“The trail leads beside the clear-running brook and a chain of emerald pools, some of them big enough to go swimming in, with the water so transparent I can see the shadows of the schools of minnows passing over the grains of sand in the bottom of the basins. Along the canyon walls are the seeps and springs that feed the stream, each with the characteristic clinging gardens of mosses, ferns and wildflowers. Above and beyond the rimrock, blue in shadow and amber-gold in light, are alcoves, domes and royal arches, part of the sandstone flanks of Navaho Mountain.
A hot day. Delicate, wind-whipped clouds flow across the burning blue, moving in perfect unison like the fish in the pools below. I stop at one of the largest of these pools, undress and plunge in. Happily I flounder about, terrifying the minnows, and float on my back and spout cheekfuls of water at the sun.”
* * * * *
“For the time being, around my place at least, the air is untroubled, and I become aware for the first time today of the immense silence in which I am lost. Not a silence so much a great stillness -- for there are a few sounds: the creak of some bird in a juniper tree, an eddy of wind which passes and fades like a sigh, the ticking of the watch on my wrist -- slight noises which break the sensation of absolute silence but at the same time exaggerate my sense of the surrounding, overwhelming peace. A suspension of time, a continuous present...”
Dark clouds sailing overhead across the fields of the stars. Stars which are usually bold and close, with an icy glitter in their light -- glints of blue, emerald, gold. Out there, spread before me to the south, east, and north, the arches and cliffs and pinnacles and balanced rocks of sandstone (now entrusted to my care) have lost the rosy glow of sunset and become soft, intangible, in unnamed unnameable shades of violet, colors that seem to radiate from -- not overlay -- their surfaces.
A yellow planet floats on the west, brightest object in the sky. Venus. I listen closely for the call of an owl, a dove, a nighthawk, but can hear only the crackle of my fire, a breath of wind...
I wait. Now the night flows back, the mighty stillness embraces and includes me... I am twenty miles or more from the nearest fellow human, but instead of loneliness I feel loveliness. Loveliness and a quiet exaltation.”
-- Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (Ballentine Books, 1968)
* * * * *
Camping in the wild may not be for everyone, but some of you who have learned to love it -- including many of our members -- become life-long enthusiasts.
While it’s possible to camp at any time of year, spring through fall are the most popular seasons, of course, since warm weather makes it especially easy to enjoy.
Others of you who are long-time hikers resist trying wilderness camping. But those who “take the plunge” each year often get totally hooked and return every year.
There are probably many reasons why some people think camping isn’t for them, including concerns about being uncomfortable, supposed “inconveniences,” etc.
Yes, camping in the wild requires adjusting our everyday and nighttime habits somewhat, but discomforts tend to be minimal, and the pleasures can be countless.
The main daytime activity on our camping trips is hiking, of course, similar to what we do on day hikes year-round. The difference is that instead of heading home after a hike, we have a relaxing meal and bed down in our tents near a lovely stream or lake, and often drift off to sleep to the soothing sounds of flowing water, or lapping waves, or the hiss of wind through pine needles, or the calls of loons.
It’s no surprise that some of us sleep much better in the wilderness (“in nature’s embrace”) than at home, given the absence of stress and the prevalence of peaceful sounds. Plus a day of exercise in ultra-fresh air is especially conducive to sleep.
Beginners are welcome on our camping trips – as well as those of you who haven’t camped since childhood -- although it’s important to have some hiking experience.
The only “bad news” this spring, for those of you who have considered reserving for our first two camping trips but hadn’t yet acted, is that both trips are now FULL!
Yes, our Memorial Day weekend trip to Shenandoah National Park (5/26-29) actually filled up in January this year, and our July 4th trip (7/1-4) filled at the end of April.
It wouldn’t hurt to get on a waiting list for either trip, since we often do get cancellations prior to camping trips, meaning spaces could open up anytime.
Our other camping trips do still have space available. The Columbus Day weekend trip in October (10/6-9) is also likely to fill extra early (we now have 3 spaces left).
The remaining trips currently have more spaces available. In any case, NOW would be an excellent time to reserve for trips – or call if you have questions!
Then prepare to share with us some of the joys of immersing ourselves in a spectacular wilderness area for several days, one of the most peaceful and relaxing places imaginable. For some people it can even become a life-changing experience.
Here’s a link to the page which lists this year’s overnight trips
-- Charlie Cook