Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Trail talk

Spring is springing sprung forth and I'm itching for a get away from it all wake up in the pines and listen to birdsong without traffic in the background kind of experience. Which makes me sad because escape from the madding hordes is not forthcoming anytime soon... Well, a walk around DeKalb to all the secret waste places I know about provides enough of a tide me over kind of nature fix, replete with litter, traffic hum and other signs of habitation.

Soon... I will sleep outdoors for the first time in 2006.
Soon... with master's degree in hand, teaching job in tow, students safely released into some distant summer, I will leave the cares of civilization for a good month... Maybe Arizona, Utah, Wyoming or Montana. Some place where I can walk for days at a time and not see another soul, much less a town.

I have this desire for complete removal. What a novel idea! The longest I've ever been away from town was 11 days during my epic journey through the High Sierras of central California on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2004. Which is more than 99.9 percent of tourist Americana has ever done. Eleven days. That's nothing.

But a whole month. Not a month of hiking with purpose, or driving around to beauty spots, or following an itinerary. Drop me off at some trailhead with a fully loaded backpack and a couple bearproof canisters of food I can return to on a weekly basis for resupply. Find some beautiful base of operations from which I can explore in all directions, or not, as whim dictates, not on a schedule or beholden to the consciousness of another.

It sounds so lonely. A kind of soul-searching, wrenching kind of loneliness. Maybe a radio. But that would be a connection to the outside. Certainly a pile of books. That's within the ethos of removal. My notebook. At least six rolls of toilet paper, though maybe not as much. Outdoor living burns a lot of fuel. A backpacking guitar? Yes, music by the fire would be nice. A bottle of whiskey. Fresh air, mountains, fishing, walking, the smell of pine pitch, the crunch of snow in June. Nature. Wonderful contact, free of complications.

Yes, spring is here. Wanderlust creeps in as the temperatures rise. 'Tis my greatest blessing and worst curse. It's something the rest of the 99.9 percent with their mortgages, purpose-filled lives, chain restaurants, and lawful relationships will never understand.

Funny thing is I want to have both worlds. I want to own a home, have a fulfilling, satisfying career, a family. I want my son to know who his father is. And I'm willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make it happen. But my heart is out there soaring with the turkey vultures, crawling through the catacombs of a desolate slot canyon, glissading down the echoey north slope of an alpine peak to a creekside camp. There's a little part of me set aside. It is elsewhere, out there in the wild places.

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