America’s rugged wilderness imposes a calming salve, even when mosquitos are attacking you.

Nature doesn’t know silence. There’s always some sound like an oscillating frog belch or raspy crickets mashing their legs together. Wind whispers through the trees and when the skies grow dark with clouds, the sound of thunder rolls through the heavens and the patter of rain or hail bouncing off of leaves.

Even the sounds of man are audible in the wilderness. In this era of ubiquitous air travel, invisible jets and smaller prop planes whine overhead.

At night the wilderness is quieter, but you become hyper aware of every sound. The darkness sends the imagination into overdrive and creates a subtle fear of animal invasion. Maybe by marmots or squirrels (yes, squirrels can be a huge nuisance) or even hungry bears foraging for food could be lurking.

Luckily I’ve never lost my food to “wild animals”. On a 5-day solo hike I did years ago in the Adirondack Mountains, a family of bears walked through the camp, climbed a tree where the food was hanging and stole an entire boy scout troop’s cache. All you could hear in the inky blackness were the crunching of paws on dried leaves and the eventual thud of food bags falling to the ground.

The below photos taken in Colorado’s Flattop Mountain Wilderness area try to capture and introduce nature’s silence. When I look at them I find myself returning to the moment, focusing on the light and scenery and blotting out the other sensory impulses.

What do you hear?