I can’t get a stretch of trail out of my head.

It must be the season.

I haven’t been there for years, but years ago I walked it many times every fall.

The stretch of trail I keep seeing isn’t particularly scenic or rugged. It’s not near the beginning or the end, but somewhere near the middle.

While it’s deep in the mountains and only a couple of miles from the top of the divide, the timber is so thick there you’d never guess what’s ahead.

It’s not an official trail — marked only by faint blazes cut years ago — and peters out in a large basin just below the divide. Probably the work of a sheepherder, the trail reaches the high, open country just below timberline, and quits.

But the stretch I keep seeing is lower on the mountain and easy to follow, winding through a patch of doghair pines, so thick they’d hold you upright if you stumbled into them.

I’ve never shot anything there, and can’t remember even seeing an animal along that stretch.

It’s about an hour from the trailhead, up an old logging road, and about a mile past the last clearcut.

I suppose when heading in on that stretch of trail it was where I began to feel the wildness of the country, the land no longer marked by roads and logging. Not far up the trail I had seen grizzly tracks on more than one occasion, and I was always on high alert when hunting there.

Downfall blocked the trail a quarter mile up, but I’d long ago figured out how to pick my way through, and once free of the jumble of downed trees I felt as if I’d passed through a gate into an elk pasture.

There was always sign, and it was rare not to pick up fresh tracks.

Over the years I killed two bulls and a cow there, and dragged them out on the snow-packed trail. I recall a couple of very difficult stretches on the way out, but not the stretch I keep seeing. Perhaps it offered just enough downhill to ease the burden. Maybe I simply stopped there to catch my breath.

I’ve certainly walked prettier trails than this one winding through thick, dark timber, a steep climb behind, a steeper one above. I suppose I should be happy it’s not the end of the trail I keep seeing, but the middle instead. Apparently, there are still miles to go.

Parker Heinlein is at pman@mtintouch.net.