beyond the country
If you keep driving: beyond the outskirts, past the horses and hay bales, to the far side of split rail fences and civilization. If you keep going far enough, you enter God’s country.
That phrase means different things to different people, I’m sure, but the land I speak of is this:
Wide open spaces unmarred by structure and untrammeled by man. Where braided gravel bars and river corridors wend their way through a sponge of alpine tundra then tumble down waterfalls cut deep into canyon walls. Where mountains rise up from valley floors, criss-crossed with a maze of game trails. Where lakes collect deep and cold at the base of glacial ice; where wolves howl and elk bugle and bison wallow. Where grizzly bears roam wild and free, and wolverines whisper on snowshoe paws across wintry passes too treacherous for man.
Land where you realize you are part of something bigger–and a very small part at that. But by “small,” I don’t mean “meaningless.” To the contrary, to be small in this country brings meaning to everything. It brings presence. It awakens awe. It allows all the trappings and mental chatter drop away. It permits you to witness.
It brings gratitude and wakefulness; humility and grace. In his essay entitled “Walking,” Henry David Thoreau said, “In Wildness is the preservation of the world.” It is also the salvation of, and a salve for, the soul.
When heading into the backcountry, it is always good to have some food in tow. This time of year, roasted pumpkin seeds are one of my favorite hiking snacks. There are many recipes on the Internet for these tasty treats, but my favorite is simple and straightforward: pumpkin seeds, butter, and salt. The full recipe follows. Enjoy and happy trails!
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
1 1/2 C pumpkin seeds (from 2 sugar pie pumpkins or 1 large pumpkin)
2 T butter
flaky sea salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut the pumpkin(s) in half, and scoop out the seeds and the pulp.
Separate the seeds from the pulp and place the seeds into a strainer (it is okay if there is a bit of pulp still attached, but you want to get most of it off).
Rinse the seeds, then pat dry with a towel.
Melt the butter in a small skillet or saucepan.
Place the seeds into a large bowl and pour the butter over them. Stir to coat.
Place the seeds in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.
Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
Allow seeds to cool on the baking sheet, then place in an airtight container.
Mine generally don’t last that long, but if you need to store them, place the container in the fridge and bring to room temperature before eating.