Thursday, August 18, 2011

Comfort in the Wilds

A tent in the wilderness is a cocoon of comfort, a jelly roll of warmth, a cozy zipped-up burrow.  Ours looks like a harvest gold half-moon that has fallen to Earth, landed on its flat side, and become tethered to the ground so that it will not float away.  When the skinny rods flex to form the tent’s skeleton, the slippery nylon skin squeaks and pulls taut.  If we’re not careful, it will fill with air like a balloon and go bouncing across the land’s curved surface until it ends up who-knows-where.  And then what would we do without our bubble of protection against the elements? 
View from within
Last weekend we hiked into an unbelievably long verdant valley where the musky smells of autumn thickened the air.  Somehow, no one else in the world had decided to visit there that day and we were able to choose our campsite from a treasure trove of bowls, ridges, swales, and benches.  We finally settled on a swath of land covered in mountain heather with a clear brook nearby.  As always, we immediately set about making camp.  Black Diamond calls our tent the Lighthouse and it goes up surprisingly fast.  Two rods form the walls and a third short rod extends the top to create a ceiling of sorts.  Once stakes are driven into the ground at all four corners, it’s dome sweet dome. 

Inside the jelly roll
After securing the tent, I nested: I inflated my Thermarest pad, I fluffed up our down sleeping bags, I packed soft clothes into a stuff sack and plumped the bundle like a pillow.  I arranged my headlamp, my book, my journal, my hand warmer packets, map and compass, bear spray, hat, gloves.  I hung my wet socks to dry and opened my hiking boots to let them breath.  This hubbub always creates a mess.  Reindeer lichen, dry grass, crispy cranberry leaves, rubbery tube fungus, and down feathers from my bag littered the tent’s floor, deposited during trips in and out, so housekeeping followed.  Finally, I nestled in and Matt boiled up some creek water for coffee and marshmallowy hot chocolate.

Later, after an afternoon siesta, we struck out for a low ridge to gain a better view of the valley.  Halfway up, sleet and rain drove in upon us and by the time we got back to camp we were chilled and damp.  I zipped myself into my butterscotch pod, snuggled into my sleeping bag, and settled into the tundra cushions upon which we were camped.

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