Jul 11 2008

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Back to the Wild

Posted at 9:32 am under Blog Post

Yesterday I went back into the Green Mountains to regain some semblance of sanity. A series of events, largely out of my control, kept me away from them for over a month. That’s way too long. A great weight lifted from my shoulders the moment I stepped out of my car and into the woods. I looked around long enough to notice daisies, buttercups and tall meadow rue in bloom nearby, then shouldered my rucksack and charged up the logging road. My dog, Matika, was already twenty yards ahead of me – no doubt as glad as I was to get back to the wild.

A mile up the logging road, I tagged the Basin Brook. I followed it into the green infinity without as much as a deer trail underfoot. When the brook forked, I took the tributary leading back to a series of beaver ponds that I had visited a few years ago. There I would put the collapsed fly rod in my rucksack to good use. But first I had to reach those ponds. That’s easier said than done, as any seasoned bushwhacker will tell you.

The Vermont woods are lush this time of year. The extra rain they’ve seen recently has made a lot of plants and animals happy. Mosquitoes greeted me while I flailed through thick entanglements of hobblebush, but I was happy enough tramping across the forest floor, listening to the stream’s song and breathing in the dank smell of a wet forest. For a few hours, I was off the grid. And that’s a feeling you can’t buy at your nearest superstore.

Matika was a knot of exuberance, running back and forth through the woods just to be running. More than once she leaped over blowdown only to land chest-deep in a mud hole. She didn’t care. When I crossed the brook, she bounded past, splashing me in the process. I think she did that on purpose.

It took a couple hours but eventually I found that old beaver pond I’d fished a few years back. The newer ones below it had broken and drained, but the old one still held firm even though there was no indication that any beaver still lived there. From the beaver dam, I waved my fly rod a few times and landed a fair-sized brook trout. I didn’t let Matika wade into the pond so she sat on the dam looking rather bored while I fished. She pulled sticks from the dam and chewed on them until she caused the dam to leak. That and the gray clouds overhead cut my fishing short. No matter. I had reached the pond and, quite frankly, that was all I really wanted to do. The pond was just a destination – something to aim for while wandering around the woods for a day. The way I see things, it’s all about the journey. The destination doesn’t really matter.

I bushwhack through life. Show me a trail and I’ll follow it for a while but not forever. I’m not a big rules kind of guy. Some people live their lives in a box; others think outside of the box; I can’t even find the box and don’t know what I’d do with it if I could. So I go into the woods on a regular basis, finding there the kind of meaning and purpose that most people find in credos, scientific facts or sacred texts. I walk streams, hike trails and generally wander about the woods, looking for insights into the real. I’m rarely disappointed.

The hike out was easy – downhill for the most part. When I got back to the car, I realized that I hadn’t seen another human being all day. Just what the doctor ordered. Matika climbed into the back seat and slept all the way home. I basked in the glow that always follows a day spent outdoors. Returning home, I hooked myself back into the grid. But I’ll be out there again soon. I hope to return to the woods before my mud-caked boots have a chance to completely dry out.

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