Back to the woods

lichen

Dusk and a half moon. Firefly lights smeared across pasture air. Frogs blanket the higher reaches with a thousand sounds. Steam rises off the land from the long awaited rainfall. It’s as beautiful here as the nights before when we camped alongside a remote creek.

Hiking for hours— climbing past root and stone, finding the occasional gemstone— brown mushrooms the color of a tiny animal, nascent Indian pipes, dragonflies carved from turquoise with black velvet spider webs for wings. We locate four waterfalls and there follows looking at the world from behind sheets of water and speechless stone sitting.

Gordon and Jim

One waterfall has thrown together a beach of stones where a tree grows twisted by the current, but blessed by the slice of sunlight above. Its roots are half naked and unfurl in twists and turns. A perfect Zen garden. I wonder what a Japanese gardener would do were she to see this place. Would she approve or seek to refine it?

Twice I have had the luck to be able to backpack with a grown son. Gordon is determined to bring fine food to the woods. He creates a small oven and makes apricot scones. They are creamy in the middle and doubly delicious because of the setting. He produces a little bottle of homemade maple syrup to drizzle on top. Dick shows him mountain mint which has a citrus note. Gordon brews us tea from it. There are wild blueberries too, and wild strawberries just being hatched.

Jim and Dick teach us their favorite tricks for bringing comfort to the wilderness. They are such skillful teachers that we become avid pupils. Dick pulls out the fly rod. There has been a drought, though and the water is low and more tannic than I remember.

We spend a little time on the white quartz and mica sandbar— the “white beach” which sparkles in daylight, moonlight and firelight. For perhaps the fifth time several of us use the term “otherworldly”.

Too soon, I think, we pack up and head home. I’ve fallen into the timelessness of the mountain forests and any time to leave is a time too soon.

2 Replies to “Back to the woods”

  1. Hey, Jack! Thank you so much for reading the blog and for your kind words. Panthertown (a great name for a place, isn’t it?) is up near Cashiers. I love telling people I’m camping at Panthertown because it makes it sound so much more adventurous! It really is a gorgeous amazing place I plan to return to many times.

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