The warm, heady, sweet scent of wild mustard, the twittering of marsh birds and the quiet paddling of muskrats through the wetland were a pleasure to our senses those quiet days spent enjoying the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. Our camp was nestled amongst sage and pinion pines on one of the sloping hills surrounding the wetland valley below. We had a sweeping view of the valley floor where we could hear birds chattering and quacking, and spy on coyotes sneaking around looking for a meal. During our several days camped in this remote and beautiful spot, we encountered perhaps five other humans. It was splendid solitude, yet we we were far from being truly alone. While we may not have had many human visitors, but we had a plentitude of visits from members of other species. In the mornings and early evening we drove out into the marsh and armed with binoculars and camera I stalk the birds as they went about their daily business. During the hottest part of the day we would return to camp where one day I spent an entire hour watching a digger wasp build a nest. It was fascinating watching her dig her hole and pull our stones that were nearly as big as she was. Every so often a Great Basin Beetle would tromp through our camp. They were all going in the same direction seeming to be on some sort of mission. Or else it was the same one walking around in circles! On our first night, a pack of curious coyotes surrounded our camp. We awoke with a start when they started yipping and howling at one another, communicating in their special way that sent tingles up our spines. I could imagine them dancing around our camp in the darkness checking out the new intruders to their territory. When their curiosity was satisfied this rag tag group of rascals retreated into the night. The rest of time we spent in the area we heard their haunting song in the distance and I fully grasped why they are called "singing dogs" by natives. In the evenings we welcomed the hundreds of dragonflies and dozens of bats that inhabited the space above our campsite. Darting and flitting around in their erratic and jerky flights, they chased down and filled their bellies with mosquitoes. Our most distinguished visitor was a great horned owl who swooped directly above our campfire on a lovely, warm, moonlit night. On a hot sunny afternoon the day before we were to pack up and head to a new location, we decided to take inventory of our food stores. We unpacked several week's worth of food and laid it half on our camp table and half on a blanket on the ground. Suddenly a kangaroo mouse, with eyes bigger than his stomach, darted with reckless abandon through our legs and across the canned beans. We laughed and laughed imagining his high hopes for snatching a morsel of food. He left empty handed, but boy he couldn't help trying! We were grieved to leave this beautiful place and its blessed solitude, dusty wind, spacious view and communion with God's creatures. A place like this leaves with you a true sense of freedom and ones' place in the universe.
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