Apr 22 2009

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A Dry Wind

Posted at 9:10 am under Blog Post

I went into the mountains earlier this week to spend the night – just me and my dog, Matika.  I hiked a logging road uphill for a half hour, then followed a small stream a quarter mile to a favorite camp spot.  At 1500 feet, a few patches of snow still lingered in the woods.  Although some furled leaves pushed through the forest floor, no flowers bloomed at that elevation.  That’s okay.  I hadn’t come to botanize.

In early spring, I don’t expect much.  But I do expect to enjoy a long, meditative evening feeding sticks into a campfire.  With that in mind, I gathered wood shortly after setting up camp.  But it was still too early in the day to start a fire, so I went fishing for a while.

I broke out my fly rod and retraced my steps back to where I’d seen a brand new beaver pond.  Figured that would be a good place to start.  I flipped my line into the pond and every quiet run or deep pool I could find while working my way upstream, but no trout rose to my offerings.  That’s okay.  I hadn’t come to fish.  Not really.

By the time I returned to camp, I was ready to start a fire.  I crumpled a little birch bark and built a small tipi of sticks around it.  But a dry wind blew down the mountain, kicking up leaves all around me.  Hmm…  My wood pile, the leaves, the surrounding forest – everything was very dry.  As I put a match to the tipi, I told myself to be very careful.  I had a couple liters of water close at hand just in case.

The parched tinder burst into flames and every stick I added to it burned hot and fast.  I kept the fire small, but had to put out an ignited stray leaf more than once.  Stressful.  I burned just enough wood to boil up a pot of water for dinner, then immediately snuffed out the flames.  So much for campfire meditation.  I donned a sweater as I sat in the chilly woods at twilight, while brooding over this unexpected turn of events.

A gust of wind blew down the mountain with enough force to rattle my tarp.  I fretted about the impending storm as I tied down the tarp edges with more guylines.  Then Matika and I crawled under it.  The wind roared in the distance.  The temperature dropped as the forest grew dark.  I nodded off but awoke around midnight to the sound of sleet hitting the tarp.  Matika groaned.  Several times through course of the night, the wind tugged at the tarp, threatening to pull it from its moorings.  But we awoke at dawn still dry and under cover.  The forest calm at that time seemed rather peculiar.

With very little wind blowing and leaves subdued by dampness, I enjoyed a breakfast campfire well into the morning.  It wasn’t what I had planned, but when you’re in the wild, it’s best just to go with the flow.  During the past 24 hours, Mother Nature had shown me a face I’d never seen before.  I pondered that while sipping coffee and poking at quiet embers.  Twenty-seven years in Vermont woods, you’d think I would have seen it all by now.  But the wild, by definition, can always surprise.

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One Response to “A Dry Wind”

  1. reneeon 24 Apr 2009 at 7:41 pm 1