Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Winter Sun

"Wet feet are a fact of life. Wet feet are a fact of life." I repeat to myself. My mantra for the weekend. I'm breaking trail through the snow. The sun is out in the pastures I came up through, but now I'm making my way through the woods on the shadowy north side of the mountain. The snow is deeper here and the only foot steps are mine and the white tail and the squirrels. The creeks are up as the snow is melting in the sun on the balds up top. "Wet feet are a fact of life..." 

I make slow progress. I've been down since May as my knee is slowly recovering. It cuts my mileage and my pace. Breaking through the snow isn't helping me go any faster. Once I make it to the AT there are other foot steps to follow. Single track is packed down as I come up on a group of about 15 teenagers and their group leaders. They're base camping and up for a short day hike. I pass them and the nice solid single track turns into me following the single deep steps of someone with much shorter stride than mine. Its less awkward to just break my own steps in the snow.

I find a spot right below the summit of Little Hump between rocks with a good view of the sunset and sunrise. I chat with the day hikers for a bit before they turn back to camp and fire for the night. I lay out my bivy, my bag and eat dinner and watch the sunset from bed. Its an incredibly clear night and I hope for some star gazing, but thats when the wind picks up. These rocks aren't up for the job as windbreak. The wind rocks me in and out of sleep all night and continues past sunrise. 

Sunrise and breakfast in bed. Still cowering in my bag away from the wind blown snow. Frigid, but absolutely gorgeous. I shiver and shudder as I make my way out of the downy warmth and put on my cold, wet shoes, my body shaking to stay warm as I try to tie my stiff frozen laces. All packed up I hit the trail. Only the nice packed track is gone thanks to the wind. The snow is deeper than ever despite the clear skies. 

Turning back in the direction I came I make my way back off the AT onto the Overmountain Victory Trail. Back into the shadowy side of the mountain where my steps from yesterday remain. Only this time crossed over by deer and coyote since I've been through. The silent side of the mountain. Only the sounds of my feet in the snow, my breath in the air, the wash of the creek over the ice and rocks. The quiet soft sounds of winter broken by the soft rush of owl's wings as it flies over by only a few feet to perch on a branch nearby only to float away further still. Away into the shadows and the white.

Breaking trail up the OVT

Bed for the night

Following the steps of others

The others head back leaving me to the sunset and solitude.

Morning view from bed.

Breakfast in bed with such great sights. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Morning on the Forest Floor

There is something special about night hiking. The focus is only as large and as intense as your headlamp allows.  Directly in front of your feet and only about 1-2 sq ft. Cool calm September nights filled only with the sounds of the breeze rattling the early autumn leaves, the night birds and the occasionally close run in with a skunk. When I got tired I found a flat enough spot to throw my sleeping pad and crash out. 
The sun breaking through the mostly green trees wakes me.  The trees block out the show in the sky, but sleeping out on the ground gives me the gift of the sunrise at ground level. 

Get on the ground and smell the dirt. See the world contained in a spot smaller than a single foot print. 

All photographs taken less than 24 inches (60 cm) off the ground. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Over the River and Through the Woods

I returned to the same place a few days after my last short trip with friends. This time a little further and a little faster. Alone with the solitude of my self and accompanied by the richness of the mountains, rivers, trails and fields I was moving through.