Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Soloist: Stevens Lake Overnighter

View from my camp

Sometimes I just want to go. I get the itch to be outside. I can’t stop thinking about it. I feel possessed. That’s how I was feeling a couple weeks ago as I watched the days become shorter and the nights grow colder and the summer slipping away too soon again. At work my racing mind bounced from one locale to the next, obsessing over possible plans for the weekend, and wondering who will go with me…

 Steve and Luke were both feeling under the weather, and I didn’t even bother asking anyone else because I know what the answer will be… The answer is always the same; it’s only the excuses that change. A man can only hear the word “no” so many times before he stops asking the question.

So I head out unaccompanied into the Bitterroot Mountains on the Idaho/Montana boarder.  I climb 2’000 feet in 3 miles mostly through the dense timber of a shadowy evergreen forest.  The trail splits and forks and shortcuts switchbacks, and since I didn’t bring a map I mark my rout by digging big directional arrows in the dirt trail with my boot heal. I didn’t bring a watch, either and worried that I wouldn’t make it to Stevens Lakes before dark I put my camera away and push hard.

I am greeted by the sounds of laughter at Upper Stevens Lake as I break into a clearing and discover several tents in various locations on the north side of the lake.  Wondering why so many people are camped so close together I push on… After all, isn’t that one of the reasons we backpack, to get away from… everyone… everything? The trail around the lake is steep and narrow and soon my convertibles are soaked from the dew covered greenery that overwhelms the vanishing trail.

Alas I reach the small lake and am greeted with… silence. I am the only one it seems who bothered to go the extra mile for solitude and am rewarded by my efforts.  Alone I set up camp and build a fire, but everywhere I look are signs of civilization and I can’t help but feeling screwed out of a true wilderness experience. My camp is littered with aluminum cans, bottles, and miscellaneous trash. Not far from my camp I find an uncovered cat hole filled with toilet paper and tampons…

But I clean it all up, and after the sun goes down I sit around my smoldering fire staring at a billion stars and wanting to say something… But no one is there for me to talk to, so I put the fire out and go to bed.

The next morning is beautiful and after taking a few dozen shots of the awakening lake, I head out. I am walking along a sand beach covered in deadfalls and I spot someone. It is a woman sitting alone at the water’s edge, her face buried in a book... I wonder what she looks like... I wonder if she is alone like me... I wonder what she is reading... I want her to look up from her book and see me so I can smile and wave to her... I want to go talk to her…

 I take a photo and walk away.

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