I once read that it takes fifteen days to replace all of the water in the human body. I’m not sure how medically accurate that is—perhaps there’s some pocket of cells in our guts or inner ear bones that holds onto childhood water—but the fifteen-day rule has become my measure of acclimation. Places change us, one molecule at a time. We are our watersheds.
In July, I drove out to Wyoming to traverse the Wind River Range with a dozen strangers. Up mountain passes in the Winds, I sweat out the horrible cup of coffee I drank in a Garden of Eden-themed rest stop in southern Idaho, where I fleetingly considered turning my truck around and returning home. One day at a time, I settled into the expedition as water settled into me.
We became the hail that pelted our faces as we trudged into camp. We became the creeks that soaked our feet as we crossed. We became the thunderstorms that frightened us into the lightning position, over and over again. We were the route we forged, made of the same stuff as one another.
In August, I dripped with sweat as I hugged each teammate goodbye on the first pavement we’d touched in weeks. I drove 546 miles in nine hours, an unfathomable pace. I stepped over the threshold, rubbed my dog’s belly, filled a glass in the kitchen sink, and prepared to become home again.