A Simple Happiness

What a happiness to find myself on the Pacific Coast, among old-growth redwoods. After two months of hiking and camping in the desert the lushness of the north coast rainforest is intoxicating. The shades of green are jarring. Whales and seals and sea lions swim offshore. Elk and cougar roam the forest. Spotted owls and varied thrush hide in the depths of the woods.

What happiness it is to be here.

This wandering life is not always comfortable or easy. There are long days of cold or wet or both. It is tough, not always quite as idyllic and romantic as it might appear, especially on social media. Added to that uncertainty is the self-doubt and insecurity I am internally plagued with. Joint pain from lupus pulses in my knuckles on these cold, damp mornings.

But there are moments such as this when all worry and concern dissipate and I am left with this simple emotion of blissful happiness. What a winter solstice day we enjoyed yesterday wandering in a rare wilderness.

 

The Wild Burros of Death Valley

Somehow an hour passes. We’ve been sitting on a dry wash bank watching a pair of wild burros graze the desert valley floor. The dark one – the male – stands out starkly against the land. The grey female is sublimely camouflaged; her coat is a match with the dusty desert. They glance at us periodically, ears pointed in our direction but keep grazing.

I try to think how more than an hour can pass watching burros, burros who take a few steps, graze long minutes, step forward two steps.

This is what always happens with us when we go wandering in a random direction, without a specific destination in mind. On these aimless days we are in no hurry to get somewhere. We’re not even hiking to see “something.” We wandered up into this canyon to see what we can see.

And wild burros are what we see.

The desert is silent. We sit silently in respect to this silence and thinking our own thoughts.

Me, I wonder what the burros are finding to eat out here. There isn’t much greenery. I must look at the plants as we hike back to our campsite, I think. Where will they spend this long evening? Will they bed down together? Are they mates? Do they stay together year round or do they just happen to find themselves together on this hillside? Will they travel together? Look out for one another? Why is the male so dark in colour compared with all the other wild burros we’ve seen in Death Valley? Are burros as sweet and innocent as they appear?

Who knew there was so much to contemplate about burros.

Not only did I spend an hour watching burros in this place nowhere in particular inside Death Valley National Park, I then came back to our campsite to write this about burros.

There was nothing epic or awesome about our all day adventure into this unnamed canyon. We just enjoyed exploring, sniffing the leaves of plants we have never seen before (or smelled). The desert trumpets in this wash have full bladders after the rains and snows that fell a few days ago. We poked our heads into old mine shafts. Admired the clarity of the quartz here.

And as we sat above a dry pour off picking our favourite bits from the trail mix bag and watching burros a flock of chucars flew down canyon, the collective wing beats of fifty birds mimicking the fighter jets that also fly overhead.

As I said, this was not a day filled with epic adventure. It was not a day teeming with stoked emotions. It was a sauntering day. A contemplative day. A day to explore. To delve into the desert, into a canyon and just be.

And it was quite the lovely day.

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