Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day Dreaming

The preparation of an overnight hike or an extended kayaking trip; to me, can in some cases be more captivating to the sole, distractingly mind numbing to the every day, then the hike it’s self. It some times can go on for weeks if not months, stretching a weekend trip into a month long expedition of prep, planning, and day dreaming, this is how I make a little go a long ways. Extending the thrill by amercing myself in pre hike prep is a pastime I come to rely on. Counting ounces, sorting gear, logging their weight, on a gear weighting spread sheet occupies my mind. My beat up 1999 Honda civic has caught an almost forgotten piece of equipment, my mind in the car can go to thoughts of campsites, river crossings or meal ideas, seeing the crossing in my head helps me remember things like sandals. Things like driving directions are usually the last thing I think of. In the woods, I never seem to loose my way, finding the trail head, is a much different story. Weather forecasts never seem to get better, at first glance a weekend forecast might be a 10% chance of rain and temps in the upper 40’s, though the next time I look, 40% chance of freezing rain and temps in the 10 degree range. Most often it’s a slow decline, sucking your spirit out as you watch your chances of a late season hike slip away, but its part of the adventure right.
Beneath towering pine trees, dried needles lay amongst the forest floor weaved together. Smothering out the under brush, the needles created an open oasis, setting the mood with their rusty orange color against an amazing blue sky. Logs to sit on and native stones brought up from the near by stream give inviting places to prop your legs and lean your gear after a long days hike. A well used fire ring built with care, rounded river stones charred in soot, a worn smooth cedar log placed thoughtfully close to a massive pine tree. Thick chunky pine bark makes a surprisingly nice back rest. The smell of pine and cedar saturates the air. These places are what make hiking so beautiful and serene. Three pieces of flat limestone stacked neatly will do fine for a table. A shiny aluminum home made alcohol stove sat on a velvety green liken covered stone boils water for dinner. Simplicity, with out the need for gourmet meals, life becomes easier. Water patting well polished slabs of stone dampen the clanging sound of a titanium coffee mug and a spork. Mixing noodles and freshly collected water from the near by river that admits a refreshing cool air in late spring; the sun drops behind the hillside and the bluish shade of the forest floor looks pretty amongst late blooming purple bells.
Worn, but not worn out, used and supple, the crisp fabric, the crinkle of new; gone, my light blue Golite backpack leans against the smooth bark of a beech tree. Orange, green, and blue dry sacks with their well organized content inside placed next to the pack. Hammock strung from tree to tree, filled with a down quilt, small pillow, and ready to be dreamt in, hangs invitingly. Smoke meanders in a stream that flows through the small openings in the forest canopy. The bluish gray smoke softens the silhouettes of the pines against the backlit evening sky.
Tid-bits of information stored in are minds like photographs slightly distorted; none of us want to forget the places we’ve seen, the sounds we’ve heard, though we don’t know witch will stick, witch will stay and witch will slowly, unnoticeably slip from are minds. So I breathe deep, take it in, and try to notice the little things.
I dip my paddle into the lake and pull my boat forward. The sun hasn’t yet risen but the deep dark night lightens to a light blue. The stars fade into the morning sky. My breath condenses into tiny ice crystals and my stocking cap is pulled down tight over my ears. The island I camped at the night before shrinks behind me and the one in front is still far from sight. I dip my paddle into the dark emerald water and pull my kayak through its glassy smooth surface breaking its mirror like reflection. Soon my hat and jacket will have to come off, the mid days sun will be warm.
The planning of an adventure or the thought of what to anticipate supersedes the experience it self, or some times the memory is more beautiful. The pain of sore feet or the discomfort of a cold night, those memories fade and the good ones stay. Trips that are short don’t have to be. The memories and the dreaming and the trip its self all add to the experience.

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