This summer your editor had the pleasure of backpacking over Sawmill Pass south of Big Pine and into a seldom-visited high valley east of Mount Wynne. In fact, the only people Richard and I encountered during the entire week were two backcountry rangers and two Fish & Game surveyors.
At our camp at 12,000' we were off the beaten track, not on any trail. We were completely alone. Or so it seemed. This summer I also read Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. The very last paragraph of this book contained the following insight:
Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot. . . .
And indeed we werent alone. One afternoon we walked over to a nearby lake and watched the yellow-legged frogs and their tadpoles. There were lots of other critters in the lake, although fortunately for the frogs, no fish. Small dark beetles crept along the bottom and swam to the surface to take a gulp of air every now and then. We saw swimming larvae, perhaps those of the caddis fly, with pebbled armor pasted to their bodies. Water striders glided over the surface of the lake, and my favorite insect buzzed in the air at duskmosquitoes.
On the ground there were bighorn sheep tracks and sheep scat. We even found the hollowed out places under the prostrate whitebark pines where the sheep had bedded down. We saw no sheep; but I suspect they saw us. We did see the less wary mule deer.
Within a 30-foot radius of our tent there were dozens and dozens of tiny flowersmost no more than an inch and a half high. Luckily we had brought a magnifying lens and were able to enjoy their beauty close up.
Clarks Nutcrackers flew past and Rosy Finches hopped on the ground searching for food. Colorful butterflies floated from miniature flower to flower. Ants crawled up granite boulders past lichen clinging to the rock.
And how much did we miss because we did not look carefully enough or because the creatures were too small for our eyes to see?
Remote, perhaps. But most certainly, we were not alone.