He went out the mountain to pray… Luke 6:12

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Kamma Mountains Mustangs: Spring Blooms (Part II)

Nevada Desert Mustang, Kamma Mountains

(Continued from Part I)

Day 2

The temperature is not cleaving to the season change.  I put on silk leggings, a camisole, t-shirt, sweater, jeans, wool socks, fleece-lined boots, a down jacket, and a hat.  I check my pockets for gloves, wondering if on this trip we will enjoy even an hour of warmth.  I acknowledge to myself my fear of not finding a familiar band of horses we expected and hoped to see.  We last viewed them in November when we witnessed the effects of an August 2013 BLM round-up which targeted, among others, the Kamma wild horses.  The Kamma Mountains are a Nevada desert wilderness and part of a portion of Pershing County’s public lands to which the BLM alludes as the Blue Wing Complex for purposes of managing the range.

Snow has fallen and by noon most of it has melted.  We scan several miles of the central Kamma canyon before stopping at Rabbit Hole Spring.  The water levels at Rabbit Hole are high, helped by the run-off from the snow-capped peaks.  We note the conditions and continue on, bearing right before venturing onto a crude road that heads west.  Within a couple of miles, we spot mustang droppings.  We grow anticipatory as the concentrations bloom.


Kamma Mountains Mustangs: Spring Blooms (Part I)

Mustang, Ginger Filly on the Range, Nevada Desert

Mustang, Ginger Filly on the Range, Nevada Desert

Five years ago, when my husband and I began to travel in the Nevada desert, news drifted to me of wild horse round-ups and opposition from protestors.  I attempted to sort out the controversy: events, timelines, laws.  Eventually I gained a sense of which sources I could trust and high on that list was Laura Leigh, founder of Wild Horse Education.  Laura Leigh dedicates her life to protecting northern Nevada’s wild horses– collecting data from the range, observing round-ups by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, filing lawsuits on behalf of the wild horses, and posting detailed accounts of each on the WHE site.  But while Laura Leigh’s writings and photographs were revelatory, I still felt an uneasy disconnect.  I needed a touchstone, a starting point, where I could begin to form a story of my own.  Then came an opportunity to crystallize my research.


Mendocino National Forest

Mendocino National Forest 4

My husband and I recently attended a large group event in the Mendocino National Forest.  It was atypical of our usual activities and yet enjoyable, as the group was vivacious and eclectic.  One commonality among us was that as Land Rover owners, most have become Land Rover mechanics rather than succumb to the inevitably outlandish prices of service centers.

It was our first trip to the Mendocino National Forest and our impressions were diverse.  The Forest is highly regulated, due in large part to the number of interest groups vying for its use.  From the frequency and markings of usage trails, it is evident that the National Forest Service strives to allocate use fairly and accurately.  Such rigors make the Mendocino National Forest an ideal destination for families with young children who are seeking an outing with manageable risk.

To our delight, portions of the Mendocino National Forest were very different from other wilderness areas we have visited.  This photograph alludes to the steep terrain and beautiful vistas that captivated us and will undoubtedly garner our return.


’round Tehachapi


We recently traveled to Tehachapi where the southern Sierra Nevada tip meets the Mohave Desert.  There we stayed in a home on a high windy peak with desert views and access to hiking trails.  Our Weimaraner, Zso Zso, and I went out to explore.  Granite boulders dotted sage-covered slopes, creating labyrinths of caves and dens that Zso Zso nuzzled.  Later that day my husband and I met a woman eager to share her knowledge of the area.  She warned of a particular Japanese restaurant and rattlesnakes.

“Rattlesnakes?”  Although I am watchful of them in the desert, I hadn’t associated rattlesnakes with this terrain.

Tehachapi BouldersThe woman who had fine curly hair and a wiry build nodded vigorously.  “And they’re mean ones.  My friend’s dog just got bit.  She called vet after vet and finally found one who would come for $800.  He worked all night and saved the dog.”

The following afternoon as a I set out on a hike with Zso Zso, voices drifted up from a couple of joggers beneath us on the trail.  “There’s a lizard, ” a man said.

“When the lizards are out, the snakes are out,”  his companion sang in a single breath.

As Zso Zso and I began our hike I admonished her to avoid anything that resembled a den, advice she disregarded.   I let her run until the cinching in my stomach warned I might be tempting fate.  Then I called her back.  Kept her close to me.  Pointed my lens at her.  Captured her like a boulder ’round Tehachapi.




Mojave Desert: Joshua Bloom

Joshua Tree Bloom, Mojave Desert

There is something humbling about stumbling upon something as beautiful as a Joshua bloom.  Before last week, 23 years had passed since I last saw a Joshua Tree.  I do not recall the trees being in bloom at that time; neither do I remember that they were not.  What I can say with certainty (and no small degree of sadness) is that even if in they were in bloom, I would not have paid particular attention.  I was enraptured by life’s panorama, indifferent to small and delicate mysteries such as the Joshua bloom.  On this visit, however, when we arrived in the Mojave and I spied the flowers, I instantly delighted in them.

Joshua Tree, Mojave Desert

The Joshua Tree is the largest Yucca and does not bloom every year.  It is not known precisely when or why the Joshua will bloom but it is speculated that the flowering relates to the plant’s responses to rainfall or lack thereof.  In 2013 a record profusion of Joshua blossoms led scientists to speculate that the Trees are radically threatened by the worsening drought in the Mojave.

A trend in the Joshua Tree population shows that as older Joshua Trees die, they are not being replaced by new ones, thereby putting the future of the Trees at risk.



Hitting the Desert Road

Desert Road

Nevada Desert Road


Humboldt Range Sunset: Grace Alone

Desert Sunset, Willow Creek Road, Nevada

“…remember the loving-kindness of the Lord and rehearse His deeds of grace.” — Alistair Begg

I keep a mental inventory of the best spots in our northern Nevada region to photograph a desert sunset because a good sunset view is, like many things, contingent upon being in the right place at the right time.  That fact lounged near the forefront of my mind the afternoon we drove to Kyle’s Hot Springs, only to find that someone had tampered with the pipes and the water in the “tubs”–deep round turquoise cattle troughs–was tepid.  Mildly disappointed, I gazed from our elevated post along 12 mostly empty miles toward Unionville.  Unionville was a hamlet, sheltered by the Humboldt Range from wind and all but a dusting of an evening sun’s setting rays.  From there I traced 400 west all the way out to Mill City and a place on the corner where Dusty supplied trailer space to dozens of miners.  Dusty was a business woman with a desert-bred edge who welcomed no nonsense.  Her spread consisted of a staples shop, an immaculate laundry and a bar the length of a supermarket cashier’s conveyor.

A couple of freeway exits south of Dusty’s were two locations with five-star sunset views, Antelope Plains and the foothills on the west side of Star Peak.  I wasn’t ready to head over that way yet, in spite of the fact that I had been stymied for years by the absence of a great sunset view on the Humboldt’s east side.   So, gaging that we had about three hours of daylight left, I suggested to my husband that we backtrack and explore upper Willow Creek Road. (more…)

Secretly Yearning

Weimaraner Portrait, #1, Zso Zso Belle

Our dogs always have multiple nicknames, it just seems to evolve that way.  Last year we adopted “Zoey,” an enchanting, quick-witted Weimaraner.   “Zoey” seemed too simplistic a name for her so it morphed slightly to “Zoey Zoe.”  We added “Mojave” after learning that she had been rescued on the edge of the Mojave desert. (more…)

On Survival: “What I Liked Best”

Desert Sunset, West Humboldt Range, Nevada

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” –Mother Theresa

Many years ago, long before my husband and I began a life of wilderness travel, I was walking on a city sidewalk one stormy afternoon when abruptly I could not see.  Nor feel the rain.  Nor hear the surf crashing on the nearby cliffs.  Then slowly my hearing resumed and I heard a voice ask, as if from a great distance, “Would you help me?”  I peered and peered.  And eventually discerned a youth with flaming cheeks, frantic hair, drenched jeans and bloated blue feet.  Instantly I replied, “Of course I will help you.” (more…)

Nevada Family Survived with Stones Warmed by Fire

The recent rescue of a family in the Nevada desert has captured the attention of wilderness enthusiasts and the general public.  My husband and I routinely travel solo in the Nevada desert so when, last Tuesday, a blip on my home page announced a search for a family believed to have been stranded for two nights in the Kamma Mountains, I immediately clicked on it.  And learned with heartfelt dismay that four young children were among the missing–and that nighttime temperatures were reaching to 20 below zero. (more…)

Today, a Miracle

Willow Creek Road

This year my husband and I have been focused on our family business.  It has resulted for us in less time traveling in the Nevada desert and we sometimes long for those opportunities to commune with Him in those vast and beautiful spaces.  But God has blessed our work here and we feel Him with us every step of the way. (more…)

A Perfect Moment in Unionville

Unionville, Nevada Homestead

Unionville, Nevada is a gift.  The moment of its arrival is always perfect.  In Unionville a vast silent beauty vanquishes my thoughts, my fears, my dreams.  But leaves behind a fantasy of living there.  My mind is too contrived to know what is good for me.  Those mountains, they evidence God’s mighty ways.  Standing before them I apprehend my smallness.  In submission, there is wisdom.  I feel blessed to experience it. (more…)

Kamma Mountains Mustangs: After the Round-Up

Mustangs, Kamma Mountains, Nevada

Sixteen days ago my husband and I drove out to the Kamma Mountains of the Nevada desert.  An entire year had passed since we had been there.  Neither of us spoke as our wheels crunched over mile after mile of gravel road.  Each was preoccupied with memories of our last trip to the Kamma Mountains when, during one day, we sighted 21 mustangs.  Interspersed with those memories was apprehension about what we would–or would not–find when we arrived this time. (more…)

Bear Valley Campground: Sunset

Sunset, Bear Valley Campground, Tahoe National Forest

Sunset, Bear Valley Campground, Tahoe National Forest

Campers planning to visit the Tahoe National Forest this summer should be aware that due to extreme fire danger, campfires are forbidden, even in campgrounds where they have traditionally been allowed.  Charcoal fires are also banned.  Some campgrounds have okayed the use of camp stoves if a permit is obtained.  For those of us who enjoy solitude and are admittedly a bit selfish, the campfire ban is advantageous in that the flocks of folks which typically fill the forest during these peak weeks of summer, seem to have opted out this camping season.  My husband and I recently spent three nights at Bear Valley Campground as the sole campers there, the first time in five years that we’ve experienced such a quiet stretch, including stays in the spring and fall.  On the fourth night, a young man, Vlad, arrived with his dog in a VW bus.  Vlad had just graduated San Jose State and, to celebrate, was taking a leave of absence from his job as a mechanic to travel to Yosemite.  We invited Vlad to join us out on the bend at sunset where we had become accustomed to warming ourselves by the radiant vista.  The bend–nothing more in mid-afternoon than a rough stretch of road with an unremarkable view–revealed in the slanted evening light, canyons extending to Sierraville.  On that night it became a sanctuary, a place to fellowship over God’s masterful artistry in the absence of campfires and s’mores.

Location:  Bear Valley Campground is located 17 miles north of Truckee on Highway 89, then 6 empty miles east on Cottonwood Creek, an unpaved road.  The campground features 10 free campsites with one source of non-potable water (boil for at least 10 minutes)  and 2 vault toilets.  This year there is no host at the campground but rangers do make daily rounds. (more…)

Tahoe Portrait: Higher Ground

Portrait, Tahoe National Forest, 8000 ft. elevation

Portrait, Tahoe National Forest, 8000 ft. elevation

I’ve always thought that the best portraits result when the subject is unaware that he is being photographed.  Recently, using a telephoto lens, I was able to take such a photo of my husband.  He was perched on an isolated 8,000 foot ridge in the Tahoe National Forest, binoculars in hand, absorbed in the view.  (If his brow appears furrowed, it is because he is trying to determine if a white speck in the distance is Sardine Lookout–a tower miles away but at comparable elevation.  We visited Sardine Lookout earlier that day.)  In the background a bank of clouds lends an ethereal feeling to the image, while in the foreground course dry dirt and brown-edged leaves bring to mind a possible drought.  When I gaze at this portrait, it reminds me of everything I love about my husband and our travels together in the Tahoe National Forest.  It also transcends the personal and alerts me to how deeply I enjoy an elevated viewpoint.  Higher ground.  Lifting my eyes toward heaven.

The Story of Zoey Mojave

Weimaraner Portrait, Zoey

Weimaraner Portrait, Zoey

The story of Zoey Mojave began for us with the death of our Pointer, Choko.  Choko died in January.  He had lived with us for eight years, from the time we adopted him and he dove onto my husband’s lap for the brief ride home, licking my husband’s face and spinning in excitement as I strained to focus on the road.  In March, we drove four hours to meet Zoey, at an appointment sanctioned by the Weimaraner Rescue group which was boarding her at a pristine private kennel behind a Modesto suburb orchard.  When we arrived, the kennel owner wasn’t there but her assistant was expecting us. Despite the assistant’s pearl-smooth skin, she was graying at the temples and might have seemed a bit beleaguered, were she not so determined to do a good job.

“We’re here to adopt Zoey,” I stated matter-of-factly.

“Sight unseen?”

I nodded.

I can’t explain how but I knew from the moment I saw Zoey’s photo on the Rescue website that she was going to be our dog.  In that photo, taken through the bars of her kennel, she appeared empty-eyed, slightly thin, sad and a bit lost but not as tragic as some of the dogs I saw–or as our Plott Hound, Grecko, when he dons a pathetic face in an attempt to earn an extra scrap of meat.  Grecko and Choko grew up together and, prior to the Pointer’s death, didn’t spend a day apart.

I knew that the assistant’s query–”Sight unseen?”–did not refer to concerns about the Weimaraner’s appearance.  Bright yellow eyes, soft fawn fur.  People commonly approach us to tell us how beautiful Zoey is.  She is luminous like a movie star, or a monk.

But she is a Weimaraner.  And a Weimaraner has the canine equivalent of a MENSA-qualifying IQ, sufficient stamina to run a marathon and enough slight of snout to snatch your dinner before you notice that she’s near.

And Zoey was a rescue.  Had she been neglected?  Abused?  What sort of life had she lived?  Had her owners cared for her?  Deeply?  At all?  Would her behavior become predictable in time or had she suffered unrecoverable trauma?

Sweet was the word that caught my attention on the Rescue site in the sparse description next to Zoey’s photo.    And then: Found tied to the door of the shelter.

The loss of Choko was incredibly hard on our family; we really needed a Sweet dog.  We didn’t require a perfect dog but we neither could we handle a particularly challenging one, at least not temperament-wise.  I wasn’t even certain that we were ready for another dog but Grecko was sleeping all day and my husband wasn’t sleeping all night and while browsing rescue sites I saw Zoey’s photo next to the word Sweet. “We’re coming for you Zoey,” I cooed, even before I realized what I was saying.  Then I set to work on my husband.

“I’d prefer a Pointer,” he said, in a tone which did not invite discussion.

Tahoe Portrait with Zoey

Oh, the poor Pointer, I thought, to be compared to Choko, our ever-faithful companion and fellow desert sojourner for so many years.

Gently I pointed out to my husband the unfairness of such an arrangement.  Adding tactfully that Weimaraners and Pointers have similar traits…both are highly intelligent, agile, fast, high-strung, affectionate, demanding and rewarding (all qualities my husband loved in Choko)…after which my husband sort of…conceded.

Before he could change his mind, I filled out the application on the Weimaraner Rescue website.  A couple of days later, we were notified that they thought us well-qualified.  They did not think, however, that we would be allowed to adopt Zoey.

“She’s young and healthy,” they said.  “Most likely she will be adopted by someone ahead of you on our waiting list.  But one of our representatives will contact you about other candidates that might be suitable for your adoption.”

I was at a loss as to how to explain to them that we were already in love with Zoey (even my husband, by then, had succumbed to my cooing of Zoey’s name.)  So we waited.  In silence.

And two days later, received a call.  “We think Zoey would be perfect for you.”

“What? Wonderful!”

No one knew Zoey’s real name of course and by the time we met her I wasn’t prepared to assume that she could easily adapt to one more change.

We added “Mojave” a few weeks later when I learned from yet another volunteer in the Rescue organization that Zoey had been Found tied to the door of the shelter in a small town on the edge of the Mojave Desert.  The shelter was operated by the police department and consisted of a kiosk and several outdoor kennels.  The town had a tiny budget so rescues were held for only one week before they were euthanized.  No exceptions.  The Weimeranar Rescue group discovered Zoey on the town’s website but couldn’t arrange transportation north for her in time, so one of the police officers took her home because he thought she was too Sweet to die.  Northern California Weimaraher Rescue sent a car for Zoey as soon as they could.  They delivered her to the private kennel where we met her for the first time.  That morning, after observing Zoey in an outdoor ring with Grecko, the kennel owner’s assistant said, “I don’t think these two will have a problem.”

Zoey climbed into our car.  And slept curled on my lap for the entire four-hour drive home.

Shortly after we arrived, she pulled a roasted chicken from the counter onto the floor and nibbled at one wing.  We rinsed off the bird and ate it.

In the days that followed, Zoey embezzled a tower of toilet paper (she uses it to make confetti,) two tiny yellow blankets intended for a neighbor’s baby shower, a bottle of blueberry honey, three pens and an avocado.

Nights we put her to rest in an old overstuffed chair at the foot of our bed.  She shimmied over the top of the chair onto our bed and slinked up the mattress until she lay between us, silent as the moon.  When ordered back to her chair she pretended to sleep until we snoozed before she set out on the prowl again.

Dogs on the Ridge, Tahoe National Forest.2

Despite many groggy mornings, we gradually all became friends and eventually fell in love.  Even Grecko, whom I was certain would die of a broken heart after losing Choko and who was at first peeved by Zoey’s energy and antics, fell in love with her.  Now the two of them constantly frolic and Grecko is more vivacious than ever, it stunned me to realize one day.

My husband still mourns Choko but Zoey leans against his legs and climbs onto his lap and nuzzles him with the fuzzy tip of her head and leaps toward him when he walks through the door so he can’t help but love her and in loving her he is happier.

I am grateful that Zoey has completed our family.  She loves us, deeply, generously, exuberantly…and we her.

We recently traveled to the Sierras with Zoey but have not yet visited the desert.  We have been reticent to go, with so many perfect memories of Choko.

But we are contemplating a trip to the Mojave…

Author’s note:  We would like to extend our genuine thanks to Northern California Weimaraner Rescue, a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing Weimaraners.  NCWR provided pre-adoption screening of Zoey, medical care for her pre-adoption needs, and generous post-adoption support in the form of shared knowledge and experience.

Weimaraners, due to their abundant intelligence and energy, require acute supervision and a huge investment of love in the forms of frequent attention, affection, discipline, play and exercise.  Popularized in modern culture by photographer William Wegman, these dogs do not–without extensive training–sit still for dress up and portraits.  Please adopt responsibly.

Santa Cruz Mountains: Final Moments

Sunset, Santa Cruz Mountains, Northern California

Sunset, Santa Cruz Mountains

My husband and I would like to thank all of you who so kindly sent your condolences following the death of our beloved German Shorthaired Pointer, Choko.  It was such a comfort to hear from so many of our blogging friends during our time of loss.

With Choko on my heart, I have been reflecting on past losses and memories of final moments with loved ones.  A favorite is that of my last conversation with my father, a quiet, contemplative man who died young of lung cancer.  He had long departed the metal hulls where he contracted mesothelioma putting insulation in ships.  He’d worked his way into an elite position facilitating talks between buyers and shipbuilders: what would work, what wouldn’t.  There was no solution for the cancer he’d derived from asbestos in the insulation.

A few months before my father died I visited my parents in a small Mississippi ship-building community and later at their home in Maine, to which they returned when my father became too ill to work. I flew by red-eye from San Francisco to Portland, dreading what I might find when I arrived, admiring a mango-red sunrise over Denver.  My mother met me at the airport in Portland and on the drive to our home town, reported that my father had lost a lot more weight.

Inside my parent’s house, I kissed my mother again and went directly to my father.  He laid in the formal living room where friends had placed a bed when he was no longer able to climb the stairs.  I could not wake him.  I called to my mother and felt my heart break as she entered.

“He was fine when I left to pick you up,” she said.

Together and alternately we attempted to rouse my father.  Eventually he opened his eyes.  He called me by my sister’s name.  I gently corrected him.  My mother departed to the kitchen to prepare soft-boiled eggs for his breakfast, confident that a bit of industry and nourishment would reverse this onset.  I sat by my father’s side.  His translucent skin shone on his bones. I reached for his once fleshy hand.  His eyes closed.  He spoke.

“I don’t know if I’m ready for this.”

I was not prepared to be thrust into such a conversation so soon.  I was jet-lagged and stupored.  I could think of nothing profound to say. So I tried to buy myself some time.

“Ready for what, Dad?”

He allowed a dramatic pause before replying, his voice replete with amusement, “Breakfast.”

Moments later he died, still holding my hand.

Much later my maternal grandmother was diagnosed with bone cancer. I had just bought a new home in the Santa Cruz Mountains and abruptly left rooms filled with unpacked boxes to travel to Maine and care for her.  When I was growing up, she was my haven; while she was dying, I would be hers.

I stayed for a month with her, naively attempting to tell her once how I sorry I was for her suffering, how much I would miss her.  She sshh-d me and said:

“I’ve loved you all my life and you’ve loved me all of yours.  That’s all that matters.”

Sunset, Big Basin State Park, Pacific Ocean

I’ve come to understand that the way we die says a lot about the way we lived.

My father lived with courage and humor.

My grandmother lived to make the family so dear to her feel loved.

Choko lived as if each day were his last.  He defied gravity and sometimes authority and often common sense. He climbed trees and swam lakes and ran 50 miles for every 10 we walked in the Nevada desert. In California once when he was a puppy he flew off a 15-foot cliff into the Pacific Ocean during a raging storm with a high surf, was carried out to sea, swam the length of a nearby beach, struggled to shore, and returned to us as casually as if he had taken a dip.

His friendship was as faithful as the sun.

He died in my husband’s arms.  We wept as he lay limp and unresponsive on my husband’s chest–when suddenly, swiftly and with all his might, Choko raised his head and delivered three final kisses to my husband’s cheek before dropping his head one last time.

It helps when grieving to gently–never radically–break with routine and accede to the unfamiliar; it makes the absences less obvious, the pain less acute. So instead of writing about the Nevada desert in this post, I thought I would share a sunset my husband and I recently witnessed near our home in the Santa Cruz Mountains. This spot overlooks Big Basin Redwoods State Park.  It is so elevated that the Pacific Ocean is visible in the distance, more than thirty miles away. Often the Santa Cruz Mountains trap coastal fog but this particular evening was incredibly clear. While I photographed the sunset, my husband gathered blossoms from a nearby Manzanita and needles from a pine. Ever the survivalist he, upon our return home, used them to brew a tea which was high in Vitamin C and invigorating…like sipping a forest…timeless…and free.

May the Lord bless and keep you until we meet again.


Sunset, Santa Cruz Mountains

Nevada Desert Blues: Loss

Man and Dog in Nevada Desert

Man and Dog in Nevada Desert

Dear Friends,

My husband and I have never traveled in the Nevada desert without our dogs.  This week we lost, after a short illness, our German Short-Haired Pointer pictured in this portrait with my husband.  We have wonderful memories of journeying with Choko in the desert and were hoping for many more.  We are bereft at the loss of this beloved family member.

I will be taking a break from blogging during this period of grief and adjustment.  Please know that you remain in my thoughts and my prayers.

Love and Blessings, Vivian

Nevada Desert Sunsets

Nevada high desert sunset

Nevada high desert sunset

These are my favorite Nevada desert sunset images of 2012.  I’ve discovered that there are certain places where the chances of seeing a beautiful desert sunset are greater than others.  Often when my husband and I go out exploring for the day, I start mid-afternoon looking at my watch and urging him to arrive at a certain destination by a particular hour–depending on the season, weather, and what I witnessed the night before.  Fortunately, he’s a generous man and happy to accommodate my requests.

“If I can put one touch of rosy sunset into the life of any man or woman, I shall feel that I have worked with God.” — G.K. Chesterton, Essayist

The desert sunset photographs in this gallery were taken (from left to right and top to bottom):

  1. Imlay, Nevada
  2. Majuba Mountains, Nevada
  3. West Humboldt Range, Nevada
  4. Antelope Valley, Nevada
  5. Rye Patch Reservoir, Nevada

The featured image in this post was taken near the foothills of the Eugene Mountains.

“Sunsets are so beautiful that they almost seem as if we were looking through the gates of heaven.” — John Lubbock, English Biologist

The Art of Desert Travel

IMG_3450 edited

IMG_3450 edited

Four years ago my husband and I broke down one afternoon in a remote Nevada desert canyon where the temperatures hovered around 100 degrees.  We covered the car with towels for shade, prayed, made a plan and, by the grace of God, were rescued within a matter of hours by strangers arriving in the canyon to camp.  Despite the speedy rescue, the breakdown became a defining moment for us because one of the big “what if’s” that confront every wilderness traveler was from then on a “remember when.”

My husband and I routinely but reticently break one of the fundamental rules of desert wilderness travel–always travel with another party.  We are eremitic travelers–meaning that solitary travel is for us a means of deepening our intimate relationship with God.  The decision to travel alone comes with added risk and responsibility so we work hard to be prepared.  A triage is a useful model for establishing a hierarchy of preparedness.  Although triage refers to rapid assessment and prioritization of injuries, I like to use the concept in reverse to prioritize prevention of predictable medical threats.

The preeminent consideration in a survival situation is core body temperature.  You can live three weeks without food and three days without water.  But within three hours a fluctuation in core body temperature of merely a few degrees is potentially fatal.  Therefore the largest allocation of space in and on our Land Rover–after the tools and equipment required to maintain (and, if necessary, liberate) the vehicle–is for clothing, bedding and shelter.  Water occupies the second-largest apportionment of our space.  And a moderate but sufficient amount of space is allotted for food.

Being prepared requires a lot of hard work and constant management of our gear, our vehicle and our supplies.  It’s all worth it, though, when we roll out onto the road and enjoy the ride.

Nevada Desert Sunrises

Sunrise, Imlay, Nevada

Sunrise, Imlay, Nevada

These are my favorite Nevada desert sunrise images of 2012.  Not every morning in the Nevada desert begins with a beautiful sunrise.  Sometimes clouds or fog obscure the sun’s rays or draw a gray curtain across the desert sky.  When that happens, the secret to seeing a glorious sunrise is to get up the next morning and try again.

And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.  2 Peter 1:19

Nevada Desert View: Solitude

Nevada desert view of Black Rock

Nevada desert view of Black Rock

With the passing of 2012, I am filled with gratitude for the beautiful sights and experiences the Nevada desert held last year for my husband and me.  Many thanks to all of our readers who in shared that journey with us–and to those of you have just arrived, welcome.  I have been touched by all of your comments and often reflect on them.  I am moved to address several exchanges pertaining to the natural world as a venue or vehicle for solitary worship.  There is diversity among those comments, with a portion of readers strongly inclined to worship alone in the wilderness to the exclusion of formal venues.  Others have remarked that they are drawn to both wild and formally ordained venues–but that not all those with whom they fellowship in the latter approve of their relationship with the former.  Over the years, my husband and I have met with some less than gracious responses to our eremitical lifestyle from members of our church, so we understand.

Raven’s Bread Hermit Ministries: Food for those in Solitude

Yet solitude is–commonly or occasionally–a component of worship for many devotees and in this sometimes harried world, can be useful in alleviating stimuli which interfere with our ability to seek and know God.  My husband and I are eremitical travelers, a life to which we are called.  We are blessed to embrace solitary worship at home and in the wilderness, most often the Nevada desert.  But sometimes I find myself driftng toward worldly concerns and, at those times, I find inspiration in scripture and in the words and works of fellow pilgrims.

Another source of encouragement for me is the newsletter published each quarter by Raven’s Bread Ministries.  Raven’s Bread Ministries provides a venue for hermits and others drawn to solitude to share insights and experiences with regard to lifestyle and worship.  Whether or not you eremitically inclined, I suggest a visit to the Raven’s Bread for a lovely respite.

At its best, solitude brings with it desired aloneness but not loneliness.  The aloneness begets a certain emptiness which leads to silence.  Silence stills a listening heart in order to be penetrated by the Word of God.  Simplicity empties oneself of distractions and separates one from worldly cares.  With solitude, silence and simplicity, peace and unexpected joy follows when it is lived intentionally in the presence of God.  – Raven’s Bread: Food for Those in Solitude; November 2012  “Thoughts in Solitude”

One of the greatest challenges my husband and I faced in 2012 was the near-disintegration of our church, a church we have attended faithfully (when not traveling) for nearly 10 years.  An act of nepotism on the part of one of our trusted church leaders produced chaos in our congregation and among the other leaders.  That leader has been recognized and respected–not only in our church but throughout the world–for his life of ministry.  He has created models for serving many of the broken among us: addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill, the homeless.  Because of his profound service, when he announced that he was installing his son as our new pastor and stepping down to a lessor role, the congregation and leaders were accepting of the change–until it became apparent to everyone but him that his son was not a fit for the position; thus the unraveling began.

My husband and I were traveling often during that period, deep into the Nevada desert wilderness.  There we found a sanctuary which was wholly steeped in the presence of God.  In the vistas we witnessed the vastness of His kingdom.  In the elements we felt the power of His will.  Often we drove for days in complete solitude.  We camped in Unionville and on the edge of Black Rock Desert.  We were blessed to see mustangs, moonrises, shooting stars, and sunsets like gardens drawn across the sky

When we returned to our church we were filled with peace.  And able to accept that our beloved pastor, a man who had served God for his entire life, had simply succumbed to a lapse in judgement, wanting the best for his son.  But not everyone agreed or was willing to forgive.  Our church shrunk to a quarter of its former size.  Of the members besides us who remained, many were bereft and accusatory.

Ironically, my husband and I discovered that the intimate relationships we had forged with God through our Nevada desert travels seemed to help us resist the disorienting effects of the upheavals.  For that, we were grateful and hope any of you who are experiencing conflicts as a result of your worship choices, will take heart.

As we eagerly look to the new year, we are filled with anticipation for the beauty and blessings it will bring.  We look forward to sharing them with you and to learning the good news of yours.

Love and Blessings for 2013,


Nevada Desert Blues: Majuba Mountains

Nevada High Desert, Majuba Mountains, Cross

Nevada High Desert, Majuba Mountains, Cross

My husband and I were exploring in the Majuba Mountains of the Nevada high desert when he spotted a cross on a distant peak.  I longed to have a closer look so we chugged up the mountain, searching for a corresponding road.  We picked and chose our route but nevertheless made two wrong turns before backtracking and regaining our direction.  Eventually one road ended within walking distance of the cross.  As I emerged from the Land Rover the wind attacked my ears so I reached for my arctic hat, the one I wear when the weather would otherwise drive me inside.

Before we hiked to the cross, we poked around and found a few abandoned mines.  One of the shafts seemed interminable.  My husband tossed a rock into it and we heard it bounce again and again….and again……..and again…………………………………and again………

We walked to the back of the shale-covered hill and began to climb.  I sought footholds in weedy shoots with withered tendrils tucked among the shards.

When we arrived at the cross, the wind tried to heave us from the peak; we dug in.

And wondered at this enormous structure–perhaps a memorial for a fallen miner?

We stayed for a long time, grateful to be in the shelter of our Lord.

Nevada Desert Blues: Star Peak

Star Peak, West Humboldt Range, Nevada

Star Peak, West Humboldt Range, Nevada

On a whim one day, my husband and I decided to explore Willow Creek Road outside of Mill City in the Nevada desert.  We exited Highway 400 and crossed Dun Glen Flat to the East Range foothills.  Gradually we ascended the mountainside and observed evidence of a watershed: a tall willow tree, no doubt the road’s namesake, followed by a lovely concentration of junipers.  Within a few moments we came upon this pond with a view of the Humboldt Range and snow-covered Star Peak.

I have seen Star Peak hundreds of times before.  I have viewed it from the village of Imlay, Imlay Canyon, Imlay Summit, Rye Patch Reservoir, Antelope Plains, and the Humboldt River.  I have gazed at it from Prince Royal Canyon Road as the sun set and the moon rose while my husband played his harmonica.

I have watched Star Peak vanish into a bank of clouds while I sipped coffee in a navy camp chair, nestled under a fuzzy blanket with a faux Navajo design.

On the road to Unionville, I once stared as Star Peak snatched a few black clouds which then unleashed on it a fury of white flurries.

Star Peak is a landmark: a stark protrusion; a regional north star.

And now it is a Shangri-La.