Tag Archive 'freedom'

Nov 09 2015

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Hunting Season Tramp

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November woodsAfter reading John Burroughs’ Time and Change yesterday morning, I felt an overwhelming urge to get outdoors and stretch my legs. A blue sky underscored the urge. My dog Matika is always ready to go, of course. So we climbed into the car and drove to the pocket of woods on nearby French Hill.

Since it was the first day of deer season, Matika and I wore blaze orange. Usually I stay out of the woods when hunters are in them with high-powered rifles, but yesterday I simply couldn’t resist the urge to tramp through the woods without the constriction of a trail underfoot. I have days when only a good bushwhack will do.

It’s stick season now. All the leaves are down. They rustled loudly as I plowed through them, scaring off the local deer. Gunfire in the distance. Trees threw long shadows across the forest floor at midday, thanks to a drooping, late autumn sun. I crossed an old, stone wall, and that gave me my bearings while skirting a large beaver pond just out of view. Been here before. Without the distraction of a trail, it’s a lot easier to read the terrain.

There’s something about tramping through a trackless forest that calms me as nothing else can. It’s the absolute freedom of movement, I suppose, combined with a total lack of purpose. I tramp therefore I am. There’s nothing more to it than that.

Yet I couldn’t resist following the old logging trail that swept southward back towards the car, even though it muddied both my boots and Matika’s paws. The deer tracks we found there got our attention. And for a short while I was a hunter without a gun. It’s like that sometimes. I go into the woods with one purpose and end up doing something else. That’s what bushwhacking is all about.


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Oct 12 2013

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Revolutionary Ideas

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Saratoga Nat PkThe morning after doing a reading and book-signing event in Saratoga Springs, I drove over to Saratoga National Park. Thanks to the government shutdown, brought to us by those bumbling fools in Congress, the park was closed. That made it irresistible to me, unrepentant trespasser that I am.

I followed the Wilkinson Trail through the battlefield, kicking up heavy dew along the way. Crickets chirped incessantly. The sun rose steadily into a partly cloudy sky, illuminating the brilliant orange, gold and rust-colored foliage. Deer watched me intently from the edge of the trees. A woodpecker knocked in the distance. Otherwise all was quiet and still.

Upon reaching the Breymann Redoubt, a slight rise in the rolling landscape where a field gun stood, I felt the distinct presence of ghosts – of those who fought and died for ideas so revolutionary that they seem as impossible today as they did 236 years ago. Here the tide turned.

In a document written by those idealists a year earlier, they had claimed: “All men are created equal… endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And in October of 1777, on this knoll, they defeated an army of the most powerful nation on earth to make their point.

There are people living today who think it was all about taxes. Either they just don’t get it, or they’re too damned selfish to accept what “We the People” really means. As fiercely self-reliant as I may be as a woods wanderer, I know where my freedom comes from and how tenuous it is these days.

As I finished my walk, a park ranger came along and informed me that I had to leave. I gave him no trouble, not wanting to make his job any harder than it already was. I could tell from our brief exchange of words, though, that he was no happier than me about the recent turn of events in Washington. Clearly “We the People” are not being served well by our elected officials. It’s a sorry state of affairs to be sure.



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