Friday, October 26th, 2012
Rough Notes from the Woods 3
After the arrival of another would-be woodsman, one of the campers from Wednesday has decided to take my advice and sleep by the fire. He looks for reassurance one more time. “Are you sure you’re warmer sleeping out here?”
“I promise that you’ll sleep better out here like I do than you’ve slept in a long time.”
He’s been sleeping in one of the primitive shelters the forestry service has provided. It’s basically three walls, a roof and a floor but he’s having a difficult time giving up on the civilized world. “What if it rains?”
“Well, it sprinkled on me a bit the first night I was out here and I was fine. It doesn’t look like we’re gonna get any but if it does downpour, we’ll move to a tent or a shelter.”
He’s already following my lead from a few nights before and adding sprigs of hemlock around his and my bedding areas.
As night falls and the other campers turn in, we both gather our sleeping gear. I’ve grown accustomed to my sleeping pad, an Army surplus sleeping bag (although its weight and size are quite cumbersome), and a small camouflage pillow. My fellow camper will nestle into a standard civilian sleeping bag with a bed-pillow from home, all of which he’ll lay on a piece of folded carpet left here from a previous camping party. We both lay our sleeping arrangements in an “L” shape on the flattest ground around the fire pit. As he gets his glasses and other items in position for the night, I adjust the fire for utmost warmth and longevity. We’ve already used enough firewood for me to camp for two solid weeks. So at night, I try to keep the bonfire choked down to a small flame.
I slide my feet snugly into my sleeping bag with no need to cover the rest of my body. My sleeping gear rests within a short arm’s reach; in my left boot – small flashlight, in my right – a container of tobacco and my knife (both boots covered with my fire gloves to shield from dew), on the ground – a fire poker short enough to use without getting out of my bag. I look over to my fellow camper who is now snuggled up warmly beside the fire. “It’s no wonder ancient peoples had so much knowledge of the stars.”
Without moving, he replies, “how’s that?”
“Well, with nothing to do at night but look up, it wouldn’t take long to pattern movements. I’ve been following the movement of the moon pretty well already. It gives me a good idea of how long till daylight.”
He paused for a long while. I can only assume he’s pondering the moon, the stars, and the natural order, much as I do every night. After a long silence, he adds his two cents, “well, they probably talked about it with each other as well. When’s the last time you talked to anyone about the moon or star’s movement?”
I didn’t bother explaining that my wife and I regularly discuss the placement of Sirius, Orion, and a multitude of other celestial bodies. Most people, including him, would likely find us incredibly boring.
We laid in silence for a long while behind a soundtrack of the constant voice of the river, the occasional crackling and popping of the fire and the half-hearted snoring of another camper. Sleep slowly crept in only to be passively interrupted by the coyote’s lonesome howl or the occasional need to add a stick or two to the fire.
In the morning, he assures me that he slept wonderfully and never got cold. I wondered if the man who left the mountains and rivers of West Virginia years ago really enjoyed the night by the fire. My wonders end at the next night’s bedtime as he starts bringing his gear out to the fire as I do.