Why I love wilderness: Confessions of a Wilderness Volunteer

By Meghan Sural

Aaaaahhh. The second week in June. Two weeks before the season’s solstice—making days not yet their longest, but long enough. Warmer weather has set in, but before the heat hits hardest. It’s Friday, and I’ve signed up to go on a wilderness restoration trip with Pat Bruce from Friends and a few other lucky volunteers. We hit the road for Mt. Grafton Wilderness, and a wave of excitement pulses through me—my first trip across Nevada on Highway 50.

Having grown up in the east, I feel a whole new form of wilderness in Nevada. There I knew lush rhododendrons and the smell of Appalachian dirt always in the air. Now I smell scrubby sweet-scented sagebrush. There thick, green vegetation surrounded me. Now waves of smooth velvet milk chocolate peaks roll into long ranges that meander to the horizon. Dipping and climbing through basin and range, I feel a rush of emotion, a vibrant and positive sensation, rushing the self-erected walls of everyday life. Cocooned by house, workplace, relationship, and comfortable lifestyle, my body and spirit are thirsty for some wild relief.

We arrive at Mt. Grafton in the dark, set up camp quickly, keeping the tops of our tents open to stargaze and sleep simultaneously. In a few hours the sun peaks over mountains to the east—the wilderness is calling us to her. We eat heartily and hike up to the wilderness boundary. Mesmerized by the rocks with their beautiful swirls, stripes and glitter, I allow the dust to coat my skin and hair as I stop to touch each dazzling stone. This does not make me a productive volunteer, and at times I have to pull myself from some shiny jewel so I can help the others finish our work to cover vehicle scars in this wilderness. Heaving large rocks, I feel my spirit reveling in reconnection to the land. Each touch of a rock, each sniff of the sage, butterflies bounding about, wildflowers popping open—each is a salve soothing my senses, a thousand rivulets connecting me to the land, filling the cracks of my parched senses inside with freedom and devotion. As wilderness floods this inner plain, I reconnect with my own wilderness inside and realize that she is a part of me. She deserves my attention and respect. And in turn, my very being needs her.

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