August Mountain Sky

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After a hard week, a long week, there was something special about four friends heading to the mountains with little on our minds but hiking, camping, and enjoying our own company. Hectic early morning tasks giving way to shrubs, pines, and rivers. Checking the bright sun sky as we leave home, seeing the gray cloud mass peeking over the summits as a warning of August afternoons.

Driving up into the mountains to be surrounded by nature always seems right. Rising up to nature's level, out of the everyday. Having always been an ocean man, a bay man, a forest and hills man, the mountains are still new to me. A new friend, but a good friend. As my friend I drive to the trailhead with. We talk about what we have done, what we want to do, who we are, but the more we drive, the more we talk mountains and rivers, deer and coyotes.

Heavy skies at the trailhead, packs on our backs, and four miles to camp. We walk together and talk and we walk alone, communicating with each other and ourselves. The pines are short and one-sided. Wind is no stranger here. The clouds that are racing us catch up with us after we climb a half-mile. They carry small rain but big lightning. Camp is at a lake sitting at over 11,000 feet altitude. It's our goal, and we want it. No animals are scurrying, except our dogs, and their links with nature are no longer like their ancestors. Doffing our packs under pines, we head back down to wait it out.

Stopping half way – not wanting to stop – as the others go on, I look for some signs of animals emerging or clouds breaking. I know I am daring the elements, but I can hear the rain and feel the clouds and don't want to leave. A close strike reminds me nature is ready for me, even if I am not ready for nature. I head back down.

Riding out the storm in our two cars, we break before the thunderheads. Climbing up to retrieve our packs is unhappy. We will camp at a site lower down, near the road. The lake would not be permitted on this trip.

Lightning and wind accompany us as we loss several thousand feet retracing our course down the road. These elements give up after a while and decide to stay in the high country. We pull into a campsite along the road and unpack our gear as we tell each other the site isn't as important as the camaraderie with ourselves and nature. Camp is set up under a light rain. A stream gives us water and tree-cover gives us some protection, but they do not allow for views.

Why is there a four foot deep, six foot long fire pit? People all too often overstate their presence in the wild. I wonder what the bears and coyotes think of such a scarring intrusion into their domain. Do they think we are stupid, or just callous? Being tired, soggy, and only somewhat content we begin hiking up a logging road across from camp. Our bounding dogs are still the only wildlife evident. Is it correct having them along? Do they, as animals, have the right to this area as their natural birthright? Their behavior tells me they do. They never chose to be domesticated; that was our decision.

The skies are clearing and as a vista opens before us we stop dead. Mountains, valleys, and the far plains to the east stretch out before us. Please let this be real and not a painted backdrop for a Disney movie. I think we all know it long before anyone says it – we are moving camp.

Our new camp is set and we are talking, joking, and laughing; the dogs romping as the sun leaves us behind. Shadows are stealing across the landscape and the stars are waking up. Where did they all come from? Are most of them in from out of town for the weekend? Can we see the Milky Way from both sides of the planet? The meteorite storm begins with streakers every few minutes. Heavy lightning slashes the sky off in the East. Lights from four cities begin to wink in the distance. Staring, suddenly quiet, all looking up, we just watch. Even the dogs seem impressed. Coyotes begin to howl nearby, and two dogs howl back, the third just shakes. Our group tight together, the scene and sounds around us, the vista in the distance, and the cosmic explosion in the skies seem to melt and flow together. We thought Mother Nature had taken away the lake when she was really giving us the universe.