Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

Hard to find: Solitude in the East

Posted by heshman on July 6, 2006

The sun is shining down like G-d rays through the low cloud level, the rays are glancing off the ground and reflecting off the soggy ground. Every few minutes the ground and my surroundings change completely due to this low cloud phenomena. It makes these forests of spruce and birch much more exciting, even the rocks and roots take on new life as I step over them. Each step of my EMS boots sends waves of mud, dead mosquitoes, and crunched up pine needles flying into the periphery. The soggy sloshing of my boots provides rhythm and almost song like quality depending on the thickness and viscosity of the mud I am mucking through. Sometimes the mud is barely over my sole and others it is past my ankle, providing me with diversity and fun, trying to see how long it takes for the print I have made to fill up with the water I displaced.

I am sweating, breathing heavy and quite excited. My techwick shirt is soaked with sweat yet cool at the same time. It is humid yet refreshingly breezy and in the shade quite cool. I stop to adjust my pack and take a swig of the cool water that tastes slightly of plastic, I let this plastic water wash over my tongue and savor its simple yet vital necessity to my adventure seeking self. My pack is loaded to the brim and almost brand new- for clothing I have a windproof fleece- a lifesaver time and again, a waterproof shell, some extra pairs of heavy socks, underwear, and a pair of zip away pants, and a long sleeve shirt and a winter hat. Why I decided to bring a winter hat in the end of summer still boggles my mind. You see I have read too many wilderness adventure books for my own good. I guess reading about how if someone would have packed an extra power bar or extra t-shirt they would have survived. Plainly I always pack too much, especially when it comes to food. For food I have a few osem meals- packed with Carbs but also packed with MSG- leave it to the Jews to be the only ones who still put this in their food.

The trail is soggy, rooty and void of human presence besides me and my friend Yosef. We are on our way to the Bond Mountains within White Mountain National Forest in NH, we have heard the Bonds are the most rural and afford spectacular views- and that’s why we chose this way. We figure we have 4 days to do about 50 miles and hitchhike back to the car.

I can hear my 3 oz stove rattling within my pot and the water from my bladder gargling as my steps become more solid as the ground dries. The hike started with a mile long straight up strenuous as hell, climb. We have now been walking for a few miles on relatively flat ground shaded by the pine of this sub-alpine zone. We are around 3000 feet above sea level, and about 15 miles away from the nearest store.

The trail opens up to a clearing with a small pond- a very welcoming site- even more welcoming if it were blazingly hot but nonetheless it is a beautiful site and a sure sign for a break. I take off my pack and scoop some gummy worms out of a side pocket, I grab my camera and snap a few pics of the scene upon me. In the distance stands a chain of mountains covered in pine with their tops bare, a small babbling brook flows into the lake where we are standing creating light sounds of water flowing around the rocks as it slowly makes its way into the pond. I seat my sweaty butt down on a flat rock and just chill. No talking or interaction is needed to enjoy this scene- simply put- this is heaven or how I envision it. Sitting here I really do not need anything else, of course we both know better views await us and the mere thought of being 25 miles by foot from the nearest road, forces us to put our heavy behemoth of a pack back on and continue to slowly trudge along the trail shaded under a canopy of pine and a wall of large boulders.

We are walking along a swift moving stream sending plumes of spray onto the bushes and rocks aligning the stream. The water churns and bubbles violently and small whirlpools form at the base of the large boulders strewn about the stream. I wonder how they got there. The trail all of the sudden opens up and we are greeted with a site to behold. On our right are hundreds of rocks piled high from a recent slide and to our left the valley below surrounded by peaks and cliffs. The bottom of the valley contains a stream, the same stream from before I have no way of knowing- but we were pleasantly surprised with the view. My back pain was instantly gone, my feet hurt no more, my mind filled with all the excitement of what was to come.

The trail had changed from soggy to crunchy beige earth. Small stones were kicked away at each step taken, the trees no more shaded the trail and the sun was out in all its glory. Fluffy low cumulous clouds were scattered about in no order at all. The sun and clouds proudly showcased this event. The wind was a bit stronger now being funneled through the valley, I could hear the leaves rustling on the trees below.

Ah solitude- no talking, no people, no human objects besides what I carry on my back, no one to call for help to, no cell phones, no computers, no cars, no music, no electricity, no buildings, no roads. Trees, rocks, mud, earth, wind, water, and the constant crunch of my boots combined with my glistening sweat a heavy breathing, with the thought of better scenery causing me to move on to see what the next turn around a corner will offer me.

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