Freemont Trail, Wind River Range, WY

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Wind River Range, WY Part 2

Camp.  Rain on the tent fly.  It’s early afternoon.  I’ve only hiked a little over 5 miles today, but this spot was just too pretty to pass up.  And besides, I’m in the mood for a lazy day.  The last backpacking trip was a bit ambitious.  Left me longing for more downtime.  And downtime is what I have.  My camp is situated on a lake peninsula with water all around me, yet there are plenty of trees for shelter from the wind and rain.  Wildlife is everywhere.  Grey Jays (otherwise known as Camp Robbers), chipmunks, squirrels, dragonflies, butterflies, and ducks (with baby ducks in tow) all play in my private lagoon.

Thunder in the distance.  A constant rumble.  The rain comes in waves. Large drops.  It’s a peculiar thing to be in a tent while it’s raining.  The rain is all-encompassing, yet you are completely dry and warm.  The feeling makes you giddy.  Like a child.  Hiding out in my play fort. Safe and protected.  I think of all the “tents” of my childhood.  Blankets over chairs, tables, lamps. Anchored to the dresser with toys, TV sets, boomboxes, vases, typewriters.  It’s amazing we made it out alive from these structures.  But we were protected.  Protected from the adults, chores, homework, the “real world” outside.  We would spend hours in these blanket tents.  As happy as can be.  Not much has changed, I guess.  Just a bigger playground.

And just like that, the rain has ended.  The sun is out.  Turning my tent into a sauna.  A welcome feeling at the moment, but soon it will force me out and into the world once more.

After a long, lazy afternoon including a lakeside siesta, I packed up camp and moved on.  The lake was starting to feel crowded.  This was a daytime place, not an evening place.  More solitude was preferred and the evening sun was magnificent, beckoning for a stroll through the mountains of light and shadow.  After hiking by another lake, along meandering streams, and through a lush narrow valley, I came upon a massive basin with sprawling views in all directions.  Here I could easily wander off trail to any number of grass carpeted slopes for a private camp with grand views and an immense night sky for star-gazing.

In the glowing light of sunset, I prepared a stir fry of brown rice, zucchini, and cashews.  A meal so flavourful and fulfilling, I was beside myself with feelings of joy and abundance.  How lucky am I!  To have this mountain cathedral, this kaleidoscopic wonderland, all to myself. Everything I could possibly need within arm’s reach.  A weeks worth of delightful food in this small portable bag.  A stove.  Fuel.  My portable house, so strong and resilient to weather and storms, yet able to be packed up on a whim and moved on to distant horizons.  And best of all my cozy bed, made of the finest goose down feathers, which keeps me warm at night when temperatures are below freezing.

For those who consider this “roughing it’, I beg to argue.  This is lavish decadence!  To be free from the demands of city life with endless days to wander at will.  Or to just sit and ponder the magnificence of creation! The days become as long and full of possibility as the summer days of childhood.  No, this is not roughing it.  This is smoothing it.  I’ll take a day in the mountains to a day in the world of obligations, details, commitments, and deadlines any day.

Morning.  I sip my green tea as the sun warms the east side of my face. Birds sing.  Chipmunks make their silly sounds.  Puffy white clouds pass by.  And I’m startled, as the loud whoosh of wings of a hawk pass over my head.  The sound quality of this mountain air is crystalline. Every delicate sound can be heard in extreme high-definition.  The footsteps of a grasshopper.  The wings of a dragonfly.  The trickle of a stream, a mile away.  There is nothing quite as satisfying as waking up in the mountains, to watch a day of pure possibility unfold. To witness this is an experience so decadent, so majestic, that the mind settles to a place of absolute awe as all thoughts of past and future completely subside.

I hesitate to call this experience meditation.  Meditation is something one tends to do and this experience is quite the opposite. There is no trying. No doing.  Nothing but sitting. Observing. Stillness. And splendor.  I drift on the soft warm waves of a mountain breeze.  The floating clouds. The sounds in the air.  The wings of a hawk.  Pure life energy buzzes through every cell of my weightless body.  Yes.  I HAVE arrived.

Meditation.  One word.  So hard to define.  So hard to describe.  Is it to do?  Or not to do?  To let go or to grab on.  To ride the wave, or create something new, completely original, magical.  I’d like to propose that meditation is simply doing something, anything, COMPLETELY.  With all of your attention.  All of your awareness.  All of your heart.  ”And what should I DO completely?” you ask.  The answer to that is simple, but you must be completely truthful with yourself. . .

Is is necessary to sit still, in full lotus position, in order to meditate?  Is it necessary to do Yoga, Tai Chi, or to go to Church in order to meditate? To connect with God?  Source?  Allah?  All that is?  Perhaps.  If you enjoy these things, you will get much fulfillment from these activities. You will find it quite easy to engage in these practices completely and fully.  If you enjoy fishing, you will get much fulfillment out of that as well. Or golf.  Or swimming.  Or baking.  If you truly enjoy baking, do you bake for the purpose of baking the most muffins you possibly can, as fast as you possibly can?  Must you out-bake your neighbor?  Or do you bake because you love taking the raw ingredients, mixing them together with love and care, and experiencing the magic that comes from the delicious art form that you have created?  An expression of yourself.  If you bake for the latter reason, you’ll probably find it quite easy to fully and completely bake!

So can you find God through meditation?  Through church?  Through backpacking, mountain biking, surfing, fishing, or baking?  If you do it fully and completely, simply for the love of doing it, then I would say absolutely! SIMPLY FOR THE LOVE.  This is the key.  Not out of obligation.  Or to be the fastest.  Or to win a prize.  But simply for the love of doing it.  And only you can truly know what you love, and there you will find God.

This is the key to meditation.  You could also say this is the key to life. How many people are trying to love what they don’t love?  Once you find what you truly love, the “trying” disappears.  Only beauty remains.

I look out over the mountains, clouds, trees, and meadows in the distance.  Everything glowing in dazzling morning light. . .

 

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

Dad’s Lake, Wind River Range, WY

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Wind River Range, WY Part 1

This place reminds me of Norway.

Dad’s Lake is quite the large lake dotted with little islands covered with green grasses and trees. This is not your typical round alpine lake.  There are inlets, coves, nooks, crannies, lagoons, and channels.  The backdrop is adorned with immense jagged peaks and low-lying clouds of deep gray.  But the sun is shining through, as large patches of deep blue frequently pass by.  A few colorful tents dot the shoreline and anglers cast their lines for trout.

This is a happy place in the mountains.  A welcome sight after an initial climb from the trailhead through a pine forest consisting largely of beatle-kill.  Yes, the scenery does matter, as it affects the overall vibe of the forest.  Death vs life.  Vibrant green vs decaying brown.  As I walked through the falling and fallen beatle-kill trees, my mind was not at ease.  As much as I would try, my thoughts would shift to the negative.  Incessant thoughts.  A longing for something better.  My gait slow and tired.

But Dad’s Lake!!  This is a vibrant place!  My mind now buzzing with excitement.  Adrenalin coursing through my veins.  I’m filling with energy, emotion, love.  The incessant thoughts are gone.  And in their place. . .Peace.  Gratitude.  An overall knowingness that life is perfect.  As it should be.

The weather.  The clouds.  Everything is in constant change.  Anything could happen at any moment.  A thunderstorm could roll in at a moments notice.  Rain.  Hail.  Snow.  Crystalline blue sky stillness.  All possible.  I welcome any and all of it.  I’m out here for 6 days.  Once again on spiritual solo.  Through the Wind River Range.  One of the most spectacular in the Rockies.

My camera, I’ve left back at the car.  I plan to capture this place’s beauty with words.  I will attempt to prove that although a picture may be worth a thousand words, words on a page can capture what an infinite number of photos cannot.  Not just a still image.  But the moving, breathing, living soul of this place.  The “feel” of this majestic wonderland.  Not just her captivating beauty, but her message.  Her mere reason for existence.

I do love her for her beauty.  For she has a beauty beyond comprehension.  A perfection so intoxicating.  An innocence so powerful.  I’m left instantly weak in the knees.  Speechless. Incapable of expressing my love, my infatuation, my devotion.  But beyond her beauty, lies the most spiritual, most profound presence that I know of on this Earth.

And this is why I’ve come.

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

 

 

A Funeral

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Some thoughts on Grief and Loss while meditating in the desert canyons of Sedona Arizona. . .

The modern day funeral.

Strange, to say the least.  Everyone is there for everyone else.  No one is there for themselves. It’s nice to see people supporting people, but the question remains, is it better to mourn, to celebrate, or neither?  It can be difficult knowing what to feel when at a funeral.

Death is strange.  Someone is there one moment, gone the next.  But are they really gone?  Were the ever really here?  If everything exists in only this moment, then they exist as a memory.  They exist only as a loving connection to GOD, and the mystery of all that IS.

Is this not all they ever were?

When they were 1000 miles away, or even in the next room, did they exist then?  How do we know?  What about when we slept, or just blinked?  Did they exist then?

My conclusion is an overwhelming YES!

They did exist.  Even when we couldn’t see them.  Even when we couldn’t touch them, or hear them.  In the same way that they exist NOW.

They exist as an extension of ourselves, and as a unique perspective of LOVE, GOD, and SOURCE.

So if they always have existed, and always will exist, why do we create death in our lives?

It’s our movie.  Is it not?

Perhaps we create death as a reminder of our eternal nature.  If no one ever died, how could we connect to the greater mystery of life?  How could we see beyond the physical realm?  How could we ever concieve that there is more to life than what we can see, hear, touch, or smell.

 

Grief is a powerful emotion.  The loss of a loved one, a pet, or a dream can be incredibly overwhelming.  Wilderness as well as guided meditation can be quite theraputic when dealing with the emotion of Grief and Loss.  

For a free 20 minute guided meditation that gives you the chance to reconnect with your beloveds and complete with them at a very deep level, visit www.movethroughgrief.com.

~Scott Stillman

Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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Photo: Trail near Zermatt, Switzerland

Here is a quote from one of my favorite books. . .

“To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested.

But what a difference!

The ego-climber is like an instrument that’s out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. He’s likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows he’s tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what’s ahead even when he knows what’s ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else.

He’s here but he’s not here.

He rejects the here, he’s unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then IT will be HERE. What he’s looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn’t want that because IT is all around him. Every step’s an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant.”

― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Dark Canyon Wilderness, UT

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Day 1

Thank GOD!

I’ve finally arrived.  After drifting further and further into the black hole of incessant mind noise, I finally escaped from the real world and back into BLISS.  It was bad this time, let’s just leave it at that.  But what exactly is it?  I feel like I am getting close to something, but what is IT?  Perhaps the end of something, or the beginning?  A crossroads.  A time to decide.  But decide what?  Or perhaps not to decide.  Just give up.  Latch onto a feather in the wind and just sail on the breeze.  Is life a struggle or a breeze?  I seem to be choosing struggle lately.  A complex web of thoughts and ideas crashing into each other.  An incessant buzzing that must STOP!

So here I am, sitting on the sandy shore at the bottom of Dark Canyon.  The sound of water cascading down smooth sandstone waterfalls into deep and shallow swimming holes.  I sit under a large cottonwood tree.  It’s leaves rustling in the breeze on a warm 90 degree day.  My shorts, the only clothing required on a day like this, are slightly damp from my last swim in my own personal stone bathtub, a stone’s throw from my shady camp.  I will spend the next 5 days down here.  Just me.  And the rocks, the lizards, and miles and miles of winding sandstone canyons with ribbons of clear water to wander through.  Or I may just lie on my sandy beach and not do a thing.  Yes, down here the decisions are gone.  No schedules.  No time.  Just sweet, therapeutic Wilderness.

“In order to grow, you must continue moving along.  Moving forward.  When you travel, all things are new, so you see only beauty in them” - Paulo Coelho from The Pilgrimage

Move along now. . .

Day 2

“You’re out there.  Doing what you would die for.  You’re living proof that there’s grace in this world.  Outside living free.” – Jay Farrar

Am I a hopeless romantic with an eternal case of wanderlust?  Do what you love, people say.  This I completely get.  I see people everywhere doing what they love.  These are the successful people.  It’s so plain and simple, a child could understand the formula for success.  I simply love to travel.  But traveling as a career?  Walking desert canyons as a career?  This I’ve been trying to figure out for half a lifetime now.

The sound of moving water has been consistent since my first step onto the floor of Dark Canyon.  At first, this sound was almost overwhelming.  But it’s now become a new kind of silence.

I spent today walking along a carved limestone canyon.  Walking sometimes in the stream, sometimes above it.  My day started on my sandy beach camp.  The shade from the large cottonwoods provided the opportunity for a much-needed lazy morning.  Sleeping late into the morning to the sound of rustling cottonwood leaves and running water was delightful and decadent.

Yesterday’s hike in was even more arduous than I expected.  A 1500 foot descent down the Sundance Trail with 1200 in less than a mile down a 50 degree talus slope.  With a fully loaded pack, this was no easy endeavour.  Descending a loose, rocky staircase for a mile took it’s toll on my legs and knees.  Not to mention this is only my 2nd backpacking trip this year.

When I started at the rim, the temperature was 70 degrees.  About halfway down, it felt like 90.  Heat exhaustion began to take hold. . .and on a descent.  At one point, I took an emergency nap under a shady boulder.  When I finally arrived at the canyon floor, I quickly realized that I had taken the descent from hell in order to arrive in the canyon of Eden.  Crystal clear water, shady trees, large swimming holes, and cascading waterfalls.  Home.

Hiking deep desert canyons with running water in June is quite pleasant really.  It has been consistently 90 degrees from late morning to sunset.  A comfortable temperature when shade and water abound.  I’ve spent the majority of the time in only shorts, or nothing at all.  Even at night, I’m able to go barefoot and shirtless until bedtime.  No other time can I remember having the luxury of this type of evening while backpacking.

The days are long.  So very long.  It’s like two days in one really.  Today, for example, I hiked down canyon for a few hours, and found a beautiful spot to spend the day on a smooth limestone bench overlooking a large glimmering swimming hole.  After enjoying the water and then taking a nap in the shade, I made myself some tea and hiked on.

The dramatic lighting starts at about 4pm and goes until 8pm.  Four hours of radiant lighting, sunbeams shooting through shimmering leaves, and glowing canyon walls.  As I rounded the next corner of this mystical show of color and light, I came upon a family of Bighorn Sheep.  They were enjoying a drink in the sunshine from the water’s edge.  They paused to look up at me and then went back to causally enjoying their business.  This I was able to perfectly capture with my SLR camera.

Day 3

Naked.  Why?  Well, why not?  It’s 90 degrees, the sun has gone down, and there’s no one here but me.  And this is Wilderness.  BLM.  Our public lands.  MY PUBLIC LANDS!  A soft breeze smooths my wrinkled, waterlogged skin.  Today, I hiked, waded, and swam my way up canyon through the most dramatic desert scenery you can possibly imagine.  Waterfalls, deep plunge pools, narrow rock tunnels, hanging gardens of dripping columbine flowers, and welcome cottonwood trees for shade.  Among the varieties of wildlife were hundreds of frogs, tadpoles, lizards of many sizes and colors, blue birds, yellow birds, red birds, ravens, canyon wrens, big horn sheep, squirrels, chipmunks, butterflies, dragonflies, and humming birds, just to name a few.  Dark canyon is bustling with life.  Tropical-like groves of tall grasses and reeds thrive here.  Around the next corner, nothing but solid carved multicolored sandstone.  Not broken rock, but smooth, sensual arcs and waves of continuous rock.

After hiking with my backpack for a few hours, I finally decided to ditch it at the first shaded campspot I could find.  Continuing packless made much more sense then trying to climb around the waterfalls, always hoisting my pack up the rock ledges.  Now I could swim through the pools and climb up the waterfalls, through the waterfalls.  And what a fun way to travel through the desert on a hot day!  During the afternoon, the water did not contain a trace of chill.  Possibly 85 degree water.  Bath water.  Crystal clear bath water.  So I spent the entire day wet.  Wet and happy.

Dark Canyon Wilderness.  I’ve been wanting to come here for years, but it just hasn’t worked out.  Too early season.  Too late.  Snowy access roads or too hot.  You have to plan it right.  I’ll pick June.  June is the perfect time.  To enjoy, really enjoy the water aspect of this place, you want it to be HOT.  And the nights.  I’ve come to crave warm nights like this.  Not humid, but warm.  The rocks and the sand hold the temperature into the night.  I way over packed.  Not a surprise.  Shorts, socks, shirt, underwear, they have not been changed since I got here.  It gets washed all day long.  Nothing stinks and the warm clothes I brought just aren’t needed.

Wilderness.  My problems are over the moment I leave the trailhead.  Everything I need on my back.  And the knowledge that for the next 5 days, everything will be new.  The past no longer matters.  The future disappears.  And the present moment just comes at me frame by frame in splendid technicolor.  It’s the one place I feel completely at peace.  I’ve had no revelations.  No new ideas.  No new direction revealed for my life.  Only the knowing that THIS IS RIGHT.  I was born to walk the Earth.  Born to travel.  To see the beauty.  To observe the splendor of life.  To be overwhelmed by emotion by a ray of sunlight, an encounter with a frog, or the texture of a rock wall.  To spend the day splashing through creeks, singing songs and laughing at squirrels.  I was born to be a kid, you might say.  To not take life so seriously.  To not get sidetracked by a career.  Or a project.  Or anything that ties me down to the life of pavement, bills, shiny new toys, or status.

“The best thing you’ve ever done for me, is to help me take my life less seriously.  It’s only life after all.” – Indigo Girls

“The good fight is the one we fight because our heart asks it of us.  We must never stop dreaming.  If we do, our soul dies.  Dreaming nourishes the soul as food nourishes our bodies” – Paulo Coehlo

Day 4

This is the perfect campsite.  It’s in the shade all day long, thanks to a large rock wall and overhang.  Large cottonwoods provide more shade as well as beauty to my site.  It’s also nice to have a tree nearby to hang my food.  I’m not sure if there are many bears down here, but there are plenty of rodents that will go for your food bag at any moment of inattention.

This morning I woke up and hiked downstream to a swimming hole I took note of yesterday.  After a refreshing morning plunge, I laid out on the warm sandstone to dry off.  A symphony of birds was celebrating a new day rising.  After an hour or so, I hiked back to camp for a late breakfast of hash browns and sautéed red bell pepper, my new favorite camp dish.  After breakfast, I made some black tea and headed upstream for a tea walk, singing and splashing through crystal clear water.  Frogs jumped, tadpoles scattered, lizards scurried, and I hiked, tea in hand, smiling at the glorious day unfolding before me.  This time I was headed to the slickrock waterfalls.  These I had also taken note of the day before.  They are 3 smoothly carved channels through multicolored sandstone, each flowing into a perfect swimming hole.  I sat on the edge of the upper pool with my feet dangling in the waterfall while I drank delicious tea from my insulated camp mug.

What to do now?  Absolutely nothing.  Happiness is wanting what you have, and this is what I wanted.  Dark Canyon Wilderness is even more beautiful than I had imagined.  It’s nature’s perfection, really.  Vibrant life.  Dry clear air.  Crystal water.  Abundant sunshine.  Large and expansive, you could spend weeks down here if you desired.  It’s rugged enough and the approach is difficult enough that your chance of seeing another person is slim to none.  Especially after a few miles from the trailhead.  I saw two people the first day, one on the second, none on the third.

I’m now back to the shade of my lazy campspot and feel a nap is approaching.  I can feel the constant sound of running water is washing my busy mind clean.  The thoughts, which were numerous and complex before this trip, are now becoming fewer and fewer.  My soul is being washed clean.  My body is sending gratitude.  All aspects of myself are quite simply and peacefully relaxing.  I’m satisfied with the occasional passing breeze blowing past my ears.  No other stimulation is necessary.  I’ve stepped right into this moment.  The moment where all things exist, and cease to exist.  Where everything is happening all around me and I just happily observe.  It’s all so perfect.  Judgement is gone.  Clock time is gone.  The energy buzzes all around me.  I become vividly aware of my breath.  Slow but full.  Healthy and effortless.

I go deeper.

The breeze has now stopped.  Stillness prevails.  But the sound of water remains.  Layers of silence.  I now realize that the continuous sound of water has become a form of silence as well.  For silence is possible anywhere.  Silence and stillness.  I’ve found them on a busy street corner.  At a concert.  In the sound of thunder.  In the roar of a freight train.  The key is getting to the point where you can hear it.  That stillness and silence behind the sounds.  Or rather within them.

The breeze has picked up again and has the cottonwood leaves sparkling like green sequins in the dazzling sunshine.  All this against an enormous backdrop of brilliant glowing orange sandstone rising some thousand feet from the canyon floor.  What’s so comforting to me, so reassuring, so gratifying to me, is the fact that this happens every day here in Dark Canyon.  Whether I’m here to witness it or not, this place happens!  The beauty remains.  This absolute perfection of harmonious life.  Perfection exists.  Unfathomable beauty exists.  Love exists.  Peace exists.  Long before the human race ever existed.  And long after.  This exists.  And our forefathers cared enough about it to make it WILDERNESS.  No roads.  No motors.  No scenic roped off viewpoints.  No paved walkways.  No “improvements”.  For any improvement to this place would mean destruction.  Humans trying to “improve” what God has created as perfection is absurd.  You cannot improve nature any more than you can improve a Picasso.  What we can improve is our respect and our empathy for Mother Earth.  Our respect for the soil we tread upon.  For soil is all we are.  It is where we came from.  It is where everything that nourishes our bodies comes from.  And it is where we will go back to and be born again.  Perhaps this time a flower.  Or a tree.  Or a frog.  Or, if we are lucky, a high soaring bird.  We all come from the Earth.  We all go back to the Earth.  And this happens over, and over, and over again.  We are of the Earth, and the Earth itself.  Sometimes it takes stepping away from our world of plastic and concrete to remember the simplicity of life, and the simple equation of DIRT + LOVE = LIFE.

Now, for that nap. . .

 

 

 

 

Lake San Cristobal, CO

Nightime.  Lake San Cristobal campspot.  I sit in my camp chair, five feet from the water’s edge.  A grey moth sits on my jacket.  A mouse peeks his head up on my chair.  A fish jumps in the water.  No breeze.  Stillness.  I feel loved by the animals, by nature.  I send love back to them.  The moth relaxes.  Starts to clean his antennas.  He is here because of my headlamp.  Why are they drawn to the light?  Why are we?

Morning on the lake.  Steaming coffee.  Prescription for a great day.  Geese flying overhead in typical V-formation.  They announce their presence to the world.  Yes, we all wish to be seen.  The lake is glass, only the occasional ripple of a fish jumping.  A bird skims the water, his wings almost touching the surface, his perfect reflection below him.  The sun is not yet over the mountain.  The day waits in silent anticipation.  When the sun comes up, all this will change.  The day will be underway.  But for now, the stillness remains.

Powderhorn Wilderness, CO

Day 1.

Just finished dinner.  Sipping from a small bottle of Pyrat Rum at my campsite high up in the San Juans.  The mountains across from me are glowing purple and bronze in the late evening sun.  Cooling off.  The bugs have settled down for the night.

I drove to San Cristobal Lake from Boulder last night.  Camped right on the shore, launched my standup paddleboard, and took a dreamlike night paddle across the glassy surface.  Completely still and silent.  When I turned off my headlamp, all that was left were stars on the water, and stars overhead.  Floating in a world of stars and darkness.

Today, I started my first of 2 backpacking trips into the San Juans.  And it’s about time.  Don’t know why I never seem to get to the San Juans.  Perhaps the 7 hour drive.  Not a good excuse.  Need to take longer trips, and more frequently.  Need to loose the job.  There is a lot to explore out there, and only so much time.

The clouds above my camp have turned purple.  Purple against the blue sky.  So close I feel I should be able to touch them.

An elk walks through distant tundra.

Breathing slowly, and fully.  Naturally.  The “other world” is starting to melt away.  But this is only day 1.  No euphoric moments yet.  But the distractions are gone.  That’s a good start.  Just the necessities.  And of course some tea, rum, and chocolate.  Just for fun.  Because I can.  Because here I’ll enjoy them.  The rum tastes divine.  I take a sip.  Savour.  Fully experience the smokey, sweet flavour.  There’s only so much in this tiny little bottle.

Nothing to do, I sit.  Silence rings.  No breeze.  Nothing.  Another deep breath.  Then again, nothing.  Good.  I wait.  For what, I don’t know, but still I sit here and wait.  So much is happening.  The light fades, ever so slightly.  Changing everything.  The clouds.  The temperature.  A bird chirps.  Another answers.

Day 2.

Morning.  After a night of rain, I wake up to a bluebird sky.  Warm and breezy.  Perfect.  I fix some Peet’s coffee and add a little powdered creamer.  Coffee in the wilderness is pure JOY.  My senses are awakened.  I sit and read Alan Watts’ “Still The Mind.”  He talks of humans and potatoes.  Who is more civilized?  A good argument for the potato.  I’m convinced.  I stop reading and look around.  I see the plants with compassion.  A true empathy.  We understand each other.  A heartwarming love develops.  Not just inside of me, but all consuming of everything.  We share the same space.  I am a visitor, but welcome.  We smile.  The trees, the flowers, the grasses, the sky, the sun, the breeze.  We all smile.  The energy is buzzing.  Or is it the coffee?

Afternoon.  Storm brewing in the north.  Camp is set up though, and now I’m just waiting for it to arrive.  Let the show begin.  After a long day of hiking over mountains, across scree fields, and alpine tundra, I could use some down time.  But for now, it’s just dark sky and thunder.  I’m camped right at treeline by a small pond.  A lone tree holds my bear rope and food bag.  Green grasses and yellow flowers surround my camp with vast expanses of velvet like tundra, rock outcroppings, and distant mountains for my view.  I’m way off trail, so privacy is guaranteed.

The Powderhorn wilderness seems to me to be a lightly traveled place.  The trails are faint to non-existent, and no one is here.  The way I prefer it.  There is, however, a large herd of elk that I’ve seen several times so far, always quick to spot me from far away.  It’s funny that a herd of close to 100 elk would be afraid of one slow, tired hiker carrying a 40 pound pack.  But they always take off when they catch sight of me a mile away.  Stopping to look back at me, making sure I’m not chasing them.  I continue my slow trek and show no sign of attack.  The run anyway.

The rain starts.  Sitting in my tiny tent, the sound of rain is all consuming.  Sounding twice as strong as it is as the large drops hit the tent fabric.

The rain continues.  Off and on.  Feelings of loneliness.  Cravings.  Typical on day 2.  It will pass.  Cravings of music, beer, warm soft skin.  Try to stay in the moment.  Need to waterproof this tent.  It’s dripping from time to time.  Not good.  But the rest of my gear is working good, and my dinner of pizza was splendid.

Evening.  I danced to the music in my head on alpine tundra under fading light.  Beautiful, perfect, improvisational jams stored in memory banks from hundreds of live concerts.  Purple mountains and sheets of rain in the distance.  I am truly alone here.  Solitude at it’s most solitary.  Waves of emotion.  Moments of clarity.  Gratefulness.  Freedom.  This wilderness exists.  It will always be here for us.  Waiting.  Patiently.  Even if we never go, it’s here.  And sometimes that is enough.  Just the knowing.

Day 3

Late morning.  So much is happening in my little meadow.  Bugs of every conceivable color, shape, size come buzzing by and stopping to investigate.  Amazingly enough, none of them seen to bite.  The clouds drift past in all of their various formations.  The sun is out and a moderate breeze has the grasses and flowers in a constant dance around me.  In my meadow are two large beds of black lava rock.  One contains a small pond and the other is dry.  Upon close inspection, the lava rock beds provide housing for countless varieties of small animals, spiders, reptiles, and bugs.  Large birds flow overhead and occasional elk wander by.  All of this in my tiny meadow.

I sit in my camp chair and just watch.  Occasionally, I pick up Alan Watts’ book on meditation.  If I were to die in this moment, what would really change?  I would be as I was before I was born, 39 short years ago.  The colorful butterfly would still land on the yellow flower.  The birds would still soar overhead.  The breeze would still blow, and the grasses would still dance.  But who would contemplate them?  Perhaps a small child in a similar meadow on a similar day.  A sinking feeling in my stomach.  But yes, this body wants to survive.  To continue on.  As all life wants to persevere.  This is natural in all of nature.  However, at that last second, before the rabbit will be eaten by the coyote, there is a surrender.  A transformation will occur, and life will go on.  And when I sit here and fully surrender to the present moment, I KNOW, with out a doubt, that “I” will always exist.  The “I” in me that is the same as the “I” in the rabbit.  The “I” in me that is the same as the “I” in the coyote.  The “I” in me that is the same as the “I” in all of life.  For as long as there is life, I will exist.

12,000 feet.  An ideal elevation.  Treeline.  There are some trees, but they are very spaced apart.  Everything has room to spread out. Not life overcrowding life.  Not up here.  We are far from the tangle of thick forests.  Views expand in every direction.  Mountain ranges are visible from a hundred miles away.  Weather can be seen approaching from vast distances, usually never even making it to here.  No humans.  No machines.  No roads.  Just wilderness.  Heartbreakingly perfect wilderness.  Everything in it’s perfect place.    Very similar to the desert, really.  But a more suitable temperature for July.  Highs in the upper 60s, lows in the upper 20s.  Sunny during the day and usually a storm in the late afternoon.  I’m always intrigued by the wildlife that chooses this elevation.  They could easily walk, crawl, fly anywhere they wish, but they choose 12,000 feet.  There are flies here.  There are flies in the city.  But the flies here are slightly different.  They seem to sparkle more.  Certainly cleaner.  And the elk seem much larger here then I’ve seen around my house at 7000 feet.  You won’t see a marmot below 12,000 feet.   They waddle by in their thick fur coats, announcing their presence as you walk by.  What are they trying to tell us?  Perhaps, “Hey there, give us your food!”  The biggest threat to an unattended food bag at this elevation is the marmot.  Or perhaps they’re saying to the other marmots, “Look, there’s a human!”  In a similar way that we would say, “Look, there’s a marmot!”

I should go take a hike.

But first, I would need to make lunch.  That would require pumping water.  This I’ve been casually contemplating for a few hours now. Instead, I continue to sit and survey my surroundings.  If I move, I may miss something.  A colorful bird or a moment of clarity.  Thoughts of the “other world” may creep back in.  Better to sit still.  Breathe deeply.  Write in my journal.  At home, I’d be frantically looking for something to do.  Don’t want to waste time.  Need to check the bank account, catch up on e-mails, Facebook, the weather in Sedona.  But here, the distractions are gone.  And in their place. . .Peace.  Essence.  Essence of life.  I’m content to let things be as they are.  If it rains, let it rain.  Everything I need is at arms length.  There is nothing really to even decide.  Apart from should I eat.  Should I drink.  Should I pee.  Apart from basic survival, nothing has to be done at all.  The brain goes into “sleep” mode, and of course, meditation becomes your reality!  The quickest, easiest, secret back entrance way to meditation is to go backpacking.  But it must be solo!  Once you are past the jitteriness of day 1.  The cravings of day 2.  You just fall into it.  It’s effortless.  Months of tension are released in a matter of hours.  The past?  Work?  Bills?  What past?  Everything is perfect right NOW.  And NOW is all there ever is!

I sit in wonder and amazement.

Here I am.

Day 4.

Meditating on a bluff overlooking Brush Creek.  Breathing and humming.  Sounds of the rushing creek in the background.  And in this moment, as I write this, a large moose walks up a grassy meadow across the valley.  First moose sighting of this trip.  He seems to be barking, quite like a dog barking under his breath.  This moose is jet black against a vibrant green hillside in the morning sun.  A moment later, he disappears into a aspen grove.  the sun is intense today.  I’m camped much lower, about 10,300 feet as opposed to 12,000 the past 2 nights.  The vegetation is lush and the trees are back.  Spent last night under the star speckled sky.  Shooting stars, planets, satellites, and the foggy milky way all in clear view.  Fell asleep in my camp chair enjoying the comfortable warmer air.  Liquid dreams of sex and love as the sounds of Brush Creek carried me through the night.

Canyonlands, UT

Sunlight blankets the rocks.  Colors reveal themselves.  Orange, red, pink, white.  From my perch, high on a canyon rim, I watch this dazzling Sunday morning show of shadow and light.  The maze of ripples, folds, and crevices starts to make some sense now.  Yes, there is an order to this madness.  I can now see possible routes that I couldn’t see before.  At this angle of light, canyons reveal themselves.  There are many options.  Places to explore, get lost, and find the Holy Grail.  Just around the next corner, into the next chasm, where a single ray of sunlight illuminates a sparkling pot of gold. I wander these canyons in my mind for a while over a cup of coffee.  Monuments and monoliths reveal themselves, a hundred miles away.  Deep red in color.  And sparkling to the east, the La Sal Mountains.  Blanked in snow. There is a lifetime of exploration right here in Moab.  Greater Moab.  Greater Canyonlands.  God’s country.  Our country.  My country.  Peace, realized.  The search for Peace ends here.

Deep within these canyons lies a natural spring, producing a glorious waterfall cascading down smooth sandstone into a large pool.  We hiked to it yesterday.  Drank abundantly from it.  Took a nap on the warm rock at the sparkling water’s edge.  Birds, lizards, traces of deer, coyote, bobcat, and mountain lion.  Alive, in a mystic wonderland of kaleidoscopic color, clean air, and sunshine.  Abundance.  Eden.  They live in perfect harmony with the land.  Removed from the rest of our world.  Concrete.  Smog.  Hunger.  Famine.  War.  Destruction.  Progress.  Wal-Mart.  They know nothing of it.  Ignorance can be bliss.  For if we are creating our own reality, is it really ignorance?

The rocks sit there.  They just sit there.  For billions of years.  Generations come and go.  We are born, we die.  The rocks just sit there.  Ignorant and indifferent to the worlds problems.  How can they be so self-serving?  So self-centered?  Do they not care about world hunger?  War?  Violence?  The evening news?  School shootings?  The recession?  They just sit there.  Watching it all.  Witnessing it all.  No judgement.  No attachment.  The sun rises.  The sun sets.  Snow falls.  Snow melts.  They don’t struggle.  They don’t fight.  They don’t even try to be beautiful.  Their sensual curves and arcs are carved for them by eons of wind, rain, sun, and sand.  No trying.  No ego.  Just sitting.  Stillness.  Peace.