Sometimes you have to work hard for peace.
It only comes to me when I can completely block out all the noise. Blocking out the noise near any metro area is impossible these days. It’s not an easy getaway to load all your shelter, water, food and clothing for two days on your back. Deep in the forest, that work is worth it.
“Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”John Muir
The woods I went to were savage, Savage Gulf to be exact. When celebrations were banned, it didn’t feel much like Independence Day, so I celebrated with a friend, our dogs and a full moon at Savage Falls Campsites.
Completely primitive backpack camping is something I’d only ever done once, and that was with a guy that handled the bulk (ok, all of) the technical stuff. So, it felt like pushing myself even a little further in finding how hardcore my inner nature girl is.
I had most of the gear, but still hadn’t tried my water system out yet. Turns out I loved it since we were staying on one site for two nights, I just hung my 6L Katadyn and only had to refill it one time! and after a last minute trip to Mountain High to grab some foods and a light-up collar, I felt as ready as I’d ever be.
The straight shot to our site was 1.5 miles, but we added a dayloop extension to add miles as first day warm up. Going in, we thought we might not be in as much shade as we’d hoped, but the canopy grew thicker about a mile in. Dusty and open trails quickly gave way to lush green surroundings and forest floor splendor.
The moss, the mushrooms, the babbling streams began appearing and my mind started to loosen its grip on the fear and frustration being in civilization caused. Slowly, my breathing got into rhythm with my steps. I felt my muscles relax, despite the thirty-five pound pack.
I was becoming happier, and seeing #theamazingblaze in his happy place helped too.
A few miles later, we found the Falls! Savage Falls. I love the soothing roar of a waterfall. It will never cease to amaze me the power that moving water has. It shapes over landscape, carves through rock and dirt and contains its very own elaborate ecosystem.
Our site was just a quarter mile from the falls and happened to have a giant fallen tree across it. We made due, I sat my tent on the edge between the neighboring site and ours. My friend camped on the site with only vertical trees until the neighbors arrived the second night. It was a great way to meet them and their fantastic border collie puppy. My eighty-five pound bruiser played so gently with him. What a dose of animal therapy. You can’t help but smile for happy, sweet dogs.
I do remember loving day one fresh food on my first adventure. I did the same. Froze some chicken sausages. They thawed perfectly to have great food at least one meal. Mine may have been slightly crunchy after the drop in the coals, but in backpacking – you blow that off and eat the food. Tomorrow it would be back to the dried or pouch stuff, like tuna. Ya know, the original BEAR BAIT!
Other gear I’d invested in were odor-proof sacks and a bear bag. Supposedly made of Kevlar and impenetrable if tied well. We still hung our food, but honestly – any bear would have walked right up and grabbed it, but if they can’t smell it, they don’t try, right? I was counting on that bag working.
The daytime temperatures in the high 80’s caused me to leave my rain fly off for air conditioning as the day faded into cooler nighttime temperatures. It was full moon eve and for one time, I was thankful that I could not sleep. I’d sleep for a bit, wake up and see how far the moon had traveled across the sky. Brighter and higher, it greeted me at every wakeful moment.
The second night (4th of July) we somehow got sound effects from celebrations all around but the forest was too dense to see any fireworks. I said my silent thanks and prayers in my heart for keeping America free.
Day 2 day hike – Stagecoach Road. From where we were, it was an out and back to the nearest campsites. 4.2 miles away and back. Great day hike mileage. A lovely rim hike with numerous overlooks just a tiny spur off the main trail. Trails in Savage Gulf are marked very well, thank goodness since we just had phones and the GPS signal wasn’t even accurate.
We never did make it to the other campsites, but decided they were probably much like ours. Had we expected a snowcone machine there, we would have definitely traveled on, but pedometers pegged us having done 7.5 miles. Every step a new plant, mushroom or moss to see.
Another fantastic night, with aching legs and an overheated body I was down for the count before the sun. Only to wake again as the moon peeped up through the trees. I am most definitely a selenophile (fond of the moon).
In our tiredness, we’d been even more lax with the bear bag. It hung on a small branch on the fallen tree, roughly five feet off the ground. Playing it fast and loose with the wildlife attractors. As we began to pack for the hike out, I opened up the dog’s pack and found an empty tuna pouch. Yes, that tuna pouch from lunch Saturday living in a pack pocket, that was living under my tent vestibule about fourteen inches from where I slept. Grateful that an eighty-five pound bruiser slept about that same distance on the other side of me. Massive backpacking rookie foul.
Morning walks were my favorite time. Even though Blaze would get plenty exercise, he needed that time. I may have needed that time more. It was just after sunrise and everyone on the other three sites were still fast asleep. We’d creep out onto the trail, pass the last site, stop, take his stance. I would unclip his leash and whisper go. Man, does he flat GO!?!!
When I adopted that boy, I wanted him to have the best life possible. Seeing him bounce through the woods with complete abandon looks like he’s living it. I stared out at the six million shades of green while he inhaled the whole forest. Thankful to be alive, thankful to be an American and thankful for a life that I pepper with nature.
Life can be savage. Live it wild.