Mar 05, 2022

wandering the backcountry

taking treks out into backcountry oregon is a great pleasure. there are many benefits: getting out into nature, finding great scenes to photograph, chance encounters with wildlife, seeing star-filled skies without any light pollution, feeling the desert wind scour my spirit, the smell of sage and juniper, the freedom to wander...the list keeps on going. these photos are one way of trying to express these experiences.

these journeys aren't a vacation, they are more similar to pilgrimage, native vision quest, or aboriginal walkabout. they have a spiritual quality, are sacred, fill a need for nourishment i don't find in other ways. it didn't start out that way. it just kind of evolved naturally.

i've always enjoyed wandering, sometimes aimlessly, sometimes with purpose.  the wide open high desert is very conducive to this. usually i'll leave home with a planned route and series of destinations. it's rare for that plan to be followed very closely. it tends to start out driving to point a and along the way, something calls out: look over here.  or, take this road. or, look at how the light is on that ridge. or, i wonder where that two-track goes. often it shows up as: the best angle for that scene is over there and typically, way up over there. then i figure out how to get there... and back. sometimes i get to the original destination, sometimes not.  if feels like an unfolding process.

it's easy to let go of the planned route with the accumulated experiences of the unplanned, unexpected and unknown.

the words of these posts try to describe what it feels like to wander the backcountry.  not sure words are the appropriate medium. here's a photo that might come closer:

ethereal wandering: full moon in the high desert

this is cathedral rock, john day fossil beds, august full moon, 3am.  the day had been 100+. nite cools, still very warm. a full moon rises over the ridge behind and this riverbed and rock are bathed in a very subtle light, looking much different from just a few hours ago at sunset.

arrive at midnite, bushwhack to the river, moon lighting the way. it's quiet.  very quiet.  a gentle breeze occasionally flows downstream.  the light, the rocks, the water...everything combined starts to take on a very different quality...ethereal...lighter, delicate, less substantive. a different kind of reality.

it affects this body, mind and spirit.  walking seems more like floating.  breathing is in sync with the breeze. spirit flies. wandering.

beaver slaps it's tail on the water with a loud crack echoing through the canyon. a night hawk flows through the sky.

this is what it feels like to wander the high desert.

i consider the region of these wanderings my backyard:

my backyard

it's a fairly large backyard.

it's backcountry because it is less traveled, less known, less populated. if trying to get somewhere, this is probably not the route to take.

small state hiways become smaller county roads become gravel roads become two-tracks. it's open range.

i spent a good deal of my life traveling around the world. for five years, i spent 6 weeks in northen thailand every winter on meditation retreat.  now i rarely leave this backyard. when i return home from a trek to john day, a small town of 1,700,  it's starting to feel urban, a little too crowded, a little too noisy.

i currently have a list of three dozen places i want to get to, return to, see in different seasons. each trek adds another four or five to the list. it's obvious i could spend the rest of my life exploring this region and not exhaust that list. i like that.

friends suggest places to see: hell's canyon, zion, bryce, idaho, utah, montana, this place and that. i'm sure they are all beautiful, and maybe, on some scale, more so than here. i'm happy here. content. getting to know my own backyard, intimately, throughout the seasons.

wandering the backcountry.

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