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Archive for March, 2013

BOK

Bake Oven Loop 2

The view from Bake Oven Knob was once compared to the German Alps by early Pennsylvania settlers. Though nowhere near the altitude of the European range, “The Knob” as it is affectionately called, stands about 150 feet about the 1400 foot ridgeline. The Knob is a rocky outcropping, made up of quartzite conglomerate rocks, formed during the lower Silurian period, about 440 million years ago. The overlook is a part of the Tuscarora Formation, made up largely of orthoquartzite, sandstone, siltstone and shale. The Tuscarora Formation is typically interpreted as terrestrial or shallow marine deposits forming a “molasse,” and is believed to have shifted upwards during the Taconic Orogeny. The same rocks once existed as a sand shoal along the Lapetus Ocean during the Neoproterozoic and Paleozoic eras (between 600 and 400 million years ago). After being pressed upwards, the mountain was slowly withered away be glaciation, which is evident by the exposed fields of boulders, steeper on the southern slope, where glacial action eroded most rapidly. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuscarora_Formation).

The scenic overlook is the tallest point in both Lehigh and Carbon Counties and offers a panoramic view of both. Though neither are the unspoilt forest that settlers looked out upon, the view is still noteworthy, and in the right conditions, breath-taking.

The knob, once the site of annual hawk shootings where farmers used to hunt hawks during their migration, is now used in the fall as a hawk watching location. Originally founded by former Hawk Mountain ridge-runner Don Heintzleman, (who personally dissuaded hunters from gunning down birds of prey), the count continues every year thanks to the efforts of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center.

The Knob holds a special place in my heart. My first job in the field of conservation was to observe the fall migration as the Hawk Watch Intern. During that time, I came to know the area, for better or worse. It particularly informed my views about the challenges for conservation in the mid-Atlantic region, which are multifarious, and begin with the basic premise that public lands are available for ANY public use. The Knob, despite its beauty, is a victim of this premise, when applied on an individual level. It has suffered the consequences of easy access, VIA the gamelands parking lot, which makes the peak an easy climb for what I’ve come to call “knuckleheads.” These, mostly younger, “knuckleheads” have prolific drinking parties on the lookout, and leave behind hundreds of pounds of trash a year, besides the graffiti the rocks are now covered in. Considering the natural and social history of the area, this is a a real tragedy.

Despite that fact, I have a deep attachment to the land. Every time I climb those jagged rocks, I am brought back to my fall on the mountain. I remember the foggy mornings and passing the duller moments more easily by getting to know some of the best people in the Lehigh Valley. I remember the kettles of thousands of Broad-winged Hawks, so many hawks I did not know where to begin counting (I was told by Dan Kunkle to “count the wings and divide by two”). I remember the solitude and frigid resilience of November’s north winds. I remember most of all, my last day on the lookout with Bob Hoopes, and seeing a tundra morph of the Peregrine Falcon dive seven or eight times in a row at the owl decoy. It came so close that I can tell you its eyes were yellow… Truly a once in a lifetime sight. I think of that, and I hope, truly, all is not lost.

Today, my friend Eric and I clamoured over those familiar sharp rocks, and I remembered with a smirking pride what Dan Kunkle, director of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, once told me of Pennsylvania’s rocks. “Each year we take them all out, sharpen them, and put them all back.” It is hardly a wonder that Bill Bryson categorized Pennsylvania as “the place boots go to die.” It is by no means a difficult climb by the usual calculations of elevation, but the rocks go a good deal to adding the element of struggle into the equation of any Blue Mountain hike.

We did not linger long at the South Lookout. Most of the time, now, I do not stop there. The graffiti has gotten so bad there, and looking at it makes me too depressed, so that I walk on to the more precarious North Lookout. The North Lookout has not been as badly abused, but there is some spraypaint, and I am willing to bet it will only get worse. I noticed that the pole, from which the owl decoy is usually hung, was still standing in it’s usual place. I hid it, as is protocol, so that it would not be burned as firewood.

Eric and I continued down the lookout, into what we hawkwatchers call, “the notch.” It is a ravine in between two heights of land. The shelter is in the notch, and it has become notorious for an urban legend told about it. There is a myth that walking in the woods there, the woods may go from daylight to darkness immediately. It is also rumoured that, in the night, voices can be heard moaning in the woods, even when one believes themself to be alone. Lastly a shadowy figure has been seen, and some believe it to be a hiker that had fallen to his death. (I find that at least the moaning can be explained by the sound the north winds make against the mountain, which in the night can sound like many things…). I have never passed the night at the shelter for a number of reasons… None of which involve the supposed haunting. I do not spend the night there because it is a disgustingly filthy place. All manners of trash have been left behind to attract rodents, and as a result, a rattlesnake has taken up residence in the rafters (according to the log book). I personally prefer not to share a leanto with snakes.

The leanto is currently stuffed full of straw. Who brought the straw and from where is a mystery. What can be certain is that it makes a great environment for rats. Thus, the short-term benefit of comfort, is likely to only exacerbate the rodent problem. Having duly noted that to ourselves, we continued our walk to the springs below the leanto, which are marked by a blue spur trail. I had previously found one spring, but there are said to be at least three. Today, we found two and a sign for a third, which was nowhere insight, despite our effort of bushwhacking about 150 feet into the woods, through thick briars and thickets. The blue trail continued all the way downhill, past the property that used to be a stone quarry. It ran right along side the gamelands boundaries, marked quite obviously with vibrant “no trespassing” signs. We followed the trail, hoping to find yet another spring, (one can never know of too many springs), but it terminated at the driveway of the private property. We did then trespass, though not maliciously, just to get back to the Bake Oven Road. Reaching the road we followed it back to the parking lot, where we met with a sight we hadn’t noticed before… A pair of green panties, discarded upon a pile of fried chicken… The calling card of knuckleheads…

What was good about the hike, was that it reminds me both that there are problems, but that they are largely isolated. The impacts really only go as far in as is convenient. Most knuckleheads don’t make it much past the lookout, and certainly not past the leanto. Much of the forest remains as beautiful and serene as it ever has.

After our exploration, Eric and I treated ourselves to a much deserved beer at our favourite local establishment: The Bake Oven Inn. The Bake Oven Inn is a fabulous sustainable, farm to table, local food restaurant. Surrounded by 200 year old farms in Germansville, Pennsylvania, they have taken advantage of the local resources in a progressive way, rarely seen in rural Pennsylvania. It is the perfect place to stop in for craft beer after a hike, or better yet for a great meal. If you are on a thrifty budget, or just looking for some lighter eats, they have a pub menu that is not too shabby, but if you want to experience the full culinary force of the restaurant, the entrees are really first class. Not only is the food great, but I am so proud to have a place with such a great ethos about food, in our rural community!

bake oven inn

http://alltrails.com/tracks/bake-oven-loop

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June 23rd:

I awoke to a foggy lake. Everything was still on the water. I figured on breakfast, while I waited for the fish to break the water’s surface. While I cooked, I heard a familiar sound, like a jet plane tearing across the sky. In minutes the sky had clouded over from a beautiful dark blue shade. It was no long before the rain came pouring down.

 

Just yesterday, I was cursing my lazy bones for not doing any real work. I had a feeling, despite the blue, that there would be a big storm coming. It made me lethargic, but I forced myself to split some firewood should I need it for the storm.

 

I found a dead tree and ripped it into three manageable parts, which I carried to my camp. There I proceeded to rip smaller logs, stacking them by a large diameter log. I wedged into the top of the logs with the ax, and slammed against the stump. After a few times the logs would split and my ax was left sticking out of the stump. By day’s end I had a good pile, only I hadn’t done any real work. I figured, if I didn’t need them, at least the next guy wouldn’t have to cut any good timber.

 

I suppose its a bit ironic that today I feel like the ant instead of the grasshopper. The rain is now pouring heavily, turning the ground to mud. The thunder rips like Thor, echoing across the mountains. I am surrounded by the storm, but I am ready to ride it out.

 

June 26th:

Nathan and I hiked up Kaaterskill Falls. It was a short hike, and well populated, but the view was well worth it. On the way up we met the ADK crew, lifting boulders with a rock bar. They were a good, hard working bunch. Rough around the edges. Good people.

 

At the bottom of the falls, the trail ends. It is 500 or so feet of loose dirt to the first plateau and another 300 to the top. There are few places that allow an easy hike, rather one must scramble across the loose soil and up rock faces until you come to the pool on the first plateau. From there the falls seem as enormous as Yosemite. Water slams from hundreds of feet up, spraying outward and filling the pool with green, mineral rich water.

 

From there it is a scramble to the top, finding foot holds on the wet, slippery rocks. From the top the falls feels less glorious, but there is a view of the whole Catskills, laid out as though propped up. The mountains rolling on into the Palisades.

 

After we scaled the falls and hiked out we found an abandoned kitten and dropped it off at the SPCA.

 

June 29th:

Found the geocache in the caves below Chimney Rocks. It was a hell of a squeeze into the cave’s opening. We lay flat on our bellies and shifted into the cave. We dropped a rope ladder down and dropped into the heart of the cave. It was cold and wet. The rocks all jagged. We found our way into the spaghetti bowl and then down into what is called the birth canal. It was a tight squeeze. We had to jam our bodies against the rock walls on either side of the crevass, then, climbing out the other side, one is pressed to the point that you cannot turn your head at all. Just on the other side was the cache. It was easier climbing out. I have to say I was glad to see light, but I was proud of the struggle to find the cache.

 

From the top of Chimney Rocks, one can see all the way to Snowy, Panther and Blue mountains.

 

July 12th:

Hiked into Pillsbury Lake. Was delighted to find the trail well taken care of, besides a garbage dump, of perhaps 100 year old garbage. Likely it is an old hunting camp gone to ruin. There is much rusted old metal strewn about, with many newer plastics added to the heap. Besides this fact, it was nice to follow below the ridge with a clear look at it.

 

I got to camp early and spent a lazy summer afternoon reading and napping. At one point I awoke to the sound of a woodpecker hammering away at the roof of the leanto. When I went out to investigate, I saw him now hammering at a spruce tree. Splayed out in blue and white glory. When I sat down at camp I could see two white tail deer come down from the hill on the opposite shore. They soon saw me, but ignored me, until they were satiated with water and vegetation. They looked so noble and strong, the sun casting cavernous shadows across their muscular bodies. In the late afternoon, I saw a vulture drifting over the lake effortlessly, and as I drifted then to sleep, I heard and the saw a loon rising from her majestic dive.

 

This is a wondrous place to spend so much time alone. When I am still, there is very much that I am able to see. I hope that I can sleep easy now and awaken early.

 

June 13th:

Hiked into the Cedars via West Lake. Saw a heron at West Canada Creek.

 

 

(The next installment is the last installment of the Adirondack Journals).

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pinnacle panorama

Pinnacle hike

 

 

The history of the Appalachian Mountains begins 480 million years ago, with the colliding of continental plates. It is theorized that, when Pangea formed, rocks previously residing on the ocean floor drew upwards, forming mountains. The Appalachians, at their birth, we taller than either the Rockies or the Alps, but have had 480 million years to erode away. Since drifting apart, they’ve been weathered away, first by glaciers, and now little by little from mountain streams.

 

Though hardly impressive by the standards of the Rockies, or even by the Adirondack High Peaks, The Pinnacle is the highest point on the Pennsylvania section of the Appalachian Trail. At just over 1,600 feet, it is a mere foothill to Clingman’s Dome to the south or Mount Washington to the north. By Pennsylvania standards, however, it is considered a scenic overlook. From the height of 1,600 or so feet, it stands above much of the rest of blue mountain by about 400 feet. It is a presence that can be seen from up to 40 miles away on a clear day. One can only imagine, that before European settlement, The Pinnacle would have felt like the crest above an ocean of trees. Today it looks out on farmland, much of it unchanged for nearly 200 years. The Germans, upon arriving in Pennsylvania, were very industrious, putting vast tracts of land under the plow, and decimating forests. Industrial logging and mining have done away with most of the rest, and now the state looses 300 million acres a day to development.

 

Still, walking into the woods from the Eckville trailhead, these woods seemed a world apart from the rest of the state. The first thing I noticed was the quiet. It was a quiet I had not experienced since I was in the wilderness last summer. This section of the trail is by no means wilderness, but it runs through such a quaint rural area, and it is so far from the highway that the sound cannot penetrate the forest.

 

From Eckville, the trail winds around before reaching a game commission road. The trail follows the game commission road a long way through a rocky holler, before crossing a rambling stream and the winding up the ascent. I was lucky enough to have the trail to myself on such a beautiful day, and my footprints were the first upon the freshly fallen snow. At some places, where the snow had drifted down into the ill-lit valley, the snow remained almost 4 inches… An incredible sight for Pennsylvania in late March. I had a difficult time trudging through it, but was rewarded much of the way with astonishing views of the rest of the ridge. From the ascent, I could see Bake Oven Knob (almost 20 miles away), the Lehigh Gap (27 miles away) and almost as far as little gap. With all the trees still bare, it was easy to see a long distance.

 

Most of the forest is made up of deciduous trees. However, there were a fair amount of pitch pines and eastern hemlocks growing on the northern slope and at higher altitudes. The forest was made greener by the presence of much mountain laurel and rhododendron, both deciduous shrubs that do not lose their leaves.

 

Once I had reached the top of the initial ascent, the trail was much easier. With much of the rocks covered in snow, I managed to enjoy a hike most throughhikers dread. I have heard Pennsylvania described as the place where boots go to die. The rocks, it is said, are sharpened each year and returned. As experienced a hiker as I am, there are times I lament the rocks. Without the punishment of the rocks, the elevations are a cinch. I made it up the steepest incline in a short while, resting only once for water, near the top.

 

The lookout, I must note, is worth the 5.3 mile hike in. When I first came upon it, there were several turkey vultures and a black vulture roosting on the rocks. As I approached they all took off, gliding easily on the headwind.

 

The Pinnacle is known for its headwind, drawn in off the gulf stream, pushing air up against the mountain, causing updrafts for migratory birds. These winds press along the Kittatinny Ridge and South Mountain, until they culminate at Hawk Mountain. The Pinnacle is just to the south of Hawk Mountain, and so, while not as good a lookout, it is still a decent raptor observation point.

 

After seeing the birds take off, I realized the drop off was very high. Much higher than Bake Oven Knob. Though “the knob” is close in height with the Pinnacle, it does not jut off the ridge as dramatically. The Pinnacle stands over a several hundred foot drop. Beyond the rocks, the entirety of the Lehigh Valley can be seen below, though the cities of Allentown and Bethlehem, at such a distance, look like a mere backdrop for the mountains and farmland.

 

Often times, when on a longer hike, we overlook the scenery. The last time I had seen the Pinnacle was a number of years ago, during a section hike of Pennsylvania. I do not recall having been as struck by it as I was today. Though, even today I could not linger, as I had a budget of miles and time… But, it has reminded me that it is vital to stop every now and again and take it all in… You don’t realize that you have missed somethings until they are miles behind you, and you do not always know if you will get another chance… I am glad that, although much overdue, I have found the time again for the Pinnacle… The height of land of my home…

 

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blue mountain rocks panorama

Its not everyday, of late, that I find myself on an adventure. Less so on terrain I have become so familiar with over the last few years. Sometimes, having travelled a piece of trail so many times, it becomes mundane. All of the sights are familiar, down to which trees are favored. It is not at all a bad thing, as the familiar can grant a good deal of peace of mind. That is often how I feel traversing the grounds of the Lehigh Gap. And, to be honest, today started out much the same as many others… I parked at the Appalachian Trail’s trailhead and hiked up to the outerbridge shelter, where I took water from the spring and wrote in the lean-to log book. On the way I identified yellow birch, sassafras, white pine, pitch pine, eastern hemlock and mountain laurel, juncos and a song sparrow. I stopped occasionally to admire how the snow hung about the mountain, still fresh and unperturbed by footsteps. Nothing out of the ordinary really.

I decided yesterday that I wanted to go for a hike and find a campsite that I have not revisited since my first A.T. section hike years ago. I tried to retrace the route exactly, even following the blue scenic trail, though it was unnecessary. I suppose part of me prefers the scenic route anyways, as it runs above the tree-line, and looks down upon Palmerton. It remains one of my favorite trails in Pennsylvania, perhaps because you can see some much of Pennsylvania from it.

I knew the campsite would be beyond the radio towers, where the trail rejoins the white blazed A.T., but I was unsure how far past. I remembered it being close to where I476 cuts through the mountain, and that from it you could see right up to the Lehigh Gorge. The view, waking up beneath the pines to sunrise, I remember, was astonishing. I could remember exactly how my tent was setup, on a flat above a rolling meadow, that dropped off at a rocky ledge.

After about an hour of hiking I found the place, and it looked like it had been much improved, (meaning that it was certainly no secret any longer). There were chairs constructed of rocks, built up around a fire pit. It was a somewhat sad sight to see the place so impacted within such a small span of years… I lingered a short while, but with a northwind blowing across the exposed ridge, it was too cold to stay put long. So, I decided to continue walking to Furnace Gap and take in the view. Furnace Gap is a place I do not often hike to, though I know very well the area that surrounds it… It is a rocky overlook, that looks down from the opposite side, the same valley that Bake Oven Knob looks out over.

After hiking a ways in the direction of the Furnace Gap, I saw a bright blue sign off to the left of the trail. It read, “south trail,” and purported to rejoin the A.T. at a mile. The decision to take that trail, which I’ve never noticed before, neither hiking, nor on my trail map, defined the rest of the afternoon as a vigorous struggle. I have certainly had to hike greater distances over steeper elevations, but from the get go the terrain was rough. The trail bounded over boulders and loose glacial scree, all quartzite conglomerate, just like Bake Oven Knob is, (and I would guess it is 400 million years old as well, formed by the same glacial retreat). The terrain was made more precarious by the freshly fallen snow, some of it piled up six inches over loose rocks. I ambled over the rocks slowly, taking each one slowly, as though I were technical climbing, as each footstep presented a new challenge and the threat to roll my ankles deep in the woods. I can normally hike 2.5 miles an hour, but the terrain so impaired my normal pace that it took me over an hour to negotiate the side trail.

For all the effort there was indeed reward. While the white blaze followed within 100 yards of where I scrambled over the rocks, it’s elevation stable and it’s terrain manageable, it offered nothing in the view department. This side trail, however, followed the height of land. Each precarious escarpment leading upwards to a ledge that looked out over the whole valley. The famous Robert Frost lines came to mind, and indeed, it did make quite a difference.

Nevertheless, by the time the trail rejoined I was relieved. I enjoyed the south trail and I was glad I took it, but I was also happy to see the gradual, consistent, terrain I am so used to. It was a long way back, as I had come about 5 miles and would have to travel just as far yet… Still, I was proud of myself for ambling over the rocks, as well as for discovering something that had often hid in plain view. I stopped a while, looking out over the Blue Mountains, toward Hawk Mountain in the distance, admiring the way the light seemed to draw off the ridge… And after a long moment, I put my feet back on the well-worn trail and nearly jogged with ease, after my struggle, leaving much as I had started, lost in thought amongst the familiar.

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June 11th:

It was a long haul and mostly upwards out of West Lake. The whole time just above the shoreline, so that looking through the silhouetted trees, you could see the blue waves of “Big West” rippling away at the edges. For a time the whole lake disappeared behind the trees, but after awhile the trail fell in along the shore again. It was only then apparent how truly enormous the lake is. On a map, it does not seem so big, but after you have been walking a half hour and have not yet put the lake behind you, it is clear that it is very sizeable.

It was not long after the big lake was behind me that I came upon Brooktrout Lake. Brooktrout Lake is a misleading name. The lake has been dead for 30 years, with a Ph around 5. It has been coming back. Last year it was said to have a Ph of 5.6 (7 is considered normal). In any case, I did not see any Brook Trout, though I stayed a while and looked very hard for any evidence. There were, however, more Newts than I have ever seen in one place in my life.

At Brooktrout Lake there was another Lean-to, much nicer than the one I had stayed in at West Lake. It looked well travelled and there was much to clean, but it was not too bad. Though the lake appeared considerably lifeless, there were a pair of loons out towards the far shore. They did not call, and I could only barely make them out. I sat in the Lean-to, which was the only one I had yet seen that did not face the lake, and I ate lunch in perfect quiet.

There was something that was eerily still about Brooktrout Lake. Nowhere else I had been in this wilderness seemed to have the same menacing quiet. I could not pin exactly what was so strange, just a feeling about the place.

The rest of the way out was steep and muddy. Brooktrout’s shoreline is steep and goes up from there, and the trail does not plateau until you are nearly at the trailhead. Between the pack’s weight and my blistered, wet feet, it was an endurance test with little reward. On the way up from the lake, I nearly stumbled upon a stubborn Garter Snake that was lazily lounging across the trail… He did not move until I nudged him with a stick, and only then reluctantly.

When at last I came to my destination, the Otter Brook in Moose River Plains, my feet had never been so relieved. All and all it was about 26 miles in two days of hiking. I dipped my feet in the brook and listened for a while to the symphony of water rushing past the boulders.

June 13th:

Nathan and I hiked into the Siamese Ponds Wilderness on the Northville Placid Trail. We hiked in at a leisurely pace while Nathan described the signs of Beech Bark Disease, evident in many of the trees we passed along the trail. He noted that the insect that caused the condition, had a preference for a certain altitude, and that all the trees at that altitude would be infested, while others at higher altitudes would be spared. He pointed out many examples, apparent even to my eye, as we walked. The disease, he told me, is caused by a bark eating insect called the beech scale insect, that left the tree vulnerable to a fungus. This area, where we walked, seemed to have been ravaged by the insect. Any tree low enough had been destroyed.

We hiked in to the lean-to at Cascade Pond. The lean-to is in very new condition, as though it were just built. We ate lunch and explored the area, which had a small stream pouring out from the lack, and along the rocks at the mouth there was an aluminium, Gruman canoe, with a half broken paddle. Despite the disrepair, we decided to take a bit of a row out onto the pond, which already at this stage in the summer was covered almost completely with algal blooms.

It was a hot day, and there was a strong wind coming across the stern. It was hard not to be pushed around by it. After scouring the edges of the Pond for hidden caches and enjoying the remote scenery from the middle of the pond, we paddled back and beached the canoe. We hiked back out and made it back to the cabin in time for dinner.

June 14th:

I hiked up Snowy Mt. again. There was very little work to be done, but I did see a few birds. I saw a Downy Woodpecker, a Red-bellied Woodpecker and a Warbler that I could not identify.

During the hike up, I sat a long time at Beaver Creek, pouring water across my head, and watching the water cascading down steep drops and around boulders. How a river with such a change in altitude maintains its flow, I have no idea.

June 16th:

Hiking back into the Cedar Lakes, I stopped in at the Carry Leanto. There was a man named Mark that told me he had stayed at the Cedar Lakes #1 leanto, and that he was hiking north on the Northville Placid Trail. He said there had been a lively bunch in at the Cedars last night and in their drunken state, one man had chopped his toe with an axe… The other, apparently, stitched his buddy up quite deftly with fishing line. He repaired the wound enough for the injured party to walk out, but they had left behind a canoe that they had portaged in.

I came to the lean-to, and low and behold there was much sign of struggle. I did my best to clean up the mess, which included many spent .22 rounds and a rather large bottle of Gentleman Jack (which I stashed for my own use, as much as to prevent other backwoods morons from finding it). As for the canoe, it was right where I was told it would be. I decided to borrow it, and took it out on the lake. It was at times hard to paddle, but getting to see the wilderness from the perspective was well worth the difficulty. I have never been so humbled by scenery so vast. I past the most incredible views of Pilsbury Mountain I had yet seen, and all around me there was forest and the prominence of hills and mountains, and the lake stretching on as far as I could make out. I paddled past lean-to #2, but found it occupied. With limited sunlight left, I figured I’d try to make it to #3. I had to call in on the radio before I got there (which considering the circumstances was a fairly dangerous thing to do), as I would not have radio service on that side of the lake.

I had previously found #2 to be the most spectacular view, but after seeing #3, I have to revise my opinion. While #2 has the most astonishing view of noisy ridge, paddling into #3 had the most awe inspiring views of Pilsbury and of a series of three peaks I call the three brothers, after the similar but more impressive feature in Yosemite.

The paddle out was all against the current and the wind, and perhaps the most physically taxing travelling I have ever done, but considering that I found one of the hidden gems of the Adirondacks–a lean-to that is notoriously difficult to find from the trail–I was very pleased with myself.

When the sun went down, I lit a big fire that could be seen from the lake, and paddled out to watch the stars. I have never so impressed and humbled by the enormity of the universe… And I, at the center of this lake, which itself dwarves me… I have never felt so small, so insignificant… Reminded of how frail a man is, against nature… Reminded that we are not apart from this world, but rely heavily on its benevolence toward life. All around me I could see the bugs on the water, and the divots where the fish had risen and taken an insect, all illuminated by moonlight… The hills, completely dark and still. The stars, close enough to touch.

Lost in the whole of the place, I drifted a ways out, and only by luck managed to spot the now fading embers of my fire. I pulled the canoe to shore, and crawled into my sleeping bag. It took me a long while to sleep, so lost in thought was I, by what I had seen.

June 17th:

I stopped in at #2. Clean as a whistle. Who ever had stayed there the night before deserves my sincerest gratitude. If only more people could learn to respect their surroundings to such a degree.

#1 still needs much work. Perhaps it always will.

The black flies are much more trying today… Something about a lean-to with too much human impact makes it very unattractive… There is a stink here that does not exist anywhere else in nature. I took yet another bag of trash out from the lean-to, and decided to hike to Colvin Brook.

After paddling across Cedar Lake, the hike to Colvin Brook was tiring. It is hard to say how many miles I made that day, but at the Cedar River crossing, I noticed my weariness… Yet, I could see, just on the far side of the river, there was the lean-to. It was a relief to see it, and it would have been a bigger relief if we were not separated still by a river flowing fast, at full capacity, still inundated with spring rain. There was not ford to cross the river, and certainly no bridge. Looking back on the incident, I could have mitigated it a number of ways, but I suppose in my weariness, I made an amateur mistake. Such mistakes, I believe are necessary. They humble us. Remind us that we are visitors here… That we are fallible. In any case, it could have been a lot worse…

In crossing the river, I made two bad decisions. The first was that I took off my boots and tied them together, and hung them loosely around my neck. The other was that I put my feet down without the aid of a wading stick and without testing the speed of the water. As soon as my foot hit the slippery bottom, I fell and went under. I came up quick and assessed that the damage was not too bad. It took me a minute to realize my boots were floating away from me, down the river. I am lucky I did not hesitate. I say lucky, because I wanted to hesitate, but something did not let me. I threw my pack onto dry land and swam through some very sharp rocks to catch up with my boots. Each time I came close they slipped away. Finally they stopped in an eddy and I made a desperate lunge toward them and was surprised to find I had reached them. I went under for a moment, from the force of the lunge, and I scraped something metallic. Looking down, I saw it was a horse shoe. I pulled it up from the bottom of the river. It was covered in rust, but sure enough it was a horseshoe… “A strange irony,” I thought… It was made stranger by the fact that horses have not been present in this wilderness in 70 years. So, it was likely that old, at least.

As ill advised as it may have been, lunging after my boots was vital. I was maybe a day’s hike from civilization, but that hike would have been made very difficult, if not impossible, by the lack of boots. Of all the things I carried on my person, the boots were perhaps the one think I could not see myself doing without. All and all, it could have been much worse. Out of everything in my pack, only the radio was damaged. Everything else survived, though some things were quite wet. I was relieved to find that my sleeping bag was only damp and not soaked. I was likewise relieved that some of my clothes were dry. Before I changed, however, I decided to rectify the problem. Taking the old axiom to mind, I figured it I was wet, I might as well go swimming. So I hopped back in the river and built a ford across the river. Lord knows that a river like that will likely dismantle it by next spring, but at least it would be there a while, and by mid-summer it would likely be prominent enough to trust with the lower water levels.

After my solitary work of moving rocks against the river was done, I put on dry clothes, ate, and went to bed well before the sun.

June 18th:

I awoke in the morning to thunder heads crossing the blue sky. The fear of deluge galvanized me and I packed quickly. It was slow going as I’d bruised my knee retrieving my boots and every still wet article in my pack felt twice as onerous. When I reached the exterior, I was never so happy to see civilization. It was a feeling strange to me, and one which I have not often felt since. Nevertheless, I looked forward to a more prepared return to the woods. What does not kill you, kills you slowly.

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