Monday, January 2, 2012

Starting The Year Off Right

First things first on this day of precendents (January 1st).  Jump in the hot tub, worry about how to spend the day later.

Then it was off to the woods with loaded truck.  Many of the frozen mud holes were pretty easy but one (not the on in the photo) took us by surprise.  It was half soft but with huge frozen ruts hidden beneath the ice.  I didn't want to go too slow for fear of getting stuck but even a small amount of speed resulted in a violent left and forward pitch then we slammed to the right.  Everything in the truck's bed tumbled around and the dogs fell off the seat.  Fortunately nothing broke and the alignment didn't seem to be affected.
I noticed a barely visible entrance to a jeep trail into the woods, followed it and found home for the night.
By the looks of it I'm not the only one to have this idea.
After a day and night of rain, I was surprised to get the fire lit so quickly.  I didn't split or shave wood just used the driest feeling twigs I could find.
But I've got Ontario's SP-10 Marine Raider Bowie in case I need to split tinder.
The night was warm for this time of year and very blustery.  I was in a pine grove and the tree tops were hissing and sighing sometimes sounding like breaking ocean surf.  The wind's direction was steady though so it was easy to stay out of the smoke.  In the photo below sparks shower off downwind.
Temps were rapidly dropping with a 70% chance of rain and snow forecast for after 03:00 hours.  I figured I'd be sleeping in the truck by then so I never set up the tarp.  I was wrong.   It began raining just after taking this photo - c. 20:00 hours.  I never camp without a bow saw.  I use this one all the time.  
The sudden rain had me scrambling to stow gear, bring the dogs out for their last pee and duck into the truck for shelter.
For all that it was a snug place to be.
The rain came down in fits.  I played with the camera and had the only food of the day: Walmart granola bars and corn chips.  I got up once in the pre-dawn to explore around the fire pit.  The clouds had blown off and the sky was filled with stars.  It was very dark with no moon but I spotted what I was sure was Mars, glowing brilliantly orange.  As I lay under the covers in early morning I was reminded of a memory from very early teen years: one's body is toasty warm but the surrounding air is frigid and everything has the heavenly scent of wood smoke.  And it occurred to me, this is partly why I camp.  

By morning the ground was covered in a thin layer of tiny frozen snow balls.  It almost looked like hail but the bee-bees were too soft to be called sleet. 

I took the dogs for their morning walk and they found this stone at the entrance of the truck trail incredibly interesting.

After all that soaking rain, I wasn't looking forward to sawing and splitting logs for dry kindling.  On a hunch I went to the fire pit, cleared the surface stuff away and began blowing at it's center.  The photo below was taken while blowing on embers.  I was amazed they survived almost an entire night of rain.
No shaving tinder or splitting kindling, I didn't even use a match.
Then I gathered firewood in earnest.
It was so cold the backpacking stove was very resistant to lighting.  Holding a direct flame in it's gas vapor did nothing.  That's why Coleman recommends lighting paste for extreme cold. But at last, I was able to light it and make half a liter of coffee-hot cocoa blend.

There's nothing like coffee and a fire on a cold morning in the woods.

Campfire coffee with tree branch reflections.
Without exception, the finest time to write.
People once used beech leaves to tick mattresses.  Must've made for a noisy bed.  The leaves cling to branches all winter and rustle in the wind.  If you're in a beech grove when it's sleeting the woods hiss.  Even a single sapling makes a quiet racket.
After writing for a bit, I relaxed with a pipe of Captain Black.
All this time the dogs were in the truck bed burrowed under sleeping bags.  When I roused them for our walk they began to tremble like quaking aspen leaves.  Once walking, they were eager and comfortable.
Every path beckons.  Beech leaves cover the ground.
Once back at the truck I organize and pack gear.  In very little time we're heading out, both dogs co-piloting and alert to the passing woods.
This is what adventure is made of.  A fitting couple of days to start the new year.

1 comment:

  1. Yo, dude, wondered where you went to. I'm going to keep on you till you come on out to the Great Pacific Northwest and sample our rain forest and Mt Rainier. You'll go ape.

    Glad to see that Nature is working her Magic on you my friend.