Mystic Writer

Peeking out to see if there is a real world out there...

Friday, January 28, 2005

Dark wandering

About an hours drive south there is a park that is always empty and I knew I would be able to roam for miles in solitude. Intellectually I knew it would be a good choice for my full moon hike, but unfortunately as I was driving to the park last night I felt a tugging toward a more remote ravine. I resisted the urge, reasoning that exploring a deep, little known ravine in the dark with large amounts of snow on the ground was verging on insane.

I was about a mile from the turn to the park when my cell phone rang. My little boy was calling to laugh with me. I happily giggled with him until he abruptly said "Beep!", beeped a phone button, and hung up.

I laughed a bit longer then realized I had missed my turn and was heading for the ravine. I reflected on how I'd found it - when my little boy was an infant he would nap most of the time and I would take him in the car for long drives while I explored the countryside. When he would wake up I would take him for a walk wherever we happened to be.

He roused one day as we were driving in the flatland and I found a stand of trees optimistically labeled 'State Forest'. I carried my son in amongst the trees and did a little exploring and found the ravine. I looked down into it but it was too steep to descend. This spring I had come back when everything was in bloom and gone for a hike but couldn't see anything but leaves and bushes.

Back in the present the sun set over the crazily carved snow, dipping below the horizon with just the faintest touch of red. I knew the night would be clear and cold and when I arrived at the ravine it was full dark. I walked the edge of the roadside snowbank until I could see the depression of some old footprints, then stepped into the snow.

In the woods the trail was invisible but I could sense a different texture with my boots where someone had walked before. The footing was masked and I felt my way with poles and the touch of my feet. The hidden footprints headed to the ravine and then curved to skirt the edge, thankfully far enough back that I didn't need to worry about cornices.

The footsteps turned downwards and followed a break in the cliff for a steep descent. The snow had drifted deeper in places and at times I slid in a small avalanche of powder. At the bottom the trail led to the river and I saw to my dismay that there was a mishmash of flood torn trees square in the middle of the only way to cross.

I had serious misgivings but didn't want to end my hike so quickly so I carefully started climbing and threading my way through the ice coated trees. The snow hid everything and underneath me I could hear the water rushing. As I slowly worked my way through the tangle my fear grew that I would slip and snap a leg or drop into the river and be pinned underwater by branches.

At last I reached the final tree and I used my pole to probe the unseen ground. It felt firm and I stepped off. With a deep breath I looked up and was astounded at how bright the stars were. Orion was decorated with millions of stars. The Milky Way sprayed itself across the center of the sky and the Big Dipper hung vertical. The seven stars of the Pleides were easily visible amidst the backdrop of a myriad of others. I lost myself in wonder for a long while till the hoot of an owl brought me back.

The trail followed a bottomland for a ways then ascended the cliff - my cold congested chest made plowing through the snow doubly hard and I felt relieved when I made it to the top. The valley spread out below me, dimly seen cliffs crowned by frozen waves of snow, the trees tracing black lines against the star filled sky. The only sound was the rustle of branches in the light breeze.

I slowly started moving again and realized I was following the path of my earlier spring hike. Rememberances of that nettle strewn and mosquito filled day made me appreciate the winter a little more, and I walked in revererie for a while.

I turned a corner and stopped, my vision suddenly overlayed with bushes covered with bluebells. I had turned this same corner last spring and seen the bluebells and simultaneously had the first of my moments of connection with TB. It was as if she were right beside me, sharing the wonderful scene. For a brief second I hoped for a connection this time, but it was not to be. I descended again into the ravine and everything was tinged with thoughts of her.

The path curved to follow the river between the cliffs, and I was starting to struggle with exhaustion. The snow was smooth as it filled depressions and hid fallen trees, and each step sucked a little more energy. Ahead the rivers path flowed directly against the cliff and I was forced to pick my way across the water on ice coated boulders.

I ascended the cliff through deep unconsolidated snow, moving slowly and deliberately. The moon rose up over the trees and I was finally able to see my footing and I picked up speed for the last mile of my hike.

I entered a small moonlit filled meadow and spotted my car at the far end. The meadow had blown clear and I knew it would be a short easy walk to my car. I thought about the drive home in my fever sweat soaked clothes, thought about the fresh shirt and jeans back in my car.

I looked round the meadow, entranced by the pearl glow, then stripped off all my clothes. My body steamed in the well below freezing air and I stood for an endless moment of joy clothed only in moonlight.

I sang praises to my car heater on the way home.


  • At 4:48 AM, Blogger Nicky said…

    Hey Mystic
    Have you ever written any novels? You should. You are an extremely talented writer. Your blog has become a regular read for me.

    All the best.

  • At 9:55 AM, Blogger David said…

    nicky is right, about the talent


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