Seven years ago, while coming out of the woods after some days of hiking:
Woke at dawn, had me some coffee, but we’re out of food. That’s okay – it’s only six hours more to wait.
As it turns out, this was the worst weather we’d ever endured on a hike. Also, we had chosen a challenging trail. The combination of the two meant that we were soaked, exhausted, and occasionally in real danger. Every path was turned into a gushing mud- and gravel-filled freshet, and each of the half dozen real streams we crossed was transformed from a tranquil bubbling to a roaring, rock-tumbling, obstacle course, with hundred pound current. Had either of us fallen, it would have been a grave thing, and not just because of sopping wet gear and a danger of hypothermia. We were hiking in extremely rocky terrain, and some of the streambeds closely resembled gorges. It would be likely, in these circumstances, to take some serious bruising from a fall, and not out of the question to break bones or sustain a serious knock on the head, or get driven and wedged by the current into some crevice, and find oneself unable to get out.
But we did it. It’s done, and I’m not sorry; not for doing the hike, and not for seeing the end of it.
Our ride meets us at the trailhead at 1400. We’ll probably pull out of this bivouac around 1215, maybe 1230. Even if it’s very hard slogging on the remaining half mile, we should be able to cover it in an hour or less, so leaving before 1230 is just silly, unless the rain stops. If the rain does stop, it won’t matter as much, but as long as it’s pouring, this leaky tarp (uncomfortable as it may be) is preferable to standing in a downpour in a muddy parking lot, waiting for the kids.
Last night was a rough night for me. It started to rain again around 2200, and hasn’t stopped since. We’ve stayed fairly dry and not too terribly uncomfortable under our tarp, but the longer the rain lasts, the more it picks at the edges of our little haven, and the damper everything gets.
All I’ve had to eat in two days is one peanut butter and honey sandwich and a half a dozen cups of instant tomato soup. Also, I’ve drunk four cups of instant coffee with Swiss Miss chocolate mixed in. Not a very balanced diet. I’ve been taking vitamins – I guess that’s good…
My buddy Mountain tends to romanticize nature, which is how he talks me into these things; he deifies it – wants to cuddle up to it.
At least, he wants to want that. But when we’re out here doing the whole hiking, camping, nature-boy thing, he seems very uncomfortable; I think he prefers his nature in the abstract…
I know I do.
I am not a big fan of this "crawl-around-in-the-bugs-and-weeds" lifestyle. I get impatient with it. While it is frequently beautiful and sometimes dramatic, it is also filled with rot and death and the mindless avidity of insects, which of course reminds me of the pointless avidity of my own existence, with the silent, mindless, eternal scream of death looming nearer and nearer.
Of course, there are also blueberries.
In my experience, blueberries (along with the vivid, unparalleled, exalting reality of my six year old grandniece) defy all but the most hard-core nihilism.
I like blueberries. I ate handfuls of tart, wild, blueberries on yesterday’s hike. As I walked through the bushes, they came free soaked in rain and perfectly ripe. There’s an oblique, brushing technique to stripping blueberries (not raspberries, or blackberries – the thorns will catch you every time on those bushes). It’s a technique familiar to those raised in or near the woods – a way of running your hands over a berry-laden branch just so, so only the ripest berries come loose. The unripe stay in place, for a later visit.
They were very refreshing…
Hiking always puts things in perspective…