I know I have said this many times before, but sometimes it is the simplest things in life that bring the greatest sense of peace and satisfaction. It is not always the roughest road, the epic journey or the grandest of discoveries that ignite and excite your sense of adventure. Sometimes it is just a simple exploration, a humble revelation or a smooth and easy trail that lead you a place of contentment and gratitude.
Such was the case a couple of weeks ago when my hubby and I finally got out together for a lovely little weekend adventure in the great outdoors. It has literally been months since I have been out and about, enjoying the magic of nature and the wonder of adventure that we so adore. If you know anything about me at all, certainly you understand that this amount of indoor time will inevitably lead me to a state of frustration and disconnection that leaves me feeling…well…blah. So, you can probably imagine my delight in the experience of finally getting in a little outdoor playtime with my favorite explorer.
Having recently purchased a new off-road vehicle, we felt impelled to get it out on the trail, christen it and break it in a a bit. We had driven our trusty, old adventure-mobile for fifteen years and 200,000 miles before we began to realize that it was finally entering that dreaded stage of old age. His joints were creaky, his body shaky and we reluctantly acknowledged that he was slowly becoming unreliable. Since our outdoor adventures are such an important part of life for us, it became clear that it was time to bite the bullet and invest in a brand-new vehicle. It was both painful and exciting. It has been many years since we purchased our last new car and times have changed, I tell ya! All the bells and whistles, the technology and the sticker price…yikes! It was a little overwhelming, but after a three-hour journey to an out-of-town dealership, we finally found the very truck for us. It was sad leaving the old guy in the lot, for he’s been so good to us. So many years, so many rough roads, so many epic adventures and he never let us down. But it was time, so we said good-bye and entered into a new age of off-road adventure.
We were anxious to get the new guy out on the trail, but a little reluctant at the same time. We wanted to break him in, but ever-so gently. Not quite ready for anything too tough, we opted for an easy road into some new territory to welcome the new guy to the family. We decided to explore a little in the Volcanic Tableland area, just north of Bishop, CA. It was a beautiful day and having just received an early-season dusting of snow, both the Sierra and White Mountain ranges were a beautiful sight to behold. We drove up through Chidalgo Canyon then hopped onto Benton Crossing Road and headed south in search of the dirt road that would lead us to Casa Diablo.
Casa Diablo is a small peak in the Volcanic Tableland area that promised a fun little scramble to the summit. Located in an area long-ago inhabited by California miners, we thought it would be fun to hunt for and explore the remains of a life lived long ago (aka desert junk). We had hoped to find a primitive campsite near the starting point of the hike to Casa Diablo, boasting a beautiful view of the snow-capped Sierra Nevada. The frustration began to build as we drove up this road and down that one, searching for this elusive “perfect campsite”. Everywhere we looked, the land was sloped with rock formations obstructing the view of the mountains. Most unfitting for a tent and a tripod-mounted camera focused on an infinite view. It was getting late and the sun would be setting early with the recent seasonal transition. Finally, we found a seemingly perfect location to stop and set up the tent. And just as we began to settle in, feel at home, breath a sigh of relief at finding our stopping point, another car drove up the road, searching for the very same perfect campsite. Are you kidding me?! We are in the middle of nowhere, why must you invade our outdoor space? How dare you encroach on our solitude and our beautiful view! Sometimes we struggle with the concept of having to share our beloved outdoor space with others. We are working on that. Come to find out, there were bolts placed on the surrounding rock faces making it a climbing destination. So, we left the climbers to their solitude and continued the search for a campsite. At this point we were no longer looking for perfect, just a small piece of level ground would do, but we so desperately wanted a view. The frustration level was approaching comical proportions. Here we are with this brand-new car, frustrated beyond reason for having to search for this mythically idyllic campsite in the middle of the desert. Can’t go up that road, it’s too rough and steep, gotta be gentle with the new SUV. Stay away from that road, those bushes will certainly scratch the shiny new surface and we’re not ready for that! It’s a funny thing, this experience of buying a new car. The time and energy put into searching for just the right vehicle that meets all the needs of an off-road adventure-mobile, the added luxury of modern technology, the funds invested in that perfect truck because adventure is such an important priority and such…and you’re afraid to explore for fear the scratches and dirt will mar your precious, new automobile! We almost gave up and headed home, but then we found a clearing just off the road with an all-encompassing view. We immediately stopped, set up the tent and the tripod, opened a bottle of wine and relaxed into the experience.
Those moments of desert sunset, cuddled up in a cozy camp chair, sitting in a sea of sage, watching chameleon clouds creep across the sky as the sun slowly sinks behind snow-covered granite peaks…those are my moments of most profound peace and contentment. I do love those moments of tranquility. And I love watching my husband capture the beauty of it, as day gives way to night and the sky slowly transforms before your eyes. It seems like ages since I had the pleasure of accompanying him on an outing to photograph the night sky. I do so enjoy watching him do his thing. Setting up the equipment, positioning everything just so, framing the shot then stepping back to wait for the magic to happen. You never know what the night will bring and on this particular evening, it just happened to be and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile that flew right through his frame! Wow. We certainly were not anticipating that, but the camera was positioned in such a way that he was able to capture the unexpected moment. It was oddly magical.
It was a beautiful sight, that plume of light streaking across the starlit night…and disturbing, when you stop to think of it. With so much unrest in the world, I humbly admit, we are more thankful than ever for our little moments of peace and tranquility.
As the temperature dropped and the hour grew late, we retreated to the tent for a relatively peaceful night’s sleep. Rising just at dawn, we emerged to witness the breaking of day. It never gets old, watching those first rays of morning light gently touch the highest peaks, then crawl across the desert floor and slowly spread their warming fingertips along your chosen path. We savored a warm cup of tea and hot coffee as we explored the little clearing near camp. It must have been a gathering spot for elk, deer or bighorn sheep, for it was littered with droppings and bones, insinuating that some sort of wildlife had enjoyed a little primal Thanksgiving feast at some point.
We packed up camp and headed out to find the trail to Casa Diablo. It was a fairly easy route, just what I was looking for to ease my gimpy ankle back into the swing of things. However, once we reached what we thought was the high point on the ridge, it became clear that the true summit was still a good scramble to the south. I stayed back while E. continued up to the summit to sign the register. It took some time for hubby to return, so I took the opportunity to simply sit peacefully in the bewildering beauty. It really was a beautiful view, nestled between the White Mountains and the Sierra Nevada range with a view of the Owen’s River Gorge and that expansive, infinite sky…geez, it never ceases to amaze me, the greatness of it all. I am truly and humbly thankful to be blessed by such beauty and moments of tranquility.
We took our time hiking back down, pausing to explore the remnants of an old mining site and hunt for desert junk. I consider it treasure and apparently others do, too. We found a treasure chest of sorts, a collection of little trinkets that others had found and carefully placed on display atop an old concrete slab. I love discovering random things like this in the middle of nowhere. And of course, I couldn’t resist adding my own contributions to the mix.
It was a simple, little weekend adventure, but it felt so wonderful to get out and about. In the spirit of giving thanks and expressing gratitude, I must say that I am truly grateful for so many things in life. I have been blessed with an amazing family, a bunch of beautiful people I am lucky enough call friends and the perfect partner to accompany me on this grand adventure we call Life. I feel fortunate to have access to such beautiful places and a trusty truck to take me there. I am thankful for the freedom to explore and the ability to feed my sense of wonder with outdoor adventure and the magic of nature. I am grateful for the frustrations in life, too, for they make me acutely aware of the peace that exists in those moments of tranquility. Yes, I am truly blessed and my heart is full of gratitude.
May your life be so blessed and your heart so full.