Friday, January 06, 2006

Happy camper

Copied from my LJ-4/6/05
Our weekend camping trip was a much-needed respite from the drudgery of work. We headed out in the wee hours last Saturday and arrived before 9am. After a short walk through some fairly dense woods, the trail rose above the trees onto a high bluff overlooking a bend in the Manistee river, a sudden panoramic view that made you catch your breath a bit. That's where we pitched our tent, with the river and forest spread out below us. Thanks to Paul having scoped out the area on previous hikes and to our early arrival, we had the most coveted campsite on the trail, as most of the passing hikers were only too glad to point out.

The river was clear as glass and moved slowly enough to afford a leisurely ride to the fishermen and canoers who drifted by now and then. It was a short walk to the water from our campsite, down a steep, winding trail through the woods. We did a bit of swimming, although I stuck to the shallows and avoided the swifter current in the middle of the river. Paul ventured out further and really had to swim hard against it. I enjoyed splashing around with Cleo. Great lumbering beast that she is, she is not a graceful swimmer and somewhat apprehensive in the water. She didn't mind the shallow bits though and could even be coaxed to make several trips out on a submerged fallen tree that extended into slightly deeper water. The tree made a nice perch where we could sit half underwater and take in the scenery. Apropos of nothing, I covered myself in mud from the riverbank and had Paul snap some pictures.

When Paul goes hiking on his own, he is into covering distance, getting exercise, pushing himself, living on very little and packing impossibly light. So I can't help wondering if he might find camping with me a bit boring. I am not a gung-ho backpacker. When I go camping I'm not looking for a challenge and I am most assuredly not there for the exercise. It sounds like a ridiculous hippie cliche, but I like to go just to get in touch with nature. To get gritty, dirty, muddy, like a kid and totally without a care. I like to spend long hours lying on the ground, gazing up through the leaves in a meditative state, studying the passing wisps of clouds. Or as a wise man once said, conferrin' with the flowers, consultin' with the rain. I also did a lot of napping on the ground, and it was some of the most restful sleep I've ever had. Oddly I wasn't nearly as comfy sleeping in the tent, where something always seemed to be poking me from underneath. When I wasn't napping or woolgathering I read this excellent story collection by Kelly Link (free to download).

Besides the river, my other favorite spot was a short stroll back into the woods and down a steep bank to a shallow stream a dozen feet wide that wound through the forest. Only flecks of sunlight penetrated into this densely shady spot, sparkling on the water like gems. The banks were blanketed in moss and a fallen tree rested alongside the crick, making a handy seat where I could relax and get lost in my thoughts. I never knew a place could be hushed as a church and still so full of sound. There was the song of water trickling over stones and fallen branches, air bubbling up through sand and silt along the banks, and the distant hum of the waterfall where the stream emptied into the river. There is something soothing in the inexorability of water, the way it flows from droplet to rivulet to creek and on to sea, carving out cliffs and canyons, leaving nothing in its path unchanged.

Music: Husky Rescue-Country Falls
Mood: Relaxed