Camping is one of those things I know is not for everyone – sleeping just an inch or so off the ground, smoke wafting in your face and ash settling in your food, dirty clothes and fingernails a constant – but I love it. Call me crazy (you won’t be the first one) but I miss it and long for it by the end of winter, and after the spring rush of roads opening up, the mountain buzzing to life with projects, people, plans, problems… heading to the high country is a welcome relief for me. Even if it means digging ditch while I’m up there.
The first night I begin to unwind, relax, let go. I breath and it becomes deep and slow and steady. The high mountain air fills me with its thin but intense richness until I am full, complete, feeling myself and the world around me in away I cannot do with distractions and noises and sights and sounds that remind me of other things I could and should be doing besides just being there.
In the sound of the rushing creek, I still here motors approaching, trucks and ATVs driving up, for which back home I must stop whatever I’m working on. But here, we’re in the Wilderness. The one with the capital “W.” The magnificent Weminuche Wilderness, the largest of Colorado’s Wilderness areas. There are no vehicles here. From our camp, the nearest motors are miles and miles and miles away, except for the occasional over passing plane. And still, all that first night I mistake the sounds… the creek is the roar of an engine, the stomping of a horses foot is the slamming of a cabin door, the chorus of the birds is the barking dogs and yelling neighbors…
But slowly I learn to hear. And the rush of the river fills me, the sweet song of the birds whirls around me and surrounds me with relief. The snort of my horses relieves me, a reminder of how content and relaxed they too are in their high mountain pasture.
The first morning I awake as the tent begins to glow with early silver light. I bundle in wool and down before heading out of the warm zipped up cocoon of the tent, leaving the sleeping boys and dog behind for another hour or so of well needed sleep, to take the horses from the high line and turn them out to graze. They are anxious; they nicker excitedly as they see me and paw the ground until it is their turn to be released, always hardest for the last horse tied.
Then I return to the camp, build the fire and put on a big pot of water. As I await the first cup of “cowboy coffee,” I wander up the trail, following perhaps an elk trail across the frosty meadow, or meander through a thicket of spruce and sub alpine fir trees, heavy and lush with the rich ground amassed from years of undisturbed growth. I return to camp as the coffee has boiled, pour a cup, stoke the fire, sit quiet and still and listen. It is loud. The birds – I can not make them all out there are so many in those early morning hours – create a wild but joyous cacophony throughout the surrounding treetops. The river runs stronger in the morning, roaring loudly to one side of camp. If I listen clearly, I can discern this from the sound of the gentle brook flowing on the other side, the one from which I gather our camp waters and from which our horses drink.
The fire begins to warm me. I sit and listen. And for but a moment, there is wanting for nothing else.