SHANE'S HIKING JOURNAL - DECEMBER 28, 2002
This was a 'training' trip for Bob.
We slept late. Well, I slept late. I hate to get up on cold mornings. Late means that I was up with the sun - just before 6:30. I don't wake up well most mornings, and this one was no different. The flaw in my character is that I sometimes wake up mean, so I like to take my time and stay calm. I put on all my clothes and slowly started to warm up. How cold is it? The condensation on my bug netting is frozen.
It is my usual habit on cold mornings to light a small fire, but I don't find the motivation and we're going to be leaving this spot pretty soon anyway and I wouldn't want to leave hot embers lying around.
Bob comes over and gives me a Gatorade bar, which is cold but rather tasty. While waiting for my brain to start, I spot a little deer off in the distance. Shortly thereafter a very large buck came by, moving fast. He is rather far away, and is gone before I can even reach for my camera. Bob doesn't see either of them, but then he isn't trained to tune into the distance yet. Most newbies have this 'problem' - they only see as far as the nearest set of trees. Only after time do the senses recover from city life and slowly expand to encompass a greater area. Once you learn this knack, you can turn it back on relatively quickly even if you haven't been in the woods for awhile.
The sun slowly climbs, and eventually starts breaking through the canopy, even if at a steep angle, and the temperature starts to rise. The condensation on my bug netting is still frozen... Little patches of sun start appearing on the forest floor and I tell Bob that in the morning it's a good idea to find one of these spots and warm up. On cold mornings I find that I'm warmer while naked in the sun than while wearing clothes in the shade. Bob relates what an Indian told him, which is something called 'Sun Breathing'. "Stand against a tree in the sun and breathe deeply." That prompts me to remember the eight qualities of proper breathing: deep, slow, long, silent, fine, soft, and continuous. Strange how things will just come to you like that. I take it as a sign that my brain is finally coming on, so I try to elucidate a complex idea, just to see: "Yes, 'Sun Breathing' is known commonly in Eastern medicine and Qigong practice, and also as a secret technique in Tantric practice. You can alternately do it without the sun, with just the tree, and without the tree, and just the sun. According to Chi theory, trees are giant Chi spikes. Tree trunks are one huge meridian line, unlike animal bodies that have many subtle lines. A tree's meridian lines don't branch out until the tree's branches branch out. Depending on the type of tree, and even between different trees of the same type, the effect you can get is different. Old oaks, for me, are very relaxing, and they resonate with the same frequencies as jade. The sun is also a huge Chi source, and available to any who open themselves to it. Sun breathing in Tantric practice is actually done through the penis, preferably with an erection, and I find it helpful to place my hands on my hips, lean back, and tilt my head back when practicing that particular meditation. Women can participate in this practice as well, although the position is different and it isn't recommended because the sun's energy is considered Yang. Women are encouraged to do Moon Breathing instead, because the moon is Yin energy and this is accomplished..." Obviously my brain isn't entirely awake and I am going too far. Bob has quit listening to me by this point anyway, having moved off to sit in the Sun. I join him. Ah.... Sun...
After a little time in the sun, we pack up and finally get on the trail.
Once we get going, I really enjoy the walk. We keep hiking along Beaver Dam Creek towards Black Creek, and I hope to reach it before noon. The day is beautiful, however, and we stop and take some pictures and generally take it easy.
Here's Bob at a pretty spot. Bob never minded taking a break or stopping to look at a pretty spot or take a few pictures. This was a big improvement for him from previous trips where he was always "GO! GO! GO!", which annoys me after awhile. We didn't have anywhere to be, so there was no need to hurry.
It's still early, and I'm still cold, but the views are captivating. This is Beaver Dam Creek, which was running high and fast from recent rains. It's pretty silty and the water is rather brown from the tannins released by decaying vegetation. A filter is definitely needed to gather drinking water.
The temperature climbs to 45 and I finally warm up - and get too warm. We take a break so I can strip down and cool off. Here's Bob on that break, sitting against a tree in the sun. I could have sat in that spot all day... Around this point we turn around and start walking back out. We have quite a ways to go, and I want to camp well before dark so that we will have time to teach Bob how to use his water filter.
That's better! A sarong is one of those pieces of gear that I will never be without. You just can't beat it for cool comfort. When I pulled it out of my pack, Bob remarked, "Oh! That's pretty." I don't think he expected me to wear it...
We keep walking back the way we came and eventually cross back over the Beaver Dam Creek bridge. After crossing we meet four hikers all in a line. The lead hiker stops and inquires about hunters, and we exchange information back and forth about what we have each seen on the trail. I'm still hiking in my sarong and all four ask the same question when they come up; "Warm enough for ya?" They're all, like Bob, bundled against the cold... Softies...
We eventually walked back down to a spot we had seen yesterday that was a great little camping area tucked into a bend of Beaver Dam Creek. Bob and I sat down and made some tea, then I took my leave and wandered off to have some time for quiet reflection. I find that I do my best 'thinkering' when I'm alone...
Coming back after 45 minutes or so, I find Bob stretched out in the sun having a nap. The forest spirits have taken him, as they said they would. Not wanting to disturb him or interfere in the work of spirits, I go down to the creek and have a visit with the Water Spirits. Nothing like a quick dip in cold water. It wasn't actually my intention to take a dip, only to have a nice wade up to my knees. I stand in the stream, letting the water rush by, as I stare down at the eddy currents created by my knees. I must have stood like that for awhile, locked in thought, while the creek sang to me. Unbeknownst to me, however, the trail ran right on the other side of the river, and I am suddenly awakened from my 'dreamering' by voices - female voices - coming this way. They were close, and there I am standing in the middle of the river as God created me. There was really nothing to do but SIT DOWN, which I did. Three young ladies hiked by in short order, all waving down to me. "Warm enough for ya?", one of them wanted to know. "The water's fine! Come on in!" They do not take me up on my offer, and I'm rather thankful because certain parts of my anatomy are urgently requesting that I stand back up. I resist for a moment and lay back into the water and let the creek pass through my soul for a few seconds. In short order I do stand back up and get out of the river, but I wish that the weather was a little warmer so that I could have a longer visit.
One of the hazards of going barefoot or wearing sandals is tangling with thorny vines... Bob was pretty amazed when we finally made camp and I cleaned it, then poured salt over it. Salt is one of the most anti-microbial things on the planet, and it doesn't sting anywhere near as much as you would think.
Bob gets up and relates how he came to fall asleep. Soon after I left a clear voice told him to go lie down in the sun. When he did, he drifted off lightly and drifted in and out - which is what I call 'dreamering'. He said it was the most serene moment he had ever had. The sleeper slowly awakens...
After giving Bob a lesson on gathering and filtering water, which is only the second or third easiest thing in the world, we light the campfire. Bob trades me a pack of tuna for a pack of EasyMac and together we make hot Tuna Casserole after heating the tuna packs near the fire. Yummy! This is shortly followed by spearmint tea with lots of sugar. We talk about his experience, which he calls the Inner Voice and I call the Voice of the Universe. It is the same thing. I go back and talk about sacred spirits like I did on our first trip, and sort of weave the story from there. Eventually we sit in silence with one another, and this becomes my favorite part of this trip.
The Fire Spirit does not return to me this night, so I lounge about on the ground, listening to the song of the creek and watching the stars peeking through the canopy. There is another fire in the distance, flickering dimly. A deer comes up and beds down close by. I cannot see it, but I can hear it. I take this as an omen that I should go to bed too, and so I do.
DECEMBER 29, 2003 - SUNDAY
As the twilight approaches, I awaken badly. Cold. I slip out of the hammock and into some clothes. The deer that had bedded down close by the night before dashes out of the woods and stops short right in front of us. We are evidently blocking access to the watering spot. She goes around after we all have a good stare at one another.
Bob has been up since long before dawn, and he watched the twilight come in. The spirits have been at work on him again... He is mostly packed and ready to go. Being a faithful Catholic he is anxious to get to church, although to my mind we are leaving a very grand one for a poor substitute. It takes me a long time to pack and get moving. Once I do, I walk along briskly and start to enjoy it. We shortly encounter a hunter, leaning stark still against a tree. He's dressed in a camouflage over suit, his shotgun in the crook of his arm. I whisper to him, "Is there another guy on the other side we should worry about?"
"Nah, I'm the last one. ... Warm enough for ya?"
It is a short hike back to the trailhead and the truck. Here we are at the end, Bob on the left. We miss church in Wiggins, but drive 33 miles to Luceville and catch mass there. From there it's a cheeseburger and a two hour ride home. A successful trip in all. Bob is ready to go. I don't know if there is very much more that I can teach him. The rest of what he needs to know will come with time and experience. There are other things he needs to learn, but the forest spirits have him now, and they will do the rest...
This was Bob and I's last hike together before he went on
his AT hike. To continue in my journal click 'NEXT'