I took off to the woods. I needed a reprieve, to be as one, to pay attention to the here and now. I needed to smell pines, deal with what is in front of me and be natural. I went up to a familiar secret spot. I knew of a flatter spot up on the hill above. I envisioned myself there, legs crossed next to my tent, eyes closed meditating, fool on the hill, centered, grounded, myself.
There is something very different about camping alone in solitude.
I grab my backpack, shoes and a sarong wrap out of the back seat and head around a hillside. One hundred feet off of the road, I’m done with the sarong and smelling pine air.
I find the spot, but it isn’t at all flat. I begin a search of the whole area for something better. There’s a quarter mile, or more, around here and this is going to need to be it?
I find a spot hidden behind some trees, but something isn’t just right. I want to be able to leave my stuff, and just walk away. This has been envisioned as stealth camping, but hidden in plain sight. It doesn’t fit. Somehow, I’m attached to that vision on that hillside.
I leave the search to make do at the original objective.
It’s early. I’m not falling asleep. This isn’t the best spot to nest, just the best around. I eventually lay back and watch the sun going down. It has disappeared behind the mountain way before its setting time. I begin to climb the steep slope, rising higher than I already am. I know from up on the peak, I could see the rest of the world still basking in daylight for miles around. My legs reach and stretch up, unencumbered by the constraints of clothing. I feel free and natural, naked in the mountain air.
It soon becomes more evident that this route is very steep and the ground is unstable from the soaking of the monsoon rains. I discover that I’m actually just into lying about, not the workout that I am undertaking. “Shall I take my cozy spot in the forest, or the magnificence at the top of the mountain.” “Will there be a goal, or just being there.” I am once again drawn to return to my nest.
After a while, I find that my cell phone has internet and the sound of DF’s voice. She is at Ventana Resort for a few days at a World Congress of Light Workers. She tells me of the wonderful full moon where she stands, but there is none to be seen up here.
Just past dusk, I begin to question that big moon story. It is dark in this forest, the sky is dark too. It is dark all around, black.
Eventually, as I look up, a tall tree top blooms silver and then more so. Moonlight is coming over the mountain. I close my eyes for a while and relax.
When I open my eyes again, there is sharp light beaming everywhere. It is dramatic, clear, a very bright luminescence, but still no moon to be seen. I get up and peak around the tree next to me, the one that will keep me from rolling down the hill, like my still bundled sleeping bag roll had done earlier. There is a beacon there in the sky. It is like having a spotlight shinning in my eyes. Maybe those light workers are accomplishing something down there at the foot of these mountains. Am I under arrest? I half expect someone to shout, “I.D., NOW!”
The moon is full and round and it will be creeping up through the sky for most of the evening, but all behind this tree. This uneven place is better than having a flashlight in my face all night.
I’m tired, but I’m not falling asleep well. After a while, I have forgotten that and find myself having been asleep, when I wasn’t looking.
I wake a few times during the night. My discomfort is mitigated by spending a few minutes basking in the view. There are moon shadows, stark in contrast with daylight-like intensity streaming through the trees. Their branches are a silver and black. The world is alive, dramatic.
The treetops tone down the full moonlight, so that it stays out of my face most of the night. I’m also buried under the shadows of the sleeping bag. This spot turns out lucky that way.
I’m lying under an old mummy bag, thinking that I’m too warm and I don’t need the long johns and t-shirt that I had slipped on, when I smell something. Is it a bear? No. It is sort of familiar, sort of like… A SKUNK! Oh dear, this could be big trouble, a curious skunk. What to do? I certainly don’t want to be sprayed.
I make movement, the sleeping-bag rustles. The critter doesn’t smell like it is right next to me. It doesn’t smell quite like an alarmed skunk spraying. I have smelled this in passing so many times before. I watch and listen, thinking that if I just fall asleep, I’d probably be alright, but there is no sleeping with disaster wandering so close.
There is no sound. It isn’t too near. I mumble and talk to myself. I’m talking to discourage the skunk. I think about asking the internet what to do, “Hey google, how do I escape this one?” Instead, I cover my head and I pray. The critter thinks better than to be here. It doesn’t know what is rumbling and I suppose, it doesn’t feel comfortable with that foreign sound that human voices make. It’s not after me. I haven’t given any clues that I would be after it. It leaves.
I wake up to the calm. There is a buzz from somewhere. The sun is up somewhere. Somewhere out past the towering mountain ridge dome to the east. All is less discernible in the light of early dawn. There are a few clouds. That big moon has passed.
Soon enough, as I watch from my cozy net tent, the tree tops get bright above me. That familiar tallest tree is what I see first. It is so tall; it must be something like 200 or 300 feet? It is stout and strait as a tall ship’s mast. Another stands next to it, It is grey…lightning went for the highest object a long time ago.
This dry desert rat gets his mind blown over by the amazing green on this hill. I roll over and there is a carpet of fuzzy topped grass, starting about two feet from my nose. It continues all the way up the top of the hill’s ridge. The sky is colored patchy white, grey and bright turquoise.
I’ve been in the bag all night. Warm, but not the best bed. There is a groove to sleep in. Lying on my side part of me sleeps uphill or down, or I lay on my back snoring and waking every neighbor. They’d all hear me and wonder “Who’s in town?”
I rolled over once and mashed a plant with a stiff stalk. It looks like it bent. They handle snow don’t they? Maybe it will survive and still become a tree.
I peel down the coverings, checking the outside air. “Not bad…pretty good.” I was thinking that the morning air might be pretty brisk, but I feel great! And now, here comes the sun. I climb out of the bag and begin searching for my water jug in its camouflage cover.
By the time I swallow water, the sun is seen above, at the tip of the peak of the next neighboring mountain. It is so deliciously warm to be in the beams, the golden rays. There is no breeze, just the sound of birds chirping. Occasionally, a buzz flies by.
I do an inventory. I’m pleased that the body is not horribly stiff from the odd positions of last evening. These pants need to come off. It is better not to wear the bag as well. They stay cleaner and smell like new petrol products longer, when aired out.
Now, there’s me. I feel that I need to be hung out and dried, too. I need to be aired out, lying across that big log down below me in the sun.
Casually, a pair of thermal dirt stained long johns peel off of the legs like a stripper’s silk stockings. The stockings get rolled down to the ankles to get sorted out and pulled away as they stretch.
I didn’t need the clothing last night. I have been in my space mummy bag tight and sealed. My quilt doesn’t do that. My quilt is best for a nudist’s paradise such as this. It breathes. I can bundle up, or poke a leg out.
Evergreens are around me and into the sky, with that other green, the fluorescence of grass. Red trunks of Ponderosa Pine contrast. Here comes the sun.
I see that it is still dark down there in the gully where the stream bed is sleeping. It is always a bit shady.
I take some photos. I notice that it’s easier to climb out of the net tent without pants on. Today I have a sense. I trust that everything is turning out perfectly.