A perfect late summer’s day. But instead of hiking, the obsession I have had all summer of working in the yard continues to takes hold, so instead of hiking, I’m digging up sod this afternoon. I have a completist attitude, and my desire to dig up all the useless grass in my yard, and plant pollinator friendly flowers instead, is almost overwhelming. I want bees and butterflies in my yard, and I want to feed them. Grass, not so much. Every square foot of sod that I replace makes the rest of the yard all that more useless. There is a plan B in the back of my mind, of heading up to Pine Mountain Observatory for a visit, but yes, rock hard sod takes an afternoon of digging, plus the run to the landfill to dispose of it, so watching a Pine Mountain sunset followed by galaxy gazing at the observatory does not happen.
But after dinner, the itch to get outside is still there, and so is a big fat gibbous moon, and so at 10 PM I find I am leaving the house behind, with camera and tripod in tow, heading out to the Badlands to wander around for a while in the moonshine.
When I arrived, I’m actually shocked to see a car at the trailhead. Someone from out of state camping in the wilderness! How wonderful. Living so close by, the Badlands are a great hangout spot for me, but it would never occur to me to camp there. Funny perspective.
How bright is the evening? I have both a headlamp and flashlight with me, neither of which I use as I wander on and off the trail! The trail is already a clearly defined swath in the sandy bright soil. Off I go. Immediately, mentally, I realize I needed to be out here, and that I have made the right decision.
Silence. No wind. Only the occasional sound of distant traffic. Owls sporadically hoot in the distance as they move both here and there in the darkness. Junipers stand solitary in the moonlight.
The irony that I am playing around with my camera, by myself, in the middle of nowhere, on a Saturday night, is not lost to me. This is my life. At this moment I am bummed that my friends who were here almost a month ago, didn’t get to see this scene of the moonscape volcanic badlands, swamped in monsoonal rains as we were. In a short period of time that I have lived in Bend, I feel an intimacy with this landscape, as I did with my favorite places in the Columbia River Gorge, and around Mt Hood.
I am having fun. Enjoying the silence – taking my juniper by moonlight photos – great photographer, I am not. But the junipers make excellent subject matter, and is their wont, infinitely patient as I play with settings on my camera. In fact, both the junipers, and the moon, are living a completely different timeline than I. The moonshine and high clouds rolling on the southern horizon diminish the stars, but 90 minutes of connection to the outdoors is renewing and satisfying. I did get outdoors today, I got my moontan and I was able to enjoy and observe another facet of the Badlands tonight.
No great tale. No high adventure. But I was outdoors, looking up, as the moon looked down. Saturday night’s alright.