This post comes from hand-scribbled notes I took during the Harriman Memorial Day trip. More stream-of-consciousness than eloquent prose, but it gives an idea of the simplicity of thought when alone in the woods.
We walked past a bat the color of the inside of tree bark. I’d never seen one so pale.
We walked through countless spiderwebs. I had one in my mouth for steps and steps.
We walked past creeping ground-dwelling flashing bugs whose flashes would intensify as we approached, only to be rejected by my unfeeling headlamp upon our arrival.
We saw a dog and a human high above us on a ridge. Or, I saw. The two eyes of the dog stared back at us first. It didn’t bark. Didn’t move. The faint headlamp glowed behind it and off to the right. Maybe it wasn’t a dog.
Maybe the human didn’t know he wasn’t alone.
We walked up to a deer that frightened me for a solid five minutes. Five minutes isn’t a long time unless you’re alone in the woods without a gun thinking you’re facing off with a mountain lion. It didn’t move when I whistled nor when I talked to my dog. So I got myself together and kept approaching.
She raised her head softly to gawk at us when we got about ten feet away, but didn’t run.
We found the shelter – a place neither of us had ever been – in the dark. A group of young men were there already and we walked past, Obie first up the ledge, then me, knees first with the weight of the pack on my back.
We found a good place to put our tent and set up camp in the darkness. It was cold but I didn’t want to cook. My dog tried to eat my sandwich and I remembered I put raisins in all of the peanut butter sandwiches. Why did I put raisins in all the sandwiches? I pulled a crust off and shared it with him, but he had his own food. After I shared my peanut butter sandwich with Obie I sat in the hammock to watch the moon set, whisky in hand.
It was a cold and windy night on the ridge but we made it just fine.
In the morning I was reminded of the importance of why I always test my gear prior to a trip: I burned my oatmeal because titanium heats faster than aluminum. Obie seemed very interested in my oatmeal but I didn’t want to feed him burnt oatmeal. There was no protein in it.
Then I remembered living in Colombia and the dogs there ate oatmeal because the people ate oatmeal, and the dogs ate what we ate. Oatmeal, pasta, popcorn, whatever. Not much protein, but they were happy to have food.
Now Obie is eating a rock. He has been eating it for hours. I am eating rice and beans because I needed something more substantial. This campsite is crowded and I’ve had to keep him tethered since this morning. I hope tomorrow’s shelter is more private so he can run around and chase rocks.
We made a friend. Maybe he’ll join us for whisky and a fire later.