Tag Archive 'campfire'

Apr 27 2017

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Early Spring Overnighter

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Every once in a while I feel an overwhelming urge to spend a night alone in the woods. Either that or my wife orders me to do so when I become too grumpy. Yesterday the urge came hard and fast.

My dog Matika became very excited when the backpacking gear came out. She knows. She was all smiles during the ride to Johnson. There I left my car at the Long Trail parking lot and headed south.

I like to hike the LT south from Route 15 in early spring because there’s not much I can do to damage the trail. It crosses a meadow, tags a rail trail, follows a logging road, then becomes a skidder trail as it climbs into the mountains. By the time it’s a bona fide footpath, I’ve left it and am bushwhacking along a stream.

The loggers are taking a break during mud season so I had the woods all to myself. Just me and my dog, that is.

I travelled light, only taking with me what would fit in my old rucksack. A three-mile hike put me deep into the woods. I found a nice place along the stream to make camp. Afterwards I collected wood and made a small campfire. I can sit and feed sticks into a campfire for hours. Matika likes just looking around and chewing sticks.

An hour or so after dark, I slipped beneath the tarp to sleep. Matika was already there waiting for me. The sky broke open and the stars came out. You know what that means. Radiational cooling. I froze my ass off despite the fact that temps shot into the 60s yesterday and the 70s today. But it was worth it to crawl out this morning to a sun cresting the nearby ridge, deep in the woods. The mountain stream roared endlessly. And a breakfast campfire made it easy to shrug off last night’s chill.

Hiking out, I found a small patch of spring beauty, then a purple trillium in bloom – one that had still been closed the day before. Ah, spring! Matika crossed paths with a red fox that vanished in the blink of an eye. Something for both of us.

 

 

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Jun 26 2015

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A Little Time in Wildness

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CampMedI’m going gangbusters on the bookselling business these days, but earlier this week I put it aside long enough to spend a little time in the Broadleaf Wilderness. My dog Matika accompanied me, of course.

I hiked to a favorite spot along the headwaters of the New Haven River and set up camp. After casting my fly onto the roily waters of that stream, and a simple dinner of ramen noodles and summer sausage, I settled into a comfy spot in camp. There I pondered matters while drinking tea and feeding sticks into a small campfire.

Every once in a while, I jotted down something in my field journal. But mostly I just took in the sights, smells and sounds of the forest, and appreciated the great good fortune of being alive and well in such a beautiful green world.

It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of modern living. Happens to me all the time. But every once in a while, I head for the hills to reflect. Such outings rarely disappoint, and on occasion I come away from them with a little insight into the human condition. If nothing else, it clears my head.

I threw a few more sticks on the fire and talked to the mountain stream tumbling incessantly towards the lowlands. In the face of such fluid eternity, nothing seems as important as simply being in the moment. I pondered that for a while.

Matika lounged nearby, chewing on a stick. The sun slipped into the trees and twilight soon followed. A thrush called out. I threw a few smaller sticks on the fire until all that remained was a pile of glowing orange embers. Then I went to bed, feeling more at home in the wild than anywhere else. Yes indeed, safe and secure in wildness.

 

 

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Sep 30 2014

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Gaining Perspective

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PrestonBrookSeptAt long last, Judy and I went for an overnighter. We had planned on doing so this summer, and had tried again Labor Day, but circumstances kept preventing it. No matter. With unseasonably warm temps holding, we cancelled appointments, shouldered our packs and slipped into the woods together.

We have a favorite spot next to a mountain brook where we like to camp. Although there’s nothing special about it, we’ve infused the place with fond memories through the years. As a consequence it has become our number one destination whenever we feel the need to get away.

A hard September frost brought out autumnal color earlier than usual. The forest canopy was a beautiful mix of green and gold leaves. The stream, though running low, broke over and around rocks as it made its way downhill. The sound of it unraveled our nerves. We sat back and let rushing water work its magic.

As the forest filled with evening shadows, Judy and I conjured up a small campfire. We kept it going well past dinner – flickering flames dancing in the darkness. With each stick thrown on the fire we grew more reflective, more philosophical, slowly gaining perspective on the world beyond the forest. Campfire gazing is like that sometimes. While meaning with a capital “M” was not forthcoming, we went to bed with a better bead on things. And the incessant rush of the nearby stream washed away all worry.

The next day we sat all morning and part of the afternoon, tending the fire and listening to the brook. Eventually we broke camp and hiked out. Then we returned home refreshed, though we’d be hard pressed to explain why.  Every woods retreat is like that.  Simply reconnecting with the wild seems to do the trick.

 

 

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Sep 22 2013

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Campfire Meditation

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campfireThere comes a time when nothing here in the developed lowlands can cure what ails me, when I must load a few essentials into my backpack and head for the hills. It doesn’t have to be a vast wilderness area. Any pocket of wild woods will do.

I go alone. No one but my dog Matika accompanies me, that is. She makes good company in the woods because she’s not human.

I hike for several hours, sweating away much of my frustration with what passes for civilization. Then I start looking for a good place to camp. By the time I am comfortably ensconced in the woods, it is getting on towards evening. I build a fire to cook dinner. Afterward, as the sun is setting, I slip into campfire meditation.

Flames dance inside a small circle of stones at my feet. I feed thumb-sized sticks into the fire to keep it going. Placement is essential otherwise the pan-sized fire will quickly burn out. I pay careful attention. Eventually random thoughts give way to something else, to a deep calm, to clarity.

Hours pass. The moon rises, an owl hoots in the distance, the nearby feeder stream gurgles, and all is right with the world. When I start running low on wood, I let the fire burn down to embers. Then I put it out. But in the morning I do it all over again – this time with a pen and field journal in hand. Campfire meditation becomes campfire philosophy. And that’s pretty much what I’m all about.

 

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May 14 2013

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Springtime Overnighter

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spring hikeA tidal wave of green sweeps through the Champlain Valley during a succession of warm, dry days, giving me a serious case of spring fever. There’s no sense fighting it. I load my backpack, usher my dog into the car and head for the hills. Next thing I know, I’m hiking up a logging road winding deep into the mountains.

The road narrows to a trail shortly after crossing a brook. I leave the trail, following the brook upstream until I reach the edge of spring. There I find painted trilliums just opening up. There I set up my tarp on a high piece of ground, just in case the clouds gathering overhead deliver the rain that has been forecasted.

The stream rushes along incessantly. A few black flies swirl around my head without biting. I collect enough dry wood to keep a small fire going after dinner. Matika chews a stick, then another. The intoxicating smell of pollen, warm earth and forest rot fills the air. A slight breeze spits a few raindrops my way. I don’t care.

I feed sticks into the campfire for hours on end. A hermit thrush sings in the distance. Darkness descends. Then an eerie calm overtakes the forest.

A light rain falls shortly after Matika and I slip beneath the tarp for the night. It doesn’t last. I toss and turn a while before falling into a deep sleep. I awaken to a Virginia waterthrush singing loudly at daybreak. Matika licks me until I rise.

I stumble down to the brook to splash cold water into my face. The sun clears the ridge, peeking through the trees as I lounge before a breakfast campfire. When all the sticks in my woodpile are gone, I break camp.

An hour hike out takes two hours. I admire a patch of bleeding hearts along the way and stop by the brook crossing to daydream. Matika sniffs around. A forest calm lingers within long after I return to the car. The green overtaking the valley seems richer than it was the day before. I revel in it.

 

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