A Brief Respite in the Woods…

 

It took longer than expected to get to where we wanted to go. Happy to be off the winding road and out of the truck we set out on trail, fully loaded for a weekend in the mountains.

Weather was forecasted so our trip would be shorter than desired. But, to be out there again was not only welcoming, it was necessary. The winter weather has been especially wet this year, little snow and lots of rain. We managed to squeeze into a window of days without rain. We’ll take what ever we could get…

During a break near a shallow spring, I listened closely to the silent forest. My mind turned towards the sound of an approaching wind from the next canyon over. In this mostly silent space, I wondered about the wildlife. Hearing mostly silence, when I did hear it’s creatures, I heard birds, only Ravens and Scrub-Jays for now, two very common birds native to this forest. Extremely territorial, playful and predatory birds, I feel as if I am seeing these two species of birds increasingly more and more. Though it is still winter and migrating birds haven’t yet arrived in great numbers.

Continuing to listen, I wondered too, about the Mexican gray wolf, who would rightfully call this forest home, had humans not decimated their numbers to near extinction. This made me think about how un-wild-ed the forests have become… and a sadness creeped over me.

In that moment, I became hyper-sensitive to the forest’s delicate-ness. I noticed the cryptic earth beneath my feet tried to piece it together the bits that I had disturbed just by my resting there. Keeping up as much as possible with the “Do No (more) Harm” motto to our Mother Earth, Gaia.

We continued onward to yet another spring where I noticed that it’s banks of grass had been grazed. There weren’t signs of cow, thank goodness, which I am so inclined to automatically blame, but a gentler creature, deer. Deer tend to tread more gingerly across the landscape, barely disturbing healthy earth. The spring interestingly fed water between two medium sized Alligator junipers and dropped into a small pool before pouring over yet another rocky drop.

Taking some time to admire one of the Alligator junipers, I marvel at it’s ability to live such a long life. It is known that Alligator junipers can live over 1,000 years old, if given the chance. They are too often targeted for removal by cattle ranching, fuel and building materials and have been picked over throughout the last 100 years or so. Otherwise, this forest, and the greater area, would be occupied with many more of these spectacular ancient giants.

Deciding to stop for the day, we made camp atop a hill from the spring. With camp all set-up, I took some time to peruse the area and learn a little more about our home for the night. The forest was a typical ponderosa-dominated forest, yet beautiful. In another moment of respite, I sighed in relief of not hearing the ever-so irritating, sounds of the mundane world. Those town/city-living sounds nearly impossible to escape: noisy trucks, lawn-mowers, leaf-blowers; the neighbors overly-loud vacuum, planes etc. Feeling as if I’ve escaped into my temple once again, I was beginning to feel renewed.

On the trek out, we caught glimpses of surrounding mountains, noticing some still snow-capped ranges. After climbing for a little while, we stopped for one last rest. This time, the forest begins to sing with birds. I hear three different bird calls, no. Five, different birds! And none of them ravens or jays. I love listening to the variety of life around me. I notice a few butterflies dancing about as well. Conjuring up plans for upcoming adventures, with spring just around the corner, we leave the area knowing more awaits us.

I always look forward to moments like these. Not a day goes by without that itch, wanting to be “out there” again. Surrounded by as-untrammeled-as-possible nature… Far away, but always at home.

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