Lost in the Winds

by Harriet Greene

 

Howie WolkeWind River Range, Bridger Wilderness, Pinedale, Wyoming: 
The West was drier than it had been in years. Two nearby fires were almost under control. Elkhart Park was closed as well as the south entrance to Yellowstone, nowhere near our direction. After thirteen hours on the road we arrived at our friend’s home in Jackson Hole where we would spend the night. Our gear was unloaded, our food figured out, our backpacks packed and our age-old list, checked off, making sure everything was in order for an early departure in the morning.
 
In Hoback Canyon, ten miles south of Jackson, fire-fighting camps lined the highway  and heavy smoke obscured the landscape. As the haze cleared, two sandhill cranes materialized in a meadow and watched us drive by, unconcerned at all the activity around them. 
 
The day was clear, warm and slightly windy when my daughter parked the car in a meadow where cows and their calves watched as the two of us started hiking up the ridge on an unmarked trail until it disappeared; making our way through an old burn, a stop for a snack on a deadfall pine before picking up the path only to lose it again. The going was extremely difficult, climbing over fallen trees and struggling through underbrush, balancing our heavy packs, getting very tired and dejected because the trail couldn’t be found. The two of us pressed on until hours later we arrived at our destination, Lake Jacqueline. Roanne found a beautiful spot ringed with trees, already in shadow. It took minutes for our tent to go up, then much longer to hang our heavy bags of food. My university physics came in handy as I moved up the hill, so the angle wasn’t so acute, and while she held the bag and gave it a final heave, I pulled it up.
 
It was twilight when she heated water for tea after devouring the leftovers from lunch. Our sleeping bags warmed our chilled bodies as we stretched out, thankful to be where we were. My shoulders were sore, my calves scratched raw, and tender hip bones kept me on my back while I experienced a condition well beyond exhaustion. Roanne fell asleep while I listened to the sounds of the wilderness.
 
Suddenly, a far-off rumbling shattered the serenity. I lay still and listened. There it was, a bit closer. It wasn’t long before lightning lit up the tent and the first drops sizzled on our rainfly. Thunder ripped the air, crackled, groaned and boomed overhead while lightning never let up. It rained for about a half-hour, welcoming us back to the Winds and outdoor life.
 
The days passed slowly. On day six at 10:28 a.m. the first jet broke the sound barrier as the two of us roamed over smooth, amoebic rocks around the lower lakes of vast, barren, rocky, wild, 10,840-foot Bald Mountain Basin. The skies were busy thoroughfares as the jets continued hauling humans to and fro across the continent. Oblivious to the momentum of the multitudes outside these wilderness walls, I was amazed one could climb into the backcountry and stop time, or slow it down enough to enjoy the minutes and hours that made up a day.
 
As I sat sketching the fire pit along the trail, the creek sang behind me, the birds called in the trees, the clouds sailed overhead, the sun shone intermittently, the wind changed direction, and the jets continued. Fourteen planes so far. This was jet-counting day, confusing the illusion of where I was; six more jets over dinner, three as our dishes were washed, and two more while doing yoga as the sun sank, leaving the Angel’s wings straddling 11,600-foot Angel Pass etched against a slate sky. A slight smell of smoke drifted south from a fire that had started a few days ago at Green River Lakes. While in our sleeping bags playing gin rummy, four more jets passed. 
 
Having been outside for eight days, I felt weathered - parched, burnt, strong, vibrant. I didn’t experience my usual early morning stiffness and wondered if it was the yoga, my diet, or the vigorous outdoor living that kept my blood pumping at a difference pace, feeding the tissues and cleansing the toxic elements of a sedentary life.
 
The first vaporous contrail appeared over Angel Pass and moments later the thunder of the jet’s engines could be heard. Living from moment to moment, aware of changes in weather, the need for clean water, warm food, warm clothing, the ability to alter well thought out plans, made for a full-time occupation. Here the hours pass more slowly - doing nothing but strolling amidst the rocks and lakes of a ridged landscape, reading in a warm tent, or drifting off into another dimension with a back-drop of chirping birds, a flutter of wings, a distant call of a hawk, the whisper of the wind around a canyon wall or the rainfly - all these pleasures reminded me that life was wonderful, that rest and relaxation were vital, and that simply keeping busy wasted our lives in accomplishing nothing of importance. Our reason for existence is all too often over-looked for a false sense of security promised by societal demands for accomplishment and the accumulation of things. We need so little and acquire so much and in the process miss the wonders of the natural world; the birds actually make music, the wind soothed a troubled brow, the sun warmed us, the moon moved our emotions, and the mountains’ massive presence provided security which we strove for all our lives. Nature provides all if you’re willing to take a risk.

 

Bridger-Teton Wilderness


Harriet Greene, graduate of McGill University in physiotherapy, moved to the US in 1970; hiked the Long Trail in the Green Mountains of Vermont and Mount Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire; a trip West convinced her to move to the Rockies where she fell in love with the Grand Tetons and Wind River Range. She found a small log cabin in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and settled in for twenty years. As an avid hiker, backpacker, author, stone sculptor and marble stonecut printmaker, she feels most comfortable in the alpine with a backpack, lost in some deep remote canyon with her youngest daughter. She has published six books, her latest, “Crossing the Boundary: A Return to the Wilderness and Freedom.”

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Comments 53

Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 21:54

Hi Laura Lou,
Thank you for your comment. I wish I was there right now! But I have my book to bring it all back to me.

Harriet

Hi Laura Lou, Thank you for your comment. I wish I was there right now! But I have my book to bring it all back to me. Harriet
Guest - MK (website) on Thursday, 15 July 2021 10:06

Thank you for the chance to reflect on our modern life through your writing.
It made me realize what has been missing in my life; I want to go & experience the wilderness once again!

Thank you for the chance to reflect on our modern life through your writing. It made me realize what has been missing in my life; I want to go & experience the wilderness once again!
Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 21:52

Hi MK,
Thank you for your comment. "We don't stop hiking because we grow old, we grow old because we stop hiking." Finis Mitchell

Harriet

Hi MK, Thank you for your comment. "We don't stop hiking because we grow old, we grow old because we stop hiking." Finis Mitchell Harriet
Guest - Angela Kirk on Thursday, 15 July 2021 09:59

Can't thank you enough for stirring the passion by so perfectly describing the essence & virtues of backpacking! We've been avid, life-long packers in the Sierras, and were wild-land firefighters. Now retired, we live on the edge of the Bridger-Teton NF. Looking so forward to packing the Rockies for the first time and hopefully, for years to come : )

Can't thank you enough for stirring the passion by so perfectly describing the essence & virtues of backpacking! We've been avid, life-long packers in the Sierras, and were wild-land firefighters. Now retired, we live on the edge of the Bridger-Teton NF. Looking so forward to packing the Rockies for the first time and hopefully, for years to come : )
Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 21:45

Hi Angela Kirk,
I appreciate your response. Living on the edge of the Bridger-Teton NF. How lucky can one get! How I loved living close to the Tetons and Wind Rivers. But my new grandson tore me away from the wilderness I loved and here I am in Oregon. Pretty but not like Wyoming. You have a wonderful adventure before you. I and my daughter backpacked in that area for 27 years.

Harriet

Hi Angela Kirk, I appreciate your response. Living on the edge of the Bridger-Teton NF. How lucky can one get! How I loved living close to the Tetons and Wind Rivers. But my new grandson tore me away from the wilderness I loved and here I am in Oregon. Pretty but not like Wyoming. You have a wonderful adventure before you. I and my daughter backpacked in that area for 27 years. Harriet
Guest - Cathy Brandt on Thursday, 15 July 2021 09:53

Harriett, thanks for your story! I love what you wrote here: ".. a back-drop of chirping birds, a flutter of wings, a distant call of a hawk, the whisper of the wind around a canyon wall or the rainfly - all these pleasures reminded me that life was wonderful, that rest and relaxation were vital, and that simply keeping busy wasted our lives in accomplishing nothing of importance." I also like: (we might) "...miss the wonders of the natural world; the birds actually make music, the wind soothed a troubled brow, the sun warmed us, the moon moved our emotions, and the mountains’ massive presence provided security which we strove for all our lives."

Harriett, thanks for your story! I love what you wrote here: ".. a back-drop of chirping birds, a flutter of wings, a distant call of a hawk, the whisper of the wind around a canyon wall or the rainfly - all these pleasures reminded me that life was wonderful, that rest and relaxation were vital, and that simply keeping busy wasted our lives in accomplishing nothing of importance." I also like: (we might) "...miss the wonders of the natural world; the birds actually make music, the wind soothed a troubled brow, the sun warmed us, the moon moved our emotions, and the mountains’ massive presence provided security which we strove for all our lives."
Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 21:33

Hi Cathy Brandt,
Thank you for your comment. The quotes you repeated brought me back to my feelings of walking in the wilderness.

Harriet

Hi Cathy Brandt, Thank you for your comment. The quotes you repeated brought me back to my feelings of walking in the wilderness. Harriet
Guest - Copley H. Smoak on Thursday, 15 July 2021 09:51

Spent time out there years ago with Lorraine Bonny who also loved the out of doors. Cope Smoak, an octogenarian adventurer

Spent time out there years ago with Lorraine Bonny who also loved the out of doors. Cope Smoak, an octogenarian adventurer
Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 21:27

Thank you for your comment. Lorraine and Orrin Bonny - brings back some memories of when I lived in Daniel, Wyoming and had the Wind Rivers stretched across my window in the distance.
From one octogenarian to another.

Harriet

Thank you for your comment. Lorraine and Orrin Bonny - brings back some memories of when I lived in Daniel, Wyoming and had the Wind Rivers stretched across my window in the distance. From one octogenarian to another. Harriet
Guest - Brigitte Bernhardt on Thursday, 15 July 2021 09:51

What a beautiful story. I resonate with your words we need so little and gather so much. The wilderness is the peace we are looking for. To be able to experience the birds, the wind, our muscles and blood. To feel alive.
Thank you for sharing!
????‍♀️

What a beautiful story. I resonate with your words we need so little and gather so much. The wilderness is the peace we are looking for. To be able to experience the birds, the wind, our muscles and blood. To feel alive. Thank you for sharing! ????‍♀️
Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 21:18

Hi Brigitte Bernhardt,
Thank you for your comment. A quote from my book: "Going to the wilderness is going home." George Duffy

Harriet

Hi Brigitte Bernhardt, Thank you for your comment. A quote from my book: "Going to the wilderness is going home." George Duffy Harriet
Guest - Amy Mower on Thursday, 15 July 2021 09:38

Thank you so much for sharing. Good reminders of hiking in the high country.

Thank you so much for sharing. Good reminders of hiking in the high country.
Guest - Harriet Greene on Friday, 16 July 2021 21:09

Hi Amy Mower,
Thank you so much for your comment. It's wonderful to know there are people reading. A quote from my book:
"The wilderness is good, but it's only a respite. Only the self-deluding could find Eden up here, knowing what we know. But this is my heart's country." C.L. Rawlins

Harriet

Hi Amy Mower, Thank you so much for your comment. It's wonderful to know there are people reading. A quote from my book: "The wilderness is good, but it's only a respite. Only the self-deluding could find Eden up here, knowing what we know. But this is my heart's country." C.L. Rawlins Harriet
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