Mount Jefferson Wilderness part 3
I left camp in a bit of a frenzy this morning. This was due to the fact that I seem to have camped in the center of a mosquito metropolis. As soon as I stepped out of my tent, clouds of them were upon me. So I quickly packed up and moved on. Now, five miles in, I am feeling a bit sluggish. Time to finally stop for coffee and a proper breakfast. Now, I’m sitting in a beautiful open forest surrounded by moss-covered pine trees. Steaming cup of coffee in hand, I get out my copy of Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitare and read a chapter. I brought this book along for two reasons. One, it is relatively small and light. Two, it is quite possibly the best book ever written. At least on the subject of wilderness, philosophy, poetry, and humor. Not to mention spirituality. As many times as I’ve read it, it never gets old. In fact, it gets better. I open to a random chapter. Cliffrose and Bayonetts. As it turns out, Abbey is preparing coffee himself this fine morning in his housetrailer while spending his season as park ranger and sole inhabitant of Arches National Park. On his morning walk, he talks of cliffrose, cactus flowers, purple sage, and Spanish bayonettes in his usual style of wit, charm, and grace. I finish my chapter, take my last sip of coffee and stare out over my surroundings. The Pacific Crest Trail lies 50 yards from my little coffee shop in the woods. It’s the time of year for through hikers and one just passed by. Ultralight and ultra fast, he whizzes by in a flash. Passing up fields of huckleberries, he sports tennis shoes, a backpack that resembles a daypack, and headphones in his ears. I suppose you could log some serious miles with the right music selection.
I think to myself that perhaps I need to look into getting some lighter gear too. But then I consider that he’s also probably not carrying a book, journal, chairkit, extra pair of camp shoes, down jacket, fresh vegetables, frying pan, three person tent, full jar of peanut butter, or digital SLR camera and camera bag with him either. Unnecessary items? Perhaps. Slowing me down? Definitely. But I’m really not here to log miles, set a good pace, or break records. A cool as it would be to hike the entire PCT, 2500 miles in all, I think I’d prefer to do it in chunks. And over a span of years. You see, in order to successfully hike all 2500 miles of the PCT, a rigorous schedule must be followed. And it must be completed in the warmer months when snow is not covering the trail. This typically means 20 – 25 miles per day. With that kind of schedule, where is the time for picking huckleberries and blackberries? When would I inspect tiny flower gardens, follow coyote tracks across the tundra, or explore that unmarked path that leads to who knows where? And where is the time for coffee breaks, afternoon naps, and general lollygagging? Hell, lollygagging is primarily what I come out here to do! Kudos to the through hikers, but I’ll stay here and enjoy my coffee.
Enjoying my coffee.
Come to think of it, I think I’ll camp right here in this very spot for the entire summer. I’ll pack in tables, chairs, bagles, and a solar-powered espresso maker. Here I’ll set up shop for the through hikers. I’ll offer hot espresso on the fly at a walk up window with a brown bag lunch to go. Gotta keep them hikers on schedule. Load ‘em up with caffeine and carbs. I think this could work. And the rent is pretty low.
After jotting this elaborate business plan down in my journal, I decide to pack up and hike on. Afterall, I have my own schedule to keep. This lovely coffee buzz won’t last all day.
Tonight I’m camped in a beautiful forest clearing with views to the west. Ridges upon ridges of mountains that must extend fifty miles or more fill my view. Miles and miles of public land to explore. Tomorrow I will reunite with my love at Breitenbush Hot Springs where I will soak, relax, and wash away several layers of dirt. What a way to end a backpacking trip. And then it’s back to the truck camper and the open road. And if I’m lucky, an ice cold craft beer in a cozy little roadside café with a fish sandwich on the way. Fishwhich as they call it in Oregon. Now fish I could eat for every meal and here in Oregon, the fish is plentiful. And the fresh salmon caught from the local rivers is simply to die for. But why am I thinking of such things at a moment like this? It’s funny to just watch your behaviors. It basically comes down to cravings. We are constantly craving something. And that’s ok. That’s what keeps the world in motion. Without cravings, we would all just sit there like sloths. But what do sloths crave? They must have cravings too?
The most important thing is to have awareness. Awareness to “watch” our behaviors and cravings. That way we can decide which ones to give in to and which ones not to. Otherwise we become slaves to them. Eating our way to obecity. Or buying every new gadget we see, or that the world tells us we must have. With day upon day and hour upon hour of just simply walking, you get to notice all kinds of cravings. And you get really good at watching them. There’s no way of satisfying them anyway out here in the woods. There is no minimart to pop in to. No fridge to go into. No internet to surf. So you just go on walking. Watching. Walking. And soon you realize that you are not these cravings. And you are not these emotions. You are not these mood swings. You are not these fears, these hopes, these pleasures, and sufferings. You are not even this person walking. And soon you realize that you are just along for the ride. And when you realize you are just along for the ride, you sit back and enjoy the scenery. Enjoy the great movie that is life. Life unfolding right before your eyes. And it is all quite beautiful really.