Winter Wandering

At year’s end many of us are granted that blessed little break from the regular routines of daily life, an opportunity to reflect on the adventures of the past year and prepare for that to come.  We celebrate our various holidays as the winter solstice ushers in another cycle of seasons.  Ideally, this Winter Break should be a time for slowing down, pausing, taking time to connect with ourselves and our loved ones.  Somehow, I lost a grip on that ideal and the hustle-bustle energy managed to take hold.  The past few weeks have flown by and I suddenly find myself searching for my break.  I start to worry that I may have missed it, having been swept up in this strong current of commotion.  But then I come to this space, where it has been so quiet for all these weeks, and it is here I find solace in my sacred Winter Break.

I am so grateful for this space and for the people who enjoy sharing it with me.  Sometimes it is hard to get here, to find my way to that state of mind where I can tune out the commotion of daily life and let go of that hustle-bustle energy.  At times, it can be a real challenge.

I am an optimistic sort of person.  I tend to see the brighter side of things, but I am not immune to bouts of self-pity.  You know how it goes…woe is me, my life is so busy, I never seem to catch a break, I never get what I want, I’m tired of working so hard, what I wouldn’t give for a nap, I just want to go for a walk, can’t I just sit read a book for a little while…whine, moan, groan.  I kind of got sucked into one of those whirlpools of self-commiseration when I realized Winter Break had come and gone and The Daily Grind was requiring me to report back immediately. Fortunately, I managed to keep my head above water just long enough to seek solace and set myself free.

As I perused the visual record of our winter wanderings, I was suddenly filled with peace and satisfaction.  I admit that I was disappointed when I discovered my original plans for Winter Break were completely null and void.  However, the new plan, the unplanned, turned out to be just what I needed.  It was fun, exhilarating, beautiful and peaceful.  Quite frankly, it was perfect.

Our holiday family time did not pan out the way I hoped and prayed it would.  In a large family of individuals living very busy lives, it is near impossible to gather everyone in one place at one time.  And being the one, the only one, living out of town and slightly out of reach, I often miss out on those precious opportunities to connect with my most loved ones face-to-face.  Our planned trip home for a rare Christmas celebration with my clan was an adventure, but not at all what we had envisioned.  Although I was granted a few perfect moments (for which I am forever grateful) it was still a little disappointing.

A few days after our trip, when we recovered from our private little pity party, we decided an indulgence was in order. We reserved a little cabin at the Convict Lake Resort and headed out for a spontaneous mini mountain vacation.  We packed up the snowshoes, the camera gear, every item of winter wear we could find.  We had visions of days spent exploring the snow-covered lakeshore, cozy candlelight dinners at the cabin, evenings spent huddled beneath the stars photographing the night sky.  But, as we drove north on the 395 it slowly became clear that our plans for a little snowshoe adventure would require some adjustments.  Our little mountain cabin was idyllic, but there was no snow to be found.

Our poor snowless Sierra.  It’s going to be a very dry year, we fear.  Well, it was no winter wonderland, but it was beautiful nonetheless.  We settled into our little cabin (which was a completely luxurious retreat for a couple of seasoned backpackers who consider a campground an extravagance), then spent the afternoon roaming around the lake and waiting for the sun to set.

The weather was wonderful, the sky so clear.  Not conducive to spectacular sunsets, but perfect for viewing the night sky.  After a failed attempt at a coveted fine-dining experience at the Convict Lake Restaurant (we’ll save that story for another time), we bundled up and spent some time lakeside where Evan captured some beautiful images of the starry winter night.

The next day we drove north past Mammoth, Mono Lake, Lee Vining.  We thought we might try hiking somewhere new, like Lundy Canyon?  Suddenly it occurred to us that the lack of snow probably meant the road to Bodie would be clear and open.  Exploring this ghost town is one of those things that has been on our “we really should do that one day” list for ages.  What the heck, let’s go!  And we were so glad we did.  Visiting Bodie was like going back in time.  It is one of those hidden treasures that will require required an entire post all its own. So much to see, so many stories.  We couldn’t stop taking pictures!

Eventually, we did stop snapping photos and drove back down toward Mono Lake.  Hubby thought this would be a nice setting to practice photographing the Milky Way.  And it was indeed.  While the sun set we wandered the north side of the lake, which oddly resembled an arctic landscape.  As night fell we ventured to the south shore where the tufa towers are prominent.  Exploring this ancient wonder was like being in another world, another lifetime.  So amazing.

With frozen fingers and numb toes, we eventually fled this foreign land seeking the warmth of our cozy cabin. In the quaint little kitchen we pondered tomorrow’s adventure over a bowl of hot soup and a fresh veggie salad. Since we would be checking out and heading home in the morning, we decided to stop on the way near Bishop to hike a little peak, a high point in the Buttermilks.

Grouse Mountain was a little desert peak whose summit promised a fine view of the Sierra and the northern end of Owen’s Valley.  I must admit, I mumbled and grumbled the entire hike up.  I was tired and suddenly grumpy anticipating tomorrow’s return to The Daily Grind.  However, part of me secretly enjoyed the steep slope and the second/third class climb.  It’s been a while.  I guess I miss it.  And the summit was well worth it.  Time paused, another beautiful view…I relaxed into it.

After a good hike we felt that one last indulgence was in order, so we stopped for lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Bishop.  The drive home was quiet and peaceful as the sun began to set on another beautiful day. With not a cloud in the sky, the sun slowly crept behind that majestic granite ridge line.  Soft, sublet rays of light radiated upward and outward, a very different kind of sunset.  The mountains were calling.  Calling for a moment of pause, a moment of appreciation, a moment of celebration.  Life may not always follow our best laid plans, but how fortunate we are to have these opportunities for winter wanderings and other such adventures.

Enjoy your winter wandering.

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