Friday, November 7, 2008

Bacon Creek

I spent last week walking along through the antelope migration corridor with a big, heavy backpack on and mud on my hiking boots. A few days into the trip I followed the Bacon Creek drainage up toward the high pass the antelope cross in the Gros Ventre mountains. By late afternoon, I was getting pretty tired, but needed to push on just one more mile to keep to my schedule. As I came over a small hill, I saw my shadow cast way up the valley by the setting sun (and took this picture). By the time I reached my campsite in a meadow along the creek, set my tent up, prepared a place to hang my food bag, and started cooking supper, the last of the sunlight was gone. I ate my noodles and had some tea in the dark with glittering stars overhead.

Sometime in the night I woke up to the sound of ice on the creek breaking. I grabbed my bear spray and held my breath, straining to hear any more sounds in the night and imagining the giant grizzly I thought must be crossing the creek to come get me. After a while, I realized the ice had only shifted as the temperature changed and I relaxed enough to fall back asleep until morning.

Though I was scared at the time, I relish that deep humility that comes from venturing into bear country, the feeling of vulnerability in the presence of another creature that is bigger, stronger, and keener than myself. Humility seems to be in short supply in a time when any mention of reconsidering our consumption of resources, slowing growth and development, or leaving habitat untouched is construed as a threat to our economy. I wish more people could spend a cold, dark night alone in a place like Bacon Creek, listening to the ice crack and holding their breath. That taste of humility can keep us in check, help us recognize the wonderful things we already have, and reveal our entanglement in a wild and complex world where human control is often a myth.

About a week later, with blisters on my feet, sores on my hips, and a journal full of notes I returned to Laramie. On Tuesday night the humility I carried from Bacon Creek was replaced for a while with swelling pride as I watched Barack Obama win his election as the new president of America. This is a very exciting time to be thinking about how the future in our nation may be shaped. I hope that sharing stories about the wildness of the antelope migration corridor will help protect it for upcoming generations (of antelope and people alike) to enjoy. I can't wait to get writing.