Creek. Tree. Stone. Primal.
Rustic camp, set up right next door to this living, breathing stereoscope of nature. Four hour drive with stop at Walmart for lantern, then much deliberation over picking a campsite, them tent, canopy, air mattress set-up…
Wild rhododendron give the place a Smoky mountains vibe. In fact this feels like Zoder's Inn, $220 cheaper and 3 hours closer. Now to relax!
(But wait! What yonder ponc lies in front? It is my exercise routine, alas and drat! I must walk a bit…)
So I walked a mile, just to absorb the gorgeous scenery. It's Brad Paisley country. I walk the creek and look up the side of a mountain hushed with the magnificence of God. The forest is dense and mysterious. Godlike. I think: “I could use more silence in my life.” More time standing dumbfounded in front of trees. Here is nature - and water - without the needling distractions of crowds as are found omnipresent in Hilton Head (even on the bike trails!)
There's a reason monasteries are founded in remote locations. There is quiet. Here is quiet. Here are mountains that have produced many a godly Baptist man, like Billy Graham. I hear Thoreau singing!
“As if pulled in by a magnet, people gather on the banks of the river. Seeing a lot of water like that every day is probably an important thing for human beings. For human beings might be a bit of a generalization—but I do know it’s important for one person: me. If I go for a time without seeing water, I feel like something’s slowly draining out of me. It’s probably like the feeling a music lover has when, for whatever reason, he’s separated from music for a long time.”
So what is it about being in the forest like this that so enchants? Such a simple thing, setting up a campsite in the woods yet I ran ecstatically a couple miles, transfixed by the passing woods and mountains. Idyllic spot: of the eleven rustic campsites we're the only campers. Yes, we have the whole Bluejay campground to ourselves! That will likely change tomorrow but I'll let tomorrow take care of itself.
This morning spent a few minutes reading “Jesus” by Fr. James Martin. Am wanting to read the collection of essays Edmund Morris has out now. When I heard there was one on the Library of Congress, the poetry of his rapture carried me away. I also wouldn't mind reading his wife's book on Claire Luce. She lived a rather colorful life. Certainly I'd like to read about her conversion story to Catholicism and about her close association with the great Fulton Sheen. (Alas! I read his cause for sainthood has been suspended. Sadness.)
Sleep is not why you go camping, given the “rigors” of an air mattress and uncontrolled heating/cooling, but I did appreciate last night's white noise in the form of the rushing creek bed outside our tent encampment. Steph thought it sounded like it was raining, which is also a comforting backdrop for sleep.
It gets cold in the mountains at night, or so we found out. Not having heavy blankets wasn't ideal, so I woke up a couple times and put on a t-shirt and later additional thin blankets. Also had to pee, which isn't totally convenient other than being able to go pretty much anywhere outside that I wished.
Woke up and lit out for some electricity so we could make our Keurig. Nothing at the first couple restrooms/party shelters we stopped; not even the bath house on the main campground. So we had to “borrow” an empty campsite's electric.
Then we did a short road tour of the area outside the park. Nothing prettier than a house situated on a broad plain, witnessed from a surrounding height.
At the camp store's entrance, four men of varying ages - a early 30-something cop and three older gentlemen with wrinkled visages like those of old time farmers, stood talking like you might see in Mayberry. Just shootin' the breeze. Would've loved to have listened and eavesdrop. I heard them one say “twenty years in the mine ain't long,” or words to that effect.
The big break was we didn't get any rain yesterday or last night. Rain is to camping what a flat tire is to bike-riding. Supposed to be another fair chance of the dreaded event today and tonight.
Lazed around until about 1, at which point we took a walk down to the amazing waterfall. We walked around there and sat there for awhile, even entering just above the falls via dry rocks. Then down the road, past the horse campgrounds, to where it forked off into two different trails. So maybe a mile and a half walk, enough for Buddy. Saw a black snake, presumably a Northern black racer, climbing the slick wall of rock along the path.
Wondered if this creek empties into West Virginia's New River, the place we went whitewater rafting. Thought about the oddness of a river, coming seemingly out of nowhere, built from rainwater. Or rather built from creeks, which are built from run-off rainwater. The great Mississippi seems almost created ex nihilo, starting from a tiny sprig of water. Maybe from a spring? Either way it seems amazing that the earth's water has arranged itself into these creeks that feed rivers that eventually feed oceans.
Ahhhh….yes…another wonder-restoring hike. Two miles, same as what I ran last night, but it felt like Hocking Hills of old with those grand vistas, the far tops of the mountains having some sort of magical pull for me, that distant inaccessibility somehow charismatic purely on account of being distant and inaccessible. The free, wildness of those tree-clad peaks. The succor of sun on those lucky tops. And all of this contrasted with the foreboding glade, the dark tangle of firs and birch and oak.
The cool thing about this trip is we stayed the same amount of time we would've at a Hocking Hills cabin but without the amenities of hottub and television and comfortable bed. But so far so great! The highlight and inspiration of Hocking, like Camp Creek, are the hikes down the long lanes past lawns and forest and mountains.
Felt strange to be completely disconnected. No cellphone service, no wi/fi. But probably good for the soul. Am now reading some of Shelby Foote's Civil War trilogy because it fits the scene: old-fashioned, epic, 19th century living (but for this ipad…).
I feel quasi-nostalgical already on this trip. The campfires. The smell - so fresh, so leaf pungent. The walks. The thrill of being outside at twilight turning into night. The flushless, walkless bathrooms (at least for number 1). The creek, the trees, the rocks. The sight of trees seemingly growing out of rock. The lichened stones. Maybe even the black snakes. Seems like we're just hitting our rhythm and it's time to go home. But better to leave wanting more than leave wishing for less.
But as Steph said, “this is medicinal.”
Took me a West Virginny bath! Just headed on down to the clear, rushing stream, soaped up my face, hair and underarms and rinsed in the refreshingly cool water. While lot quicker than bath house trip.
I wonder if anybody just walks gold courses, to admire their beauty?
Too cool: I hear what sounds like coyotes or wolves howling in the distaff distance.
I randomly came across this from this year's Old Farmer's Almanac and it pretty accurately describes what we're unwittingly doing:
Without a doubt, a walk in the woods lifts our spirits and makes us feel good. In Japan, this has developed into a new form of therapy and preventative medicine known as shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” which involves taking a stroll among the trees, breathing it all in.So, like drinking, I'm camping for medicinal purposes. Ha.
A woodland walk affects all of our senses…and our health. Even a short walk in the forest will lower blood pressure and pulse rate, decrease fatigue and tension, increase the number of anticancer proteins, and encourage the growth of disease-fighting white blood cells. Some of these effects occur after we inhale chemical compounds from plants, fungi, and bacteria. These include phytoncides, which trees and other plants emit to protect themselves against insect attacks and rotting.
Sleep this second night was plentiful if compromised by the deep chill and inadequate blankets. I put on a T-shirt and a sweatshirt both, but the air was so cold I developed a cough and wondered if I was getting a cold. But then I thought to pull part of the blanket over my face and thus breathing warm air was able to get back to sleep and not feel like coughing.
I sipped precious java in front of a campfire until eating a by-then-cold but still good sausage/egg/cheese biscuit. Sudden upon us it was 10am, and I knew Steph wanted to pack up and head home but I asked for a 10 minute hike. Turned out to be closer to twenty because the scenery was so life-giving. A mere shaft of light could transport me, offer a moment of transcendence. The song “Wolverton Mountain” came to mind, as did the writings of John Muir.
But like all mountaintop experiences, this time literally a mountain top experience, I had to come back to earth. And so we toiled from to pack up everything with Steph-ian meticulousness. Then the drive back, begun at 11:30 and ended just before 4. A fine way to end the summer!