Sunday, March 1, 2015

Silence and Solitude

Looking down shoal creek
                On the cold final Friday in February, I decided that I needed to go enjoy the woods alone. Solitude is usually not good for a person, but sometimes you just need to get out and break out of your own mind. I needed this night. This semester has been a fairly good one, but I still felt like I needed a break from society. I met my parents for lunch at Betty’s Barbeque, packed, and then drove off into the forest.
            It snowed on Wednesday, and some of it was still on the ground in the mountains. The dirt road leading out there had frozen and then mostly thawed, leaving the ground very soft. The Jeep had little issue with this though.

Still a nice truck, even with a broken winch and window.
            I set out on the trail. Silence was my only companion. The quiet wind slightly rustled the leaves overhead, the ice crunched beneath my boots on the damp leaf litter. The trail stretched around the bluff and disappeared only to reappear circling around the next hill in the distance.

In some places the snow was still an inch thick.
The trail repeated its pattern for miles. A cold wind bit through my brown jacket, but it wasn’t uncomfortable on my hot, out of breath self.

Each step moved me on toward my destination: a timber trail shelter in a deep creek valley some distance ahead. The simple monotony of the trail was broken by the songs of spring birds, chickadees and titmice, playing amongst the still bare trees above.

Soon a branch of Shoal Creek appeared in the valley below, the cold water splashing over the rocks as it moved down the narrow forest valley. It would soon join with a larger branch of the creek next to the shelter. The trail began to descend to the creek, and soon the shelter was visible.

 The two branches of the creeks joined a few yards away from the entrance.

I set down my large pack on the shelter’s wooden entryway. I found the logbook to see who had been here, and was surprised to find that the last person to sign the book was me, when father and Jonathan and I came here some weeks ago on a day hike.

A short distance away, a small waterfall flowed out from a southeastern valley.

To the north, the creek went down a wide, open valley which was very pleasant.

It was only 1.11 miles to the shelter.

I began to collect firewood, but the snowmelt made everything very wet. I used my Zippo ax to cut up and split some dead wood, hoping that the inside would be drier.

I was able to get a small fire going, but it wouldn't burn for long. The wood was simply too wet.

I decided to climb up the mountain to the east hoping to find some cell service to contact home with and to see the view. The top of the mountain was open, it looked as though there was a fire there at some point.

Looking back toward the shelter
I did get some cell service, and the views of the nearby forest were excellent.

I looked up, and noticed our celestial neighbor floating above me.

The camera managed to pick up a very detailed image of the surface of the moon.
            After returning to the shelter, I set up my tarp over one side of the shelter in hopes that it would make it a little warmer inside.

After it got dark, I made dinner. Mountain House always makes good freeze-dried meals, the beef stroganoff was no exception.

After dinner, I sat and listened to the unsettling silence of the night and watched the moon and stars travel overhead. It began to get cold, so I decided to go to bed.

A bit later at night, my feet got a little cold and I put my hammock underquilt on top of the sleeping bag. Other than that, it was fairly warm in the bag all night long.
The next morning it was very, very cold. I put on my third layer and made some hot grits. The hot food helped a lot.

I repacked and headed out pretty early.

I was home by 8:15 in the morning. 

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