Into the Heart of the Wilderness


Wind River Range, WY Part 3.

I now feel that I’ve crossed the threshold.  Into the heart of this wilderness.  No people are to be found.  The air buzzes with life.  And the scenery is grandeur.  Massive pyramids.  Domes. Spires.  Made from solid granite and rising straight out of the ground.  Not broken, crumbling granite, but entire slabs rising 2000 feet out of the earth.  Much like unbroken sandstone walls of the desert canyons of Utah I so love.  And the trees are very healthy now.  Spaced far enough apart to allow for expansive views in every direction.

Around every corner and over each knoll a new landscape presents itself to me.  Each more magnificent than the last.  Chipmunks, birds, and butterflies populate the trail in front of me.  I literally feel I must watch my step to avoid stepping on one of these happy, fearless little creatures. The Gray Jays around the heavily populated camping areas were scruffy looking with sunken eyes.  Their bodies nourished by bits of Cheetos, chips, and power bars that people have dropped on the ground or fed to them directly.  Here, those same birds have feathers oily smooth with bright eyes that sparkle.  Yes, even some animals take on the life of a beggar while others choose a more authentic lifestyle.

I wander past wide rivers with their large s-curves winding through tall green grasses.  And then through narrow gullies with small streams reflecting the brilliant blue sky and puffy white clouds as I walk by.  Lining the streams are flowers.  Vibrant shades of yellow, purple, red, white.

This is peak summer in the mountains.  It’s August 10th.  The best time to be alive for both animal and human.  They flutter and scanter about with such exuberance and vitality. Full of energy!  Chasing each other.  Playing.  Singing.  Celebrating.  Announcing their presence and joy to the world.  They have a long snowy winter ahead of them.  A challenge greater than any of us are likely to ever experience.  For our food, shelter, and basic necessities are almost guaranteed.  Taken for granted.  But watching these animals today, you wouldn’t be able to tell. They are soaking up the present moment for all its glory.

Dinner.  Mediterranean.  Sun-dried tomato pesto with quinoa, toasted pine nuts, and snow peas.  To die for.  Snow peas are one of the lightest and most delicious vegetables you can bring backpacking.  And they seem to stay fresh for quite a while.  Today, I climbed over the continental divide.  Hayley pass.  12,000 feet elevation.  Despite the 2000 foot climb, I felt light and full of energy.  The backpack feels much lighter than yesterday, though I’ve only eaten one days worth of food.

At the beginning of a wilderness trip, your pack is heavy. Awkward.  Overflowing with all your baggage.  Personal baggage.  Weighing you down.  But as the trip progresses, your pack starts to feel lighter.  You feel lighter.  And the personal baggage falls away.  The pack becomes a welcome friend.  Helping you along the trail.  Keeping you company, well fed, and warm.

Now at camp, sipping my tea, a soft light fills this basin.  The ground is carpeted in lush green velvet.  Perfectly formed pines line the north side of a cascading stream.  Its sounds will surely infuse my dreams with mystery and wonder.  Directly in front of me, a half dome rises 3000 feet out of the ground.  On all sides I am surrounded by granite castles and monuments.  The sound of water is all-consuming.

The secret to life is right now.  Not in the future.  It’s in every living moment.  Whatever that moment might look like.

When you finally stop thinking, and look at the plants, see  the plants, flowers, trees around you, and see them for all their grace and beauty, you realize something quite profound.  You realize that they have been there all along.  Waiting.  Your entire life.  Right beside you.  Just bursting with love.  Happy to see you.  Just waiting. Waiting for you to get out of your head and into life.

When you finally stop thinking, and look at the people around you, really see them for all their grace and beauty, you will notice that they too have been here all along.  Just patiently waiting.  Waiting for you to look up.  To wake up.  And when you wake up, they wake up too.  Just by being in your presence.

You can change your world in an instant.  Just by stopping, looking up, and seeing the world for all its glory and splendor.  And your world, indeed will be filled with glory and splendor.


If you’d like to follow me on the rest of this amazing and spiritual journey, please SUBSCRIBE to my blog.  You can easily do so in the upper right hand corner of this page.  The plan is to post one entry onto the blog each week from the trip.  Any feedback or comments would really be appreciated.  Also if you could let me know which posts are best for submitting as editorials too.  Enjoy the ride!

~Scott Stillman


Into the Heart of the Wilderness — 3 Comments

  1. I’ve only been backpacking one day in my life ~ in the early ’80s. It was glorious. At 55 your writing takes me back to younger years and now a better appreciation for my health, nature and all the blessings that I don’t even know! My promise to myself is to go again before another year passes to look AND see the plants, the flowers and trees. I will be studying your Backpacking Checklist and Recipes. Any ideas for a place to start would be welcome ~ something easy at first for this less-than-confidant, out of shape, mid-aged gal with a passion to live!

  2. Cyndi,

    Your post makes me very happy because what you are saying is exactly what I set out to do when I decided to make my private backcountry journal entries into a public blog. We are blessed in this world of abundant beauty. Beauty that can be found in a city park, a patch of grass growing through a crack in the sidewalk, or backpacking the many wilderness areas of our country. You can start SEEING now. And when it’s time to go backpacking, there are plenty of magical places to choose from. If you want desert scenery, I would recommend Canyonlands. Perhaps even read Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitare before you go. If it’s mountains you want, it’s hard to beat Lost Creek Wilderness for rolling terrain, flower filled meadows, and sparkling trout streams. Just remember, it’s not the distance that’s important. You can sometimes see more in a mile than you can in hundred.

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