Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Definitely the Right Spot

When I walked up to the campsite, I smiled and knew it was the right one. Little Stony Creek was right there. It was loud when I walked up to the banks, but the sound of rushing and churning dampened with each pace I took away. It was a mansion of a campsite with ample room for many people, but I had it all to myself. It was bounded enough to feel like one room, in a forest that went on for about as long as they do in this part of the world. I set out to gather some firewood, and immediately found Ganoderma tsugae, a medicinal mushroom. Yes, this is definitely the right spot, I thought. It was going to be a good weekend for sure.

Little Stony Creek

This adventure was the first in which I’d be sleeping solo in a deep woods location. I set up both my tent and a hammock my Aunt gave to me, intending to sleep in the hammock unless the skies opened up. I did end up sleeping in the hammock, which I found to be as comfortable, if not more so, than a sleeping bag / pad. I fell asleep watching the stars through the trees and watching the fireflies flicker. I was still in transition from city mode to woods mode, though. This takes time.

I did a whole lot on the second day. I woke up more or less with the sun (though I threw the blanket over my head a few times). One of the highlights of the day was trying my first bull thistle stalk! It’s an intimidating-looking, armored plant, but a sharp knife made short work of it and got me down to the slightly sweet and very pleasant stalk, which I ate raw. I also had my first Solomon’s Seal root. After boiling, it tasted a bit like potato with some slight bitterness. Throughout the day, I grazed on large quantities of greenbrier, a bit of violet, some spruce tips, and boiled some milkweed tips. I also ate a half a pound of Oscar Mayer, no preservatives, Angus hot dogs. Those were foraged the weekend before, from a supermarket dumpster.

Spruce tips - they just scream "pull here!"

On this second day, I was slipping into woods mode. My mind was going here and there, without the distractions of the internet, any type of schedule, and any other people to interact with. I thought about the meeting I was facilitating the next week (not for a long time, pesky work commitments) as well as current and past relationships. Without distractions, I had to deal with everything that I could push aside in the city, where I find it hard and make it hard to hear myself. Past relationships, current relationships, what do they all mean? Well, I’ll probably never know the ultimate answer to that question, but it sure is a trip to ruminate.

I physically exerted myself throughout the day, bushwhacking up a mountain in the early AM. The greenbrier and mountain laurel made the journey especially difficult, but I was rewarded with a stunning view. I walked across the backbone of rocks, enjoying the warm sun as the coolness of morning was burning off. I was also happy to be getting more comfortable off trail in the big woods, using the lay of the land and an understanding of the basic map of the area to stay oriented. When I got back down, I took a dip in Little Stony Creek; well, not a full dip, because it was cold. Mental note to start some cold training soon.

Beautiful view after bushwhacking.

I found a peaceful campsite on the second night, though not nearly as aesthetically pleasing as the first. The peacefulness was a bit unsettling. This night I was especially deep in the woods and I really felt out on my own. I was writing some in my notebook and had the fire going. All I could hear were planes, the sound of animals (mostly birds), the crackle of the fire, and my pencil moving across the page. Everything was as it should be, but there was still that creeping feeling of aloneness. The discomfort, though, is part of getting away from all the distraction and schedules so that I’m able to hear myself and heal. A slight mist was coating my journal page and making it hard for the pencil to make good contact, so I went and checked my hammock, which was getting wet. I took everything into the tent. I was happy to have the increasingly strong rain put out the fire and I soon fell asleep.

I had vivid dreams that night, so much so that I’m not sure what I dreamed and what actually happened. At one point, I awoke to a noise that sounded like a big cat meowing fiercely in the distance. My heart started pounding. Eventually, I chilled out and went back to sleep. I can really psyche myself out when sleeping in tents, since I can’t see anything, but only hear noises. Did a cat really meow? I’ll never know for sure.

The next day, after a hurried, and thus unsurprisingly unsuccessful, try at making friction fire with some paw paw that I found, I walked back to the car barefoot. Driving down the forest road, I had that mixed feeling that I always get when leaving a camping trip. On one hand, I’m almost out of the food that I brought, I have wet clothes, and these problems get fixed by going to a house in the city. On the other hand, I just about start to come awake and alive in the woods after a couple days. I start to feel less like an alien visitor, and more like a part of the woods. It’s such a nice feeling to finally get in that mode. I’m removed from my addictions of email, social media, and junky, sweet food. I have no choice but to be with myself and deal with myself. I can focus on the small things and big things physically in front of me, zoom in and zoom out, walk fast and walk slow. It’s a spiritual experience for me. I’m finding myself increasingly distracted and unsettled in the city, feeling restricted and as if everything is programmed. Day by day I realize that I’m not where I want to be and that I'm starting to stagnate. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not far away.

No comments:

Post a Comment