Up until recently, I often backpacked into the wilderness to escape the world of man, and to become lost in the wonders of the natural world. I had always refused to be that guy who used power tools while camping, because it affects the wildlife you see and hurts the environment. I have always feared poisoning one of the last remaining natural areas. But what that entailed meant that I traveled rougher, with less gear, and less comforts. I used to build a fire strictly off the land, and lighting it with a flint and steel kit, but on my last trip, I decided to try something different and it worked out extremely well. While that practice is invaluable, especially for wilderness survival mastery, I know that I may rarely go that route in today’s day and age, because of new technology. I will always carry a flint and steel kit with me, because you never know when you might need it. But I may never travel the same again.
Forests of green and brown pine streamed by as the search continued. And as gravel and dust billowed behind the cars, we ascended the mountain for a few miles until we found what we were looking for. A large dispersed campsite with a fire ring of rocks manifest itself just over a hilly pass. My family and I parked our cars and began exploring the area. The largest of campsites sat nearer the road, but hidden along a game trail, through a thicket of pine, sat a beautiful private site hidden from view of the other tents. It had its own fire pit and a space just large enough for my tent.
We arrived during the wee hours while the sunlight was still peaking just above the horizon. My significant other and myself picked our campsite and sat down our gear, then readied for our first morning safari. A chill stung in the air, so I riffled through my rucksack and pulled my Avedon & Colby field shirt and vest out and dressed quickly. The moleskin field shirt took away the bite in the air immediately. I packed my daypack and filled my vest with survival items like a compass, a folding blade and some other oddities. Mere minutes had passed but the sun had already began to rise and fill the forest with warm, golden light. We started off with our daypacks slung around our shoulders, binoculars and a bottle of water in either hand.
A few days ago, the early spring rain had finally slowed and the sky turned a vibrant blue, and I thought I ought to go exploring while the sun was still shining. In rural Ohio, rivers pulsed with streaming rainwater, so I gathered my Pangean Glider chair, a six pack of beer, and my binoculars, and I set off in my car. I made my way along backcountry roads, following the meandering river, over bridges and passed the endless farms. And just beyond the local damn, I found a rocky dirt road that took me up to a peaceful place at the edge of the Killbuck Creek. The location seemed perfect for bird watching and for some much needed time alone, with Nature, as there are no people or houses, only the fresh-tilled earth of corn fields, which ran up to the edge of trees which gathered thick along the water’s edge.
Through the rearview mirror, the orange morning sun was just visible through the skyscrapers of the city. A van followed a lead car and within thirty minutes, the city had disappeared and what seemed like endless farmland streamed by. Sleepy-eyed and quiet, each member of my family stared out, watching the cows and goats grazing in fields of green. I enjoyed the silence as I searched the skies for birds of prey with my binoculars pressed around my eyes.
Rolling foothills eventually rose up and greeted the horizon in lines of thick forest of oak and pine. In the lead, my uncle turned off the highway and within minutes the car began to vibrate violently as he continued along washboard dirt roads. And as the forest thickened, it occurred to me that there were no sign of humans, and there were no cars, or houses, or planes.
Meandering, we weaved the pothole-scarred path until we finally arrived at a dispersed camping site. I exited the car first and stretched, taking in a deep breath of the fresh air. The smell was wondering, something like pine with subtle wildflower, which seemed to intertwine with a distinct musty scent of decomposing leaves and rotting wood. I stared up at the trees soaring up from the earth. They brushed the blue sky with their rustling leaves, now bright green and vibrant with the coming of spring. The songbirds were singing and the squirrels were chasing each other over moss covered tree trunks. The ground was covered in a bed of orange pine needle, with fallen pinecones and the faint scattering of animal tracks.
As the black sky paled to light, a brilliant sea of stars faded. And soon the millions of tiny lights like fireflies became invisible to me. I looked down from the heavens, hoping the beauty of each star, striving to shine the brightest of all, would be burned forever inside the lids my eyes. Then, the sun appeared in a line of pale red against the deep purple sky. The vibrant light silhouetted the mountain peak as I finished packing my tent. Minutes later, I finished packing then slung my manliest of satchels over my head and let it rest at my side. And then I was off.
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