“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, … and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived”
Thoreau (Walden) http://thoreau.eserver.org/
I agree with the second prong of that famous quote – the part about not wanting to discover upon dying that I had not lived – but can’t swallow the part about living deliberately in the woods. To the contrary, the woods are a place to experience chaos, mystery, and the wild.
So, when things get particularly crazy in my life, I find a way to bug out to the woods.
But perhaps I am responding to a far less known perspective in Walden, where Thoreau observed – and concluded (more than 100 years before Pink Floyd stole the line):
“It is very evident what mean and sneaking lives many of you live, for my sight has been whetted by experience;…
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
“The greater part of what my neighbors call good, I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of any thing, it is very likely to be my good behavior.”
In my own encounters with real woods (AKA wilderness), I typically take off on a whim and shoot for something beyond my experience, skills, and equipment – always with little or no preparation (so much for living deliberately). I jam the tent, sleeping bag, some food and a book into the back of the car and take off (don’t tell my kids, but I used to do this hitchhiking).
At times, that has put me in some precarious situations. But, I’ve managed to survive and – for the most part – I have a blast experiencing a little of the vanishing wild that’s still left. My favorite place to escape to is the Adirondacks, which I did last week.
This time out, I set my sights on Cascade Mountain (4,100 ft. elevation), the easiest climb of the Adirondack High Peaks – the trail is 2.4 miles, 2,000 feet climb (one way). See:
Being over 50 and a never quite in shape weekend warrior (certainly no hiker), this was a challenge.
I camped and got rained on at Adirondack Loj.
But when the rain did let up, as a warmup, I managed to get a nice hike up Mount Jo (2,877 ft. elevation; 700 foot climb over a mile or so trail). (highly recommended, see: http://www.adk.org/ad_loj/
Check out the view of Heart lake from the top of Mount Jo (sorry about the clouds, it was raining!)
I now bring a camera with me as I ramble. I love everything about the Adirondacks, especially the rocks, streams, wild forests, and rustic tradition (check out some pics below). I have no words to describe simultaneously experiencing a landscape shaped by vast geological, spatial, and time scales, with the smallest and most immediate intimate beauty.
Tiny elf eastern newts crawling in patches of alpine meadow in a cloud drenched windblown summit. We don’t even need the spectacular views! Who gives a crap about rain! What more could you ask for?
In my eagerness to share some of the beauty I found, particularly this bright orange salamander (my daughter told me it was no big deal, dad), I came across this educational post by Naturegirl – check her out – she writes at the Adirondack Almanac blog:
Red Efts – Nifty Adirondack Salamanders