spent skiing, either beside Payette Lake or above it. At one point, those Ponderosa forests felt like home, and I thought I'd be back to make it so. Together, Kerri and I have made several trips. But each time, it feels less and less like home, and more and more like a pretty place we know well; we'll likely help out with IMTUF this year, and we'll certainly make more trips through McCall in the future - but it isn't our home, nor will it likely ever be.
Three years ago, Kerri and I made nearly this exact drive, from Minneapolis to Wenatchee then as well. We originally planned to take three or four days, then took seven. This trip we refused to give ourselves deadlines or a specific timeline; we instead planned to stop as we saw fit, and to play on trails we missed the last time, whether because of vehicle issues (as our car died in the Tetons last time) or crunched schedule (as was the case in the Sawtooths and outside McCall). For the most part, we've stuck to that plan, though crowds still drove us through Yellowstone and Grand Teton faster than we'd originally planned.
The bigger difference? Three years ago felt like the start of something. This trip feels like the continuation of everything. Three years ago we were just meeting each other, learning each other's stories and histories, and beginning to see how we might fit. Now we know how we fit, and are learning what constitutes home, our home: Alpine lakes, big peaks, trails in need of love. Now we know we're each others favorite future, know we're fit for a life spent loving trails and moreso each other, know this is home – wherever we're sharing trails and love and this adventure together.
That's exactly what home is now. All of those other places were once, but home now? Home is much more fluid, much more open, and so much easier to find. Home's wherever we're together.