Sunday, May 1, 2011

24 . . . It's Not About Jack Bauer

Saturday morning at 10:30, I flung my backpack into my truck and headed West on Interstate 20 and then West on Interstate 26 and exited at Highway 64 West, in North Carolina. Finally, I passed between the stone columns, the entrance to Pisgah National Forest, and in ten minutes I was parked at the trailhead of Cat Gap loop. In one easy move I flipped my backpack over my head and onto my shoulders.

I had already made up my mind I was going to find the nearest campsite next to the Davidson River. There was only one non-negotiable stipulation--it must have some semblance of solitude. I hit the jackpot! The spot was absolutely beautiful. I pitched my tent in the partial shade of broken sunlight. Eight feet from my front door, turbulent crystal clear water rushed over rocks and around fallen trees. Its bass tonal notes blended into an original arrangement of soul music. Standing at the river's edge, I could look down into the riffle and see trout facing upstream waiting for Mother Nature to rustle up some grub. Close by, a fly fisherman whiplashed an artificial fly, skillfully and gently landing it on the surface.

Oh, I almost forgot! The temperature was 72 degrees, and not a cloud in the sky!

Earlier, as I came through town, I had stopped at a gas station, and for six dollars bought twenty good-sized pieces of split firewood. After unloading my backpack, I made three trips back-and-forth to the truck, filling the pack with the wood. By this time of year I knew any campsite would be picked clean of dead falls that would burn for more than ten minutes. Scattered around the forest floor there was plenty of kindling, so I started gathering and sorting kindling. A small pile with sticks not much bigger than toothpicks. Another pile of sticks about the size of a pencil. Another pile of sticks about the diameter of my thumb. I had a brick of magnesium and some dryer lint. At nightfall I would use it to start my fire without matches.

Tilting my head back and looking up at the towering trees, it brought me great joy to see a window into the heavens that would frame clusters of stars crossing its rectangular opening.

Later in the afternoon, I spread out my sleeping bag in dappled shadows, and fell into a deep sleep. It was 5:30 when I woke up. My guess is I slept a solid two hours. Immediately, I picked up my journal, and wrote down words that had come to me in dreamland.

The River . . .

Tumbling. Turning. Flowing. Foaming.
Reckless. Peaceful. Guided. Roaming.

Silent. Seeking. Calming. Crashing.
Rowdy. Timid. Brooding. Laughing.

We Are Like Rivers . . .

My phone said it was 11:45 p.m. when I crawled into my temporary home for the night. My last thought was how much I would enjoy a handful of gorp in the morning, along with piping hot coffee brewed on my campfire. Shortly after 5 a.m. I was awake, and my coffee pot was suspended above glowing embers. Caffeine! Over the next couple of hours I drank the entire pot as I sat whittling a knife from a stick of dried pine. I dropped the shavings in the fire and watched them ignite, incinerate, and then disappear into the belly of the fire.

The circle of rocks hissed and cast plumes of steam into the air as I doused it 5 times, using my coffee pot as a fire extinguisher. Tent was down and packed. Sleeping bag was in a compression bag. Bedroll was sheathed. It was time to leave.

Almost to the minute, 24 hours later I was back tracking the same route that had led me to a full day and a night of solitude and tranquility.

1 comment:

  1. great post. jealous of your experience alone. sounds incredible. have you read Wisdom of Wilderness by Gerald May? It is exactly what you just did - get away, get alone, process, write and cleanse the soul. good for you