A lovely camp despite the pack-chewing rodents

A lovely camp despite the pack-chewing rodents

I guess I don’t qualify as a “lister” or a collector.  I like birds, but the closest I came to listing those I saw was in Costa Rica, when I followed my travel buddy’s example and marked them in my field guide. I never got a 50-peak pin.  The way I remember experiences and encounters is by picture, notes, and stories, but those are scattered everywhere; occasionally a forgotten gem of an memory or visual surfaces and it’s like Christmas.

As the years wear on, I become even more independent and wandering, traits that oppose listing and collecting.  You won’t find me like young ultralight trail runners dashing from peak to peak, three or four in a day to add to the list, leaping down hills and over creeks.  I’ll be moving alone through the woods or over a ridge, then stop dead because there is the thumping sound of grouse, or a strange rock, or if I’m lucky, a bone. I like game trails because deer and elk know the countryside and  all the good routes and interesting things to see.  I like to see them, too, or follow their tracks and browse until the sound of shadows rushing through the trees reaches my ears.SarasOrangetip

During two trips to Ingalls Creek before Memorial Day weekend, I enjoyed bug-bite free conditions, mild weather, nice flowers and butterflies.  On the second trip I packed a tent so I could sleep peacefully as I do outside and away from the busy Puget Sound area.  I wandered worry-free:  no one would be straining for a destination, a training speed, an appointment.  I hiked fast when I wanted, slow when I pleased, and stopped where ever I felt like.  This isolation and freedom becomes terribly addictive and I worry sometimes that I will become one of those old people who is found six months rotten and stinking after dying alone at home.  But for now, it’s nice to unwind, to eat dinner when I feel like it perched on a boulder of my choosing all by myself, to see faces in the rocks, the moss, the trees.

See the ghost face?  Like The Scream in rock.

See the ghost face? Like The Scream in rock.

The world is changing out there, maybe because so many people go to the woods as a hobby now.  The goats want to lick your arms, foxes wait beside the road for handouts, grey jays steal sandwiches out of your hands, and rodents lurk under the logs to commit night-time raids on camping gear.  I usually stuff my pack inside two opposed 6 ml contractor bags at night, and have never had a problem.  This time, I woke to the sound of plastic rustling a couple times and found the noise resulted in severance of a strap going from my hipbelt to the shoulder pad, which was also gnawed.  I was able to tie the strap to the sternum strap and carry out, but will next time bring the pack inside with me, even if I’m in my teeniest tent.  Somehow that nylon veil with the large breathing body behind it bars the teeth of hungry rodents.  Until I’m six hours dead, I guess, and then they figure it out and start the circle of life routine.

I didn't eat your pack strap, really I didn't

I didn’t eat your pack strap, really I didn’t

I shouldn’t be so terrible, and I will have to buck up to trail along with 10-12 other people on Baffin Island this year, if no injury, illness or catastrophe befalls me before then. The outfitters encourage socializing while making dinner, sharing stories, and having a human experience.  I am going to test my taste for the Arctic, to see snowy owls, to feel what barren is really like.  I’m a study in opposites- a very private and independent extrovert- so I know I can do this if I try.  When I crossed paths with a lone day hiker at Ingalls, I didn’t look down or away, but instead smiled and chatted for a moment.  But I didn’t linger, and in the Arctic I will find time to wander alone, to pick and poke and take pictures and notes, to get a feel for the place.  Ingalls Creek was the first warm up.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.