Sunday, February 04, 2007

Night in the Borderlands

The woods are lovely, dark and deep...
-Robert Frost

Sunset in the Borderlands

Okay, I know I promised you the next post would be about going native in China. Don't worry, it's coming (though after the Eating *things* post some of you probably are concerned just how deep we went). Alas, you'll just have to have patience. Instead may I present to you the weekend's adventure: A Night in the Borderlands.

Sometimes I wonder at this point just what I'd have to do to really shock my neighbors. They smile and say hello to me as I walk down the street with a loaded backpack while wearing surplus army clothing and carrying a machete. Even the cop patroling our neighborhood doesn't bat an eye as I go by in my Adventure Gear. While this kind of saddens me it DOES make my life easier. Some of the places I explore need the machete to get to and being shot by a cop because of it would really be an unpleasent experience (cool to blog about though if I lived).

Clark and I were heading to a sandbar along Spring Creek to camp out. It was already pretty late in the day, less than two hours before sunset, but the sandbar was only an hour away. We were both in need of some fire therapy, some tree therapy (okay some burning tree therapy!). When you spend most of your time doing high-tech stuff the caveman-part of you gets cranky. Our inner-cavemen (no offense to real cavemen) need to be let out, preferably to make fire and sleep under the stars. True, it was supposed to get down to freezing Saturday night but hey, that just means no bugs.

And the need for a really big fire.

We made it to the sandbar later than planned but it didn't take long to set up camp. Clark pitched his tent on one side of our firepit and I unrolled my sleeping bag on the other. I'm too lazy to bother with a tent. The sun had set by the time we finished.
sunset2 camp

It was perfect. The sand was very comfortable and suprisingly warm. Once full dark dropped, an owl began hooting in a tree near us, then launched himself over our camp and across the creek. It was so cool!

On the hike in I saw a lot of animal tracks such as deer and raccoons. I also noticed areas where the ground had been quite disturbed in a manner like that of wild pigs searching for acorns. I already knew these woods were filled with wild pigs but choose not to say anything about it. Later, when we heard something snuffling and snorting in the woods behind us I just causually moved my machete closer and hope fire would keep them at bay.

Clark roasted hotdogs on a stick while I cooked a supper of freezer-bag chili over my store-bought, propane-powered backpacking stove. Freezer bag cooking is a great way to minimize muss and fuss (and doing dishes!) out in the woods. To make the chili I just emptied a can of Wolf's brand chili into a heavy-duty Ziploc freezer bag, sealed it, then dropped it into a pot of boiling water. Ten minutes later, hot, yummy chili! Eat it from the bag with a big spoon, lick the spoon clean, and dishes are done. Like I said, I'm lazy.

It was only 7:30pm by the time we finished, so the next five hours were spent poking the fire with sticks and solving the world's problems. Perfect bliss...except for the roar of traffic along I-45 less than half a mile away. The occasional train was also pretty loud. I had forgotten how far sounds can carry on a cold, clear night. Oh well.

Eventually we solved all the world's problems and so headed to sleep. Clark to his tent, me to my space blanket bag inside my mummy bag inside a fleece bag. Oh yeah, I also had several chemical hand warmers stuck in my bag with me. The end result was I spent the night being cold, but not actually shivering. Note to readers: No $20 sleeping bag will keep you warm when you are sleeping under the stars in freezing weather. Buy a good one instead (or better yet, take pity on me and buy me one!).

This was the first time we'd actually slept in the Borderlands. Well, to be perfectly honest, I didn't really sleep much that night either. All the wild pigs I've seen there in the past wandered through my imagination. That was worse than hearing the coyotes howling back at the pirate festival. The one-day-past-full moon also lit everything up bright enough to read by so it kept me up. Of course, the cold cold temperatures didn't help.

Yep, it was ABSOLUTELY PERFECT!!!! Gads, I LOVE SLEEPING UNDER THE STARS IN THE WILDS!!! Everyone should do it at least once in their life, (and then go home and leave the woods to me!).

Because of the brightness of the moon I didn't realize morning was breaking. The logs gathered last night were still smoldering, so a fire was quick to make with some twigs and a puff of air. Clark heard me and soon crawled out to warm himself by the fire.

Mmmm, a perfect morning.

A light mist formed where the relatively warm water met the cold air.
upstream downstream
Upstream / Downstream.

A large muskrat swam by as we sat and watched the river mists. The beast seemed to enjoy splashing about in the water but we couldn't lure it near us. After that we turned to breakfast. In my case, another freezer bag concoction of eggs, cheese, salt, pepper, onion, and sausage all boiled up into a wonderful omlet.

No dirty dishes!

After breakfast neither of us were ready to return to civilization yet. Clark had found a dead tree that had fallen nearby so we decided to give it a Viking funeral. It took us several hours to chop it up and burn it (note to self: get a better machete). It was very dry so it burned well and gave off a small amount of wonderful, sweet-smelling smoke.

Eventually we did finally pack up, douse the few remaining embers, police the area for garbage and then head home. Walking through our neighborhood an hour later we passed right by two cop cars parked by the playground. The police glanced up at us then went right back to talking about whatever cops talk about on Sunday mornings.

Neither of us had slept much and lugging our gear through the underbrush had us dead tired. Clark stopped at his house and I continued on mine. Misseswether was smart and had taken the girls to church so they wouldn't be underfoot while I unpacked and de-grimed. By 11:30am I was completely de-neanderthaled and ready for polite society.


Okay, now it's time for the "what did Merriwether learn" section of the post.
1. My cheap gear kind of sucks. It is heavy and not very warm.
2. Pigs don't like fire, definately a good thing.
3. A good snack can be made by melting chocolate chips in a freezer bag in boiling water, adding peanuts and sugar-puff ceral, then allowing it all to harden up.
4. Sand is very comfy, but it gets everywhere. Have small bags for all your gear.
5. Cannon fuse makes a great tinder for starting campfires.

Adventure! Excitement! Borderlands!


Michelle said...

you need a small hatchet for the wood, not a better machete.

Merriwether the Adventurer said...

Actually, ounce to once, a good machete or golok is more than a match for 99% of the hatchets out there. Plus you can use it for many more tasks (clearing vines, digging holes, slicing cheese, etc...)

However, a hatchet is better for splitting wood "the long way" (with the grain), which is important if you are trying to get to interior, dry wood during rain or snow. But if you just want to make big things small a machete is wonderful.

Plus I'd rather fight off a pig with machete than with a hatchet.

I recommend checking out for more information.


Ursula said...

"3. A good snack can be made by melting chocolate chips in a freezer bag in boiling water, adding peanuts and sugar-puff ceral, then allowing it all to harden up."

Ohhhh...I'm not waiting for adventuring outside my house for this one. Too good!