SHANE'S HIKING JOURNAL - OCTOBER 1 - 3, 2004
I thought I might warn folks that my naked behind is visible in some of the pictures on this page. In context, I think that this is tasteful, but as the saying goes, "Everyone is someone else's weirdo.", so you might not think so. If you are the kind of person that thinks that your body is a sin, then you probably aren't going to get any of this anyway, so you shouldn't waste your time. You should go read something else. Something like this.
My hiking partner for this trip is a bit coy and he doesn't want me to use his right name, so I won't...
We get to the Janice Landing trailhead about 8:30 PM, and it takes me a little bit to get my act together and get packed up. Once we get going, though, I am really glad to be out in the night. In the light of our headlamps, the ground is littered with millions of shining jewels - spider eyes refracting the light back at us like a sky full twinkling stars. Actually, there are a lot more stars on the ground than in the sky. Sometimes I wonder what so many little critters eat...
There are a lot of trees and limbs blown down from Hurricane Ivan, and the trail is littered with various small debris and large tree limbs. In the long run, this is a good thing and the forest will be healthier for it. It the short term it means that I have to stop and put my sandals on because walking barefoot is really rough in the dark with so much detritus on the trail.
We do the standard bushwhack, and by some stroke of luck I manage to pickup the faint trail that I havent been able to find for a number of trips. I also manage to find the Rubbermaid trash can that I hadn't been able to find for two years. It's way out in the middle of nowhere, and I'm not sure what it's doing out there, but it makes a convenient landmark. I mark it's location with the Magellan SporTrak, so I can find it again.
We get to the confluence of Black Creek and Beaver Dam Creek and cross over to the campsite on the other side. We setup camp in a few minutes and come back down to the creeks and have a bit of a swim. The moon comes up and we sit in the sand on the small beach there and talk in the moonlight until midnight. It is very nice to have such a conversation with so many friends. My hiking partner, the moon, the water, the stars, the trees, the gravel bar, the cicadas, the mosquitoes, and all the other friends in Black Creek Wilderness are all wonderful to visit with in such a way. It's just like sitting on your own back porch at home - but with a much better view. And a few more bugs, I suppose...
We turn in at midnight, knowing that we can sleep late the next morning, but will probably wind up awake with the sun. I also think that maybe grandmother owl will make an appearance at 4:00 AM like she did last time and hoot us awake. As it is, I am awake again at 2:00 AM, like usual. After visiting with the night for a while I go back to sleep. I get up somewhere near dawn and hear my wilderness comrade splashing in the river and so I wander down to have a splash myself.
A blanket of mist shrouds the morning as though the veil of the night has left only reluctantly. The air is heavy and cool. Despite the lack of sun, I can feel the forest waking up all around us. It's time for a new day, even if the sun is going to be lazy about it. I wander around on the bank, just enjoying the morning. I don't often enjoy mornings, but the laziest of lazy days is prepared for us, and I figure that there is no time like the present to start being lazy.
Unless you've had a sleepy, lazy wander on a river bank beach early in the day when the temperature is perfect and the sand is nice and cool beneath your bare feet, then you've missed something pretty special in life in my opinion. It just isn't something you can buy.
We wander on the beach for longer than is probably reasonable, which means that we've started a very lazy day in just the right way.
forest shows no signs of wanting to shrug off the blanket of mist, and
I assume that what I thought was wakening was just rolling over and
going back to sleep. The light does get a bit brighter, though.
I feel perfectly content in my outdoor bedroom, and I decide to
introduce my current human roommate to some of my tree friends.
He took this picture on the right. Surprisingly, I had never
noticed this one before. The trunk divides, goes out left, then
comes back and joins back into the main trunk again. This tree
is not more than 25 feet away from a very good tree friend of mine,
whom I have spent much time sitting with (and in). I wonder why
we were never introduced before. Sometimes I guess it takes a
new face to make new friends.
Despite having booked the day with lazy enterprises, some work must be done. Housekeeping, for instance. My friend shows me that it's much easier just to shake your house out rather than sweep it. I learn something new every day...
This is a Eureka! Zeus. I think that's what they mean by 'free standing'...
Eventually, all laziness aside, we manage to get packed up and head down the trail. I manage to make it barefoot for a little while, but all the detritus from Ivan is very hard to walk in. As we walk, we clear the trail of what we can, and this slows us down considerably.
Along the way there are many friends to visit with. The bugs are obviously very glad to see us - and taste us. We spot the largest mushroom I have ever seen in DeSoto right off the trail and the we snapped this picture of it.
Before very long we manage the trail walk and then short bushwhack to 'The Beach'. (They symphony plays, the heavens part, angels sing, and all our cares are forgotten.)
The plan was to get in a swim, soak up some sun, have some lunch, and continue on to Mill Creek. Everybody came to the party, but the sun showed up a little late. We have a bit of a swim, cool off, and lay on the beach for awhile and then have some lunch.
Not everybody appreciates that a bit of beef jerky, some raisins, and an old candy bar makes an excellent beach lunch, but we sure do. As predicted, some canoers eventually disturb the peace just after noon, and so we pack up and move on to more solitary places.
Mill Creek is waiting to cool and refresh us when we arrive hot and sweaty. Hurricane Ivan has put a lot of debris in the creek and I spend some time clearing twigs and leaf bunches and sending them on their way downstream. We walk down Mill Creek to Black Creek, and clear the stream as we go. There are some large limbs that are gumming up the works that we drag out onto the sandbar and pile with some other branches that Black seems to have taken care of on her own. Mill Creek is cold and refreshing, but Black Creek is warm and inviting. We spend some time laying around in the warm water while the current rushes over and around us. It's a massage that money can't buy. When we come back up, we discover that another friend has come for a visit. Unfortunately he/she/it is a rude friend and has made a mess in my Macabi Skirt that I had lent to my human associate that morning. At least he/she/it was polite enough to pose for a picture. I'm sure someone will tell me what particular critter this is, what the gummy mess in my skirt is, and whether or not he/she/it would have been rude enough to sting us if we had tried to pet him/her/it.
Wanting to share the gifts of this place, I tell my friend to hang his hammock in my favorite spot. He hid his tent at the previous night's camp spot so that he wouldn't have to carry it. Having both a hammock and a tent allows some versatility I suppose. We set up camp and practice the fine Chinese art of Lay-Zee until it's time for dinner. We pick one of my usual fire spots and take our sweet time as the sun goes down and the night rolls in. Jerky and raisins might be fine for lunch, but being lazy all day is hard work, and a hot meal is important. Since I generally can't stand the usual backpacker swill, I make us up some hot beef mac using the Finbar Folding Fire Grate - fancy paper bowls and all. Nothin' like a pound of comfort food to comfort a body... You can read the whole story of this meal - complete with pictures - by reading my Finbar Folding Fire Grate Long-Term Review.
Of course, being well fed leads to feelin' lazy, so rather than waste it, we engage ourselves actively in laying about the campfire and feeling sorry for the less fortunate masses who are at this very moment glued mindlessly to their television screens.
We take turns tending the fire. Fires are like small children. They're always wanting to be fed, and you have to constantly watch them lest they run off somewhere and make a big mess of something. I was working on setting up the camera, but my friend moved around while I was taking the long exposure. Pity...
Of course, when we weren't tending to the fire, we were practicing the fine art of Lay-Zee, as I said before...
After the fire and the conversation died out, we took another quick dip in the moonlight, took our leave, and nestled snugly in our hammocks. I was thoroughly enjoying myself. My lazy partner and I are well matched in pace and temperament. At about 4:00 AM I have to take a record breaking whiz, and my friend wanders over in the moonlight. He was up too, with the same issue. This synchronicity stuff is strange sometimes... I get back in my hammock, take some deep breaths, and before I can admire the glow of the moon too much, I'm clean out again.
SUNDAYThe walk that took us two days has to be done all in one day on the way back, and so we pack up as early as we can the next morning and walk out. Of course, first I had another dip in Mill Creek, and it always takes me awhile to get my act together in the morning, so we don't get out very early.
Along the way we stop and take a break for a quick bite and a brief sit down. I just love having a walking companion who knows the benefit of a 15 minute sit down. I catch him staring into his raisin box. I'm not sure if he is going to eat them or just meditate on them. Sometimes a body is just too lazy to eat. Of course, he took my picture too.
Of course, since we have to pretty much pass 'The Beach' again on the way out, there isn't any reason not to stop and catch some of the sun that we missed yesterday. It's already hot, and the friendly water is always willing to sing a cooling song to a sweating body. We sit up on the sand and let the sun sing us dry.
Of course, laying around in the sand means that we get sandy, but the water is willing to sing the sand off us too, and it's a shame to miss a roll in the sand. There's just something entirely earthy about the whole process.
My friend wanders off and I wonder where he has gotten to after awhile. I finally manage to convince my body that getting up off the warm sand, while not entirely a good idea is at least agreeable enough if I promise to let it come back and lay in it some more. I see that my friend has discovered the joys of laying in the river on the shallow sandbar and letting the river wash all the civilization out of you. I figure that it's a good a summary of the whole trip that I ought to get the camera out. My body did whine about it though, "But you promised that I could lay in the warm sand again!" Sometimes a body can be so demanding.
So, that's about it. From there we walk back out to the first night's campsite and have another dip in the creeks with the plan of putting on clean clothes at this point. I haven't worn clothes the whole time, but there are often a lot of people on this end of the trail sometimes, so I figure it's prudent. Since it's nearly 2:00 PM I figure there won't be any more canoers coming down the river because nobody launches that late on a Sunday. Some folks in a flat bottom skiff manage to make a liar out of me by silently sneaking around the blind curve and catching us at our dip. We don our shorts and holler a 'howdy' at the folks in the skiff. This is the kind of boat that needs a motor, but they're making do with two small paddles and the current. The gentleman - and I use that term very loosely - in the steering position hollers, "Is this half way to Cypress Landing?". I think about it for a sec and say, "No, you're about 1/3 of the way maybe. You might make it before dark." They didn't respond to this, and I didn't pay any more mind to them for a little bit. Then I noticed that they took the wrong fork and wound up hung up in the blowdowns. Somehow I don't think they made it by dark... They were only actually about 1/5 of the way to Cypress...
We climbed out of the creeks and started our bushwhack. Just about when we were back to the trail, my friend discovered that he had dropped his shorts somewhere along the way. That is to say the pair he wasn't wearing. Hmmm... Which is to say that he had stowed a pair of shorts on top of his pack and had lost them somewhere. He went back for them while I had a sit down. While he was gone I noticed two spiders engaged in some kind of dance on a stick. I watched them for a long time and wondered what their story meant. Since I'm not sure how to sex those little jumping spiders, I didn't know if they were trying to fight or trying to mate. In either case, I don't know if they were successful. I do know that we were very successful in what we set out to do, which was basically nothing. Well, OK, so we walked around in the woods, ate snacks, lounged in the creek, and slept like the dead. A body needs a hobby, I suppose.