I woke up on day five of my 2021 backpack of the Selway River and pulled myself out of my cozy sleeping bag. It was daylight, the river, within rock throwing distance, was still flowing. First order of business; pee. I find my glasses and my flip flops, unzip the tent and pull myself up from the ground. I walked a short distance, out of view from my fellow backpackers and squatted to pee, that long morning pee, sweet relief. I took in my surroundings. The tree right in front of me waved. I looked to each side, in search of an explanation. Looked to see if a breeze was blowing all of the trees. Having found no explanation, I waved back as I stood up from my deep squat. I assumed it was an adolescent tree and had not been taught to stand perfectly still in the presence of moving creatures. I went back to my tent happy to have experienced this tree interaction. Happy that I was in the wilderness, carrying all the possessions I needed on my back and walking on my own two feet for over 50 miles. I think if I had been driving up my driveway and a tree had waved at me, I would never have noticed. Maybe trees are waving at us every day.
Actually it was a book that has me noticing trees more. The book I’m recommending (after a long ass hiatus) is “The Overstory” by Richard Powers. This novel reads like a non fiction. It flows like poetry. The first several chapters read like a collection of short stories. I googled the book eight times to check that is was not a collection of short stories. I also recommend taking notes so that when the stories weave together you are able to remember who is whom. This book is a work of art and is now one of my top ten. I highly recommend “The Overstory”.
My backpacking trip to Kerlee Lake this year was a tree bonanza as well. We stopped to smell the vanilla of the Ponderosa Pine. We stopped to study the needles and how they grew and felt on the different species. Some needles are soft, others are pokey. We studied the bark and the many different patterns and colors. And as we walked my backpacking companion, Heidi, would tell me where she was in the book “The Overstory” allowing me to experience the book again as we hiked through the wilderness.
My backpacking trip to Boulder Lake was a new adventure. I had been as far as the falls, but never to Boulder Lake. We headed out after work on a Friday afternoon. There was one car at the trailhead and we passed those people heading out as we hiked in. We had three good hours of daylight to get to the falls where we would set up our base camp for the weekend. Me, Heidi, my yellow lab Molly and one can of bear spray. We stopped to enjoy the views of the fall colors of the changing aspen and larch. We followed the creek with the canyon walls on both sides of us. The one to the north, the backside of Trapper Peak the tallest peak in the Bitterroot Mountains. When we arrived at camp, we quickly set up our tents, sleeping bags, pads, pillows and collected firewood. We set up our chairs and found our Jet Boils and backpacking dinner choices (dehydrated meals, which are very tasty). Heidi, being the always prepared thinker aheader that she is, also went to search out a tree for her p-cord (nylon parachute cord). She would be ready to hang her bear bag after dinner and would not have to find a good tree in the dark. The toughest part about hanging your food is finding the right tree in a pine forest. The second toughest part is getting the p-cord up in the tree without knocking yourself out with a rock. I didn’t have to do this as I use an Ursack (a virtually puncture proof kevlar bag) that you just tie to a tree using a figure eight knot. It is a lot of trust in a product, so far so good.
We made a fire, boiled water for tea and our dinners and waited for our meals to rehydrate while watching the stars come out. After dinner we cleaned up, brushed our teeth (toiletry bag has to go in the bear bags). As I was loading my extra food, toiletry bag and dog food in to the odor proof bags Heidi came out of the darkness, headlamp shining my direction, having been gone for a while, holding her food bag. She looked at me and said “I can’t find my p-cord…..I don’t know which tree it’s in.” We laughed and laughed and scared all of the wildlife, including the bears deep into the forest and far away from our camp. “Do you have room in your ursack?” Of course I did, it’s an extra large ursack for those long Selway trips. I too am a always prepared thinker aheader. This is why we adventure so well together. We both went to sleep laughing.