Respite. (Angeles National Forest, 10/18/14.)
I wandered the PCT for a few hours, no real plan as to where I’d be going or how long I’d walk. No maps. In the end it was 8-10 miles, with a pack, rolling terrain. My heart behaved itself well.
Turning down one canyon I heard voices ahead, children laughing and screaming. I must be coming upon a trail camp. I turned around, scrambled to a ridge instead, heading cross country for another drainage.
Deer sign everywhere, crisscrossing gullies and cutting up hillsides. Though I had trouble discerning how fresh. It’s been so long since rain, it’s hard to tell in sandy soil. No water, everything dry. I’m not sure where the deer are going. The question on every hunter’s mind right now.
Twice a thick-tailed, cat-sized animal races across a dry stream bed. Ringtail?
I set camp in a small drainage, cooked vegetarian udon noodles, inviting all my friends to a quiet dinner; Rumi, Subhuti, St. Anthony of the Desert, Hamza el Din, Ali Akbar Moradi. Mark Rothko was was there but didn’t speak much. Nietzsche had to be told to leave. I like him, but he’s not good with company.
Meal done and light fading, I’m left in the dark with nocturnal birds, wondering what’s got them going, finishing the last pages of the Diamond Sutra by candlelight. I figured it should probably be burned since it doesn’t even exist, but better judgement decided against it. I imagined myself days later, being led from my house in handcuffs, the Saturday night lunatic that was burning Buddhist sutras and set the forest on fire. Not the legacy I intend to leave.
It would be nice to say there were revelations, thoughts worth sharing about the nature of man and wilderness, speculation on the role of backpacking as pilgrimage or an escape from the trappings of alienation. But no, there was none of this.
I found myself sitting in the darkness, alone with cold hands, listening to crickets and birds flitting about. And the bear that started circling my camp, despite repeatedly yelling at it to leave. I’d yell, it would run. In ten minutes it would be back. We played this game for forty minutes.
Fuck this. Speculating on the illusory nature of the universe is fine and good until you have a bear in your camp.
I packed my gear and hiked out in the dark. But that was okay, whatever I came to get I had already found. And I’ve always enjoyed hiking alone at night.
I listened to the entirety of John Coltrane’s Impressions on my drive back down the mountain. The first track, India, kills me. All my windows down, sax notes and crisp midnight air swirling through the cabin of my car.
A good night indeed.