Being out in the wilderness is probably the time that I am most in the space of being with what is. Recently a friend, who had been visiting both before and after time I spent in nature, observed afterward that I was notably calmer. I just re-experienced this on a backpacking trip in the Desolation Wilderness with Brad. We had not been backpacking in awhile, and we were both aching to get out there.
I think the wilderness calms me in part it is because it is a time completely devoid of distraction. I am out there, backpacking, hiking through spectacular country. Noticing. The smell of the trees, the sap, that distinct pine smell that only seems to happen in the high country. I love it out there. Being in the wilderness floods me with a sense of peace. The smell alone has a tremendous calming effect on me. Noticing the trees themselves, the variety of color and pattern in their bark, in awe of a forest of such ancient beings, while being grateful for their shade. The sound of the breeze through the conifer branches, and now and then the sound of water running in a stream somewhere below us, creating a sense of cool.
The trail we hiked started at Eagle Falls at Emerald Bay on Lake Tahoe. The trail immediately climbs up into the mountains, gaining 2,000 feet in the first two miles, emerging from forested land into the granite expanse of the interior of Desolation. Our destination was Dick's Lake, at 8,550 feet, a place we had been to before, and a bit more remote than lakes closer in to the Tahoe Basin.
We probably worked harder to find our campsite at Dick's Lake than we have ever before, but it was worth it. Scrambling up and over steep granite faces with 50 pounds on my back, I stumbled upon a site in a ring of huge trees, with two different access points to the lake. One, with flat rocks that dropped off into deep water on one side, and the other with a gently sloping sandy 'beach' on the other. I "hooted" across the lake to signal to Brad to follow.
Our most memorable experiences backpacking have been during the full moon, and this was no exception. Dick's Lake lies in a granite bowl, and when the full moon poked above the ridge to flood the lake basin in light, the white granite glowed, and the occasional dead tree stood starkly white on he opposite shore. While watching the sunset, trout jumped around us, bats skimmed the lake surface and performed convoluted aerial maneuvers, occasionally zipping past our heads. I don't think I had ever heard the sound of bat wings so clearly before, almost a buzzing sound as they flew directly toward us and veered off at the last moment. The moon was so bright that we were able to continue to watch the bats into the night.
Mornings in the wilderness are so often intensely quiet times. Each morning the lake showed scarcely a ripple, mirroring the surrounding landscape and sky. We sat in silence taking in this sight, noticing the birds, the occasional chipmunk, the stillness, drinking our tea, grateful to be there.
It is easy for me to get caught up in the often frenetic pace of life. Being in the wilderness offers a moment to be still and be reminded of the incredible magic life has to offer.
Today is my birthday, and writing this - taking myself back to Desolation Wilderness - was a lovely present.