Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
Rough Notes from the Woods 1
Yesterday was a long, hard day. After driving two hours to the town of Richwood, WV, I drove an additional 45 minutes to a point on the Cranberry River where I parked my SUV, gathered my gear and peddled my mountain bike an additional six miles into the Cranberry Backcountry.
I spent the rest of the day working towards getting the camp ready. During the daylight hours, temperatures reached nearly 70 degrees. I broke a sweat as soon as I carried my first load of firewood back to my camp. Fortunately, there was some wood left at another camp. That made it easier but it still turned out to be a hot and sweaty affair. I fell a 15-foot hemlock and drug it to camp for later use and returned to camp to start the fire. I used two 6″ thick logs about 18″ long, one end close together, maybe five inches, the other about 10 inches. This provided a place to rest my kettle for boiling potatoes and a place for frizzle stick cooking. There was some leftover straw here from a horse trip. Bundled up, it made a great firestarter. As it took flame and I gradually added larger kindling, the security of the fire took over and I knew I’d be fine for my nights alone in the backcountry.
Dinner was not a success. I had planned for two pork chops marinated in Buck’s Steak Sauce and boiled potatoes seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. The first pork chop on the frizzle stick ended up charred and dry. By that time, I was ready for nourishment so I proceeded to eat all but one corner which seemed more like a char-coal briquette than a pork chop. The second on the stick was much more palatable. I cooked it slower and checked for doneness sooner. Although it wasn’t five-star quality, it was still somewhat juicy and quite tasty. The potatoes had boiled for the duration and were ready for salt and pepper. I was still hungry but not hungry enough to eat more than half a potato. They were bland and disappointing.
Between cooking and eating, I pulled the smaller ends and sprigs from my hemlock. I laid them in close to my fire. Following Nessmuk’s advice, I managed a bed about 6″ deep for the evening.
Getting my food into a tree seemed simple but took a while to accomplish. I was glad that I was alone so no one could witness how many times I had to throw my rope before it finally went over the right branch and fell back down enough for me to retrieve it and connect it to my food bag. Later in the evening, I would also realize that a bag of food for a week is heavier than you may expect and takes quite the effort to pull it up a tree.
I took Nessmuk‘s advice again and brought green tea with me for this trip. His ideas never disappoint. It proved to be one of the highlights of my day. While it slowly heated and then steeped, I found a great time to pray. If you’ve never prayed alone in the forest at night, I say you’ve yet to be near God. He didn’t disappoint. A shooting star streaked through the sky as I stared upward towards the heavens.
After my tea, I took to my favorite past-time and smoked a bowl of Penzance. All of my work and chores were done and it was indeed time to relax. I rearranged the fire and climbed comfortably into my sleeping bag. I heard a noise from behind and slowly turned to see three deer sneaking through my camp.
As I enjoyed my solitude and the warmth of my fire, I realized the answer to one of my questions:
What do I think about when I’m alone in the forest at night?
I think about the love of my life.