Doug Bruns

In The Mountains, Again.

In Camping, Memoir on August 11, 2019 at 8:00 am

The view of Peak One Campground from uptop mountainside.

We’ve been in the mountains only two weeks. My lungs are trying to figure out what’s going on. The morning run-walk up the mountainside is a bit more run than walk recently, but the difference is hardly discernable.  Lucy too is lagging, but occasionally gets a surge and charges ahead during our morning outing. A couple of days ago she streamed past me and disappeared down the trail. That’s what we do, leap frog one another on our morning runs. But on this morning, with her out of sight, I heard barking off in the woods where the trail empties out into a clearing. The bark was not Lucy’s. I know her voice. Then I heard that distinct whine of a coyote. Then the barking again, raspy and hoarse, but from a different direction. My heart raced. Lucy had either been loured into or stumbled upon a coyote den. Last year I encountered coyotes in the same area but had forgotten about it until this moment. I picked up my pace, calling for her. She’s a good dog and always returns to my call, though sometimes it takes a while. I reached the clearing.  She wasn’t there. I called again and moved toward where I thought I heard commotion. Then she appeared. Her tongue was bloodied, but she was intact and seemed relieved to see me. I checked her, ran my hands over her little body–no wound, no puncture. The bloodied tongue was–and remains–a mystery.

The next day I put her on leash just before entering the clearing. I surveyed the area and we continued. Suddenly she stopped and sniffed the air. I looked to the edge of the woods. The coyote was watching us, perched behind some scrub brush. It was big, as coyotes go, and looked well fed. I was taken aback, frankly, at how healthy she appeared. Coyote life must be good in the mountains. We continued on, Lucy none the wiser.

The Morning Run_edited

The morning run starts and stops at the lake.

* * *

We are back in Colorado, hosting a campground in the White River National Forest. We will be here until the beginning of October, unless weather drives us out earlier. Last year three feet of snow dropped the day after we pulled out. Nights are already dropping into the low 40s. There is snow still holding on the peaks and ridges around us. (We’re a little over 9000 el.) People are already looking into the mountains to see if the aspens are changing. Unlike the drought of last year, we get rain almost every day. It is welcome, as it keeps the dust down and nourishes the wild flowers.

Our trailer is simple and comfortable. We don’t need much and this style of living underscores our commitment to simple living. Minimalism is the word of common currency and we are minimalists, though I tend to avoid labels that are suspiciously popular. My personal goal of simplicity has most recently included my online life as well as my analogue life. It is one thing to get rid of clothes that are too much in abundance; something else altogether when you attempt to exercise the same philosophy in your online life. I’ve been off Facebook for over two years. I have not missed it one day, even one hour, especially now knowing that it is a data mine for marketers and scammers and Russians. I quit Twitter a year ago. I found it of interest, but burdensome. It started to feel like a puppy, always crying for attention. My Instagram account is still up, but stagnant. It’s there simply as a visual record of the last several years. I work to resist surfing the net and keep a book or two at my elbow to counter the urge to open my laptop. You have to work at important things that are contrary.  We exist in a time that is noisy, foggy, and traffic-bound. Compliance is the motivation of the herd and if you lean in that direction eventually you’ll be grazing mindlessly on consumption, waste, and time squandered. Then you die. I can’t avoid dying but the rest of it is something I can work with.


  1. Good morning

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Having difficulty with wordpress. This is a test.

  3. Noisy, foggy and traffic-bound? You describe my hometown in summer, in addition to describing my own need to break away from attachment to my phone. Though I have no social media accounts, and I eliminated the News feed Apple liked to send me, I still feel an anxious need to immediately respond when I hear that familiar text ping. Or even worse, check email if no text ping has sounded for a wile. It’s similar to the feeling I experienced in my old days of smoking cigarettes: keep that box within easy reach, and indulge my habit whenever anxiety developed – or boredom, or any other state of mind I wanted to avoid.

    In his op-ed piece yesterday, Ross Douthat talked about the potential demise of the noel in today’s distracted world. “In my own life it’s the internet that’s killing novel-reading. And specifically the social media/iphone combination, whose distracting effect is the enemy of the novel more than of other forms of art.”

    I have been blaming my diminished novel-reading on an overloaded life, or poor vision, or just a phase I am going through. My vacation times used to be retreats for extra reading time, but now I find I read little while away. The reason? I have been checking my phone for news of what’s going on at home, or telling those at home what I am doing while away. So silly! Like it can’t wait? At least when I reached for my Parliaments I could read at the same time.

    Thank you for raising this important aspect of simple living. As Epictetus said, “If a person gave away your body to some passerby, you’d be furious. Yet you hand over your mind to anyone who comes along, so they may abuse you, leaving it disturbed and troubled.” Wonder how many times he’d be checking his phone if he were here today.

    PS: Glad Lucy survived the coyote.

    • As usual, your reply is thought provoking and refreshing. And thanks for the Epictetus quote. It’s one of my favorites. I am reminded of a quote from Marcus Aurelius: “Examine every life experience logically and accurately. It will expand your mind like nothing else.” (M3 II) There are a couple of things here that I think pertain to our conversation. First is the idea of examination. I think that is another word for being present, for paying attention, for taking a breath. Next he brings Stoic reasoning into the equation, reason being the heart of soul of the Stoic sense of moral purpose. When we zone out due to distraction (going to our phone, going to an online game of chess, going into mindless activity) we obviously are in a state that is opposite of examination. And lastly, the notion of the mind expanding. This all sounds very Zen to me, as well as obviously, very Stoic. Looking forward to continuing the thread face to face. D

  4. Wonderful essay, Doug. The part about Lucy had me on the edge of my seat. So very glad she’s all right. It’s a ways off, but we look forward to your return trip.

I welcome your comments. Thanks for reading.

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