Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Back to basics

Putting disappointment behind me it was time to move forward, by going back to basics. No elaborate plans, no mileage targets, no complicated logistics. No transport required. Local adventure. Micro adventure. In my extended 'backyard'.

I stripped my Gorilla pack of it's aluminium stay and waist belt. I cleansed my 'dinky stuff' of the minutiae required for long distance summer trails. Out went the spare batteries, bug dope, tickets, multiple maps and SPOT Messenger. I even left my keys. I packed some food that was left over from my Dirty Black Summer. With wind and rain forecast I carried rain gear and was trying out a fully enclosed Gossamer Gear SpinnShelter, kindly lent to me by Mr Morkel. Base weight 4.1 kg.

A glance at the map, a potential camp site picked. I slipped on my lightest shoes, waited for the trails to clear of weekend foot traffic and I was out the door. Quiet evening gravel roads and paths until I broke the tree-line. It was sweaty and tedious but once I was up and looking out at hills in every direction I found my smile again.

Clear of the trees the wind was ripping. Turning some of the corners it would literally take your breath away. All the vegetation danced and shook under it's influence. Once past the high point of the trip I started looking out for my chosen camp spot, a rounded plateau on the nose of a small ridge running parallel to the ridge I was on. The light was fading as fast as the trail. Time for a bit of cross-country.

Steep down. Wet and boggy across the floor and back up the other side of the valley. Watch out for the ankle-snappers. Suddenly I found a sheep trail that fortuitously led almost directly to where I wanted to camp. As the clouds thickened and the moon rose I fought with the wind for the right to pitch the SpinnShelter where I wanted it.


Camp set I tried out my new stove and pot combo, lighting up an Esbit tab for the first time. Simple and stable, even in this hooley. After eating my mac'n'cheese and supping my cocoa I laid back in the deep, dry grass. Content and smiling. The wind was still blowing hard but I was warm and it was pretty up here. Eyes heavy and scratchy I moved under the crackling spinnaker cloth, popped in some foam ear plugs and nodded off.


The rain didn't make it's expected morning appearance. I woke up fuzzy and smiling. Where was I? Oh, yeah! Sleeping up above the lights, roads, houses, jobs, TV, internet and worries. Looking down on Sognfjord. The long grass under the shelter sprouted around my bivy bag, warm and dry. I fell asleep again.


Eventually I woke up and had my Sunday morning communion with nature, sitting on a soft tuft of grass, sipping coffee. Packing up only took a few minutes. The more I simplify my pack's contents the more this task is becoming ridiculously easy and quick. I like being on the trail, heading back down off the hills, first thing in the morning. It's quiet and confounds the early morning runners. On my way home I spy a GoLite SL2 jauntily pitched just off the trail. Not the usual kind of shelter I see out here. The owner's aren't up yet so I leave them to sleep.


Spots of rain fall on the way home but I'd already hit the gravel paths again. A very fit looking old man, in shorts and trail runners, stops me and asks about the wind up top. It's better today I tell him. He thanks me and continues his fast, shirtless ascent. I hope I'm that fit when I get to that age I think to myself and vow to double my yoga regime so I can continue doing this. I must remember too that it's for the simple pleasure of lying back in the grass, away from the world, with a smile on my face. Back to basics.

1 comment:

butuki said...

This is one of the best pieces you have written, Joe. Well-written and moving, it really hit home. Having been bedridden for almost a month now and losing the opportunities for two big summer walks, the first of the Nordkalottleden, and the second, in its stead, a traverse of the Japan Alps, your words here brought home the same sense of chagrin in losing a big opportunity. But reading this piece also bucked up my spirits a lot, and inspired me to not give up hope about getting outdoors again, and taking small steps to one day be able to follow through with a big walk. Thanks for writing this and sharing the importance of human experience. We are all in these journeys together (it's why I was somewhat perturbed by Hendrik's statement about not talking about dreams of adventures until they are done. Part of sharing these stories is to shore up the courage to go and to reassure one another with shared knowledge and a sense of camaraderie).