|Just being here makes everything better, even if the canyon is dropping forever.|
The dog started to fidget and whine as I pulled on my brush pants, which was followed by full on barking, floor writhing and chest high hopping when I pulled out my boots. Those seemingly tiny and insignificant cues were last ingrained in her when she was a five month old puppy on a snowy late January afternoon. She had a few great points and retrieves that day, and thinking back I felt much the same way she does now as I gather my gear. Now she’s one and a season of promise lies ahead, but this trip she had to stay home and watch patiently out the window, awaiting the prodigal father.
I left for distant lands to hunt speed goats (antelope) with one of the few people I know who cherish the lonely Great Basin as much as I. Jesse was lucky enough to draw a tag in an area we’ve spent a bit of time in the past couple of years. We drove on dirt roads for hours, slowly trailing out of the suffocating smoke that has pervasively choked out our home area for the better part of a month. We crossed deserts as lonely as they come with coyotes trotting in the daylight without much fear. It’s always comforting to see such a persecuted creature show little regard to our presence, like lonely and innocent criminals in the middle of a sea of dust. The wild asses gathered near the road and smugly watched our passing with suspicious eyes.
Getting out of the truck and lacing up for the first hunt of the season made me feel like I had been sleepwalking for months. In this unforgiving place that few creatures can call home returning as an unworthy visitor at its mercy is the best I can afford here, whether it’s cognizant or not. I feel fortunate that the thought is never far from my mind. Being awake out here in the desert is something to cherish.
We soon returned to the world of modern man sore and blistered. Watching mobility scooters block traffic and meth heads frantically pace rutted circles into sidewalks as the headlines throbbed about music awards and pre-season football.
But as we toiled away for two days in that seemingly boundless place I remembered why I am the way I am. Why I can’t change it if I tried, why I never would want to. The wilds will always have a firm hold on me – one that will outlast my ability to clutch back at it and that makes me leery. Even if you come up short in your wilderness endeavors it’s better than to not have had them at all.
As we pulled up to my house the dogs head silhouetted the back lit window. I went inside and as she frantically pawed and whined to welcome me home I told her that grouse opens in a week, and so does a season full of other birds. She just stuck to my side like a siamese twin till I went to bed, not knowing the best is yet to come.