Monday, September 15, 2014

At Walden Pond (Or our version of it)

       As summer draws to a close, the weather is becoming more comfortable for camping and hiking. This, coupled with school, made this last weekend a good one for a campout. Spending time outdoors is the best way I have found to rest and reset my mind and spirit. It helps to put things into perspective when you spend a little time living more primitively.
       Our family lake has been residing at the edge of town for my entire life, and is the place where many of my hobbies first took root. When I was young, we would visit the lake to row around and to fish. My father also grew up playing in this lake, and doubtlessly his love of the outdoors helped to form my love of the same. We decided that this lake would make an excellent place to camp last weekend. 
        Upon arriving at the lake, we selected a spot on the opposing side on a small peninsula where we have camped in the past. We loaded our gear into a Jon boat and paddled across the lake. 
The city "suburbs" have grown out to reach the area around the lake, but the lake itself still remains wild. The Girl Scouts of America have recently bought a huge swath of land leading up to the edge of our property there, which to a degree guarantees that that area will remain wild. 
       The peninsula we chose has two large inlets on either side, into one of which the feeder stream spills out amongst willows and cypress trees making a shallow swamp. The land begins as a flat area along the bank of the lake, which then rises up to be four or five feet above the water where there is a flat area containing a fire ring. There is a dirt mound atop this bluff which gives views out over the lake. This position on the high ground gave us ventilation while residing there. 
        As soon as we made it across the lake, we began to set up camp. 

I chose a couple of trees off to the north of the fireplace to hang my hammock.

            The forest was very pleasant, although it is still somewhat hot this time of year. I have found that heat is easier to cope with than cold due to the fact that cold is painful, but heat is merely uncomfortable. Pain is difficult to overcome mentally, particuarly so when there is actually some danger associated with it such as freezing to death. Heat is not likely to hurt you, and the discomfort is merely a feeling. Feelings can be controlled by the person feeling them by sheer willpower or by conditioning the behavior. I have found that when I "tell myself" that the heat is not going to hurt me, and that sweat is not a bad thing, after a time it stops bothering me. That is not to say that I wouldn't prefer it if it were a nice 75 degrees (Fahrenheit) as opposed to 90, or that I don't often catch myself complaining about the heat, but rather that my complaints are not valid. Work is more draining in the heat, and it is important to drink a lot of water, but these things can be coped with. The heat of the Alabama summer is not an excuse I can use to prevent myself from enjoying the outdoors any longer.              My friend Zac, who I met at Renovation Ministries while we both worked there as interns, accompanied Dad and I on this trip. We brought some hamburgers with us for dinner, so we started a fire to cook them over. 

       There is a certain satisfying aspect to cooking food on an open wood fire, as though one connects to humans of the past. The way we cooked our meat on this trip is the same basic way humans have been cooking food for a million years. There are a few differences, (meat from wal-mart, an iron grill, steel tongs, Homo Sapiens as opposed to Homo Erectus) but none which are significant. 
As the meat began to cook, the campsite was flooded with the smell of woodsmoke and red meat. The smell of a campfire is distinctive, and brings back many memories.  
The fire cooked the meat very quickly; I had set it up in a log cabin style of fire arrangement so to channel the heat upwards. 
The burgers tasted very good. There was a distinct woody flavor from the fire. 
We cooked and ate as darkness began to fall. 
In the wild, darkness often seems to come suddenly. I think it is because our eyes adjust to each level of darkness, so we don't really notice that it is getting dark until it gets to the point where our eyes cannot fully adjust. 
Father did not join us in eating our saturated fat-filled burgers, rather he made some Edamame beans and salmon fillets. 
 Zac shared some dried pineapples with me that were quite good. 
 Darkness was creeping up on us, noticeable in the pictures, but not to us at the time. We could hear owls and other night-birds beginning their songs. A Barred Owl cries a song that sound vaguely like "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for yoooou?" but with more birdlikeness. There is also a distinctly different cricket that sings at night than the day ones. A night cricket will sing in a burst of "chicka-cha chicka-cha" and then another from a different direction will respond with the same, seamless enough to make a constant white noise that one's ears tune out unless you listen for it intentionally. 
Soon the only light came from our fire, and the one small light at the far end of the lake where the street is. 
The stars began to come out, one at a time like timid beings slipping out from behind a curtain when they are sure few are watching. 
It is hard to believe that those little specks are actually vast suns, an unimaginable distance away. 
The night sky makes one feel small, and to some this is uncomfortable. For me, it makes my problems feel small. The lack of my personal importance in the grand scheme of the universe makes me feel better, rather than worse. The universe isn't going to be affected by what I do, so that makes it that much more important for me to care about myself and the stuff which is important to me.  

Soon we all made our way to our sleeping areas. No rain was forcasted, so I went without my rain fly. It actually got cool enough in my hammock for me to get my sleeping bag out, though not cold enough to need my underquilt. I woke up around three to aquire the sleeping back, and then slept soundly for many hours. When I woke up, it was 8:30 or so. 

The morning brought with it clouds, as humid mornings here often do. There was a cool breeze which threatened rain from those clouds, but didn't deliver. 
After a few years of use, my ENO hammock is holding up well, and is still my preferred sleeping arrangement. The only times it is inconvenient are camping with dogs or when there are no trees. 
We lit a breakfast cookfire and made grits. 
Our big Ozark Trail tent continues to serve us well.

Zac and I rowed out and did a little fishing. 
It is a beautiful lake. I am glad we have it. 
Eventually we decided to pack up and head home. 
It was a fun trip to me. The weather will soon begin to get cooler and less humid, and the true outdoorsing season begins. It is already in the 60's at night, so fall is coming. It is much easier to find people to accompany me into the wild when the weather is nice. So I hope to camp again soon. 

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