Monday, September 6, 2010

Up In Them There Woods

Something caught my eye. It was shiny and foreign. I tilted my head and winced. It must be a piece of metal, but why was it on the side of that hill? I was in the middle of the woods. Little did I know I'd soon find out.

I began the day parking my car in a dusty parking spot at the end of an old dusty road. I was somewhere close to the Pennsylvania border. I could smell it. Ye Olde signs pointed north, arrowing towards the Mason Dixon Line. I checked my map and looked around. There was no sign that mentioned this was parking lot 2A, but it must be. I heaved by giant pack upon my back, flipped open my compass and turned my head south. I took a healthy pull from by flask of bourbon and then I marched. South. The cool, late summer air made me feel alive. I soon realized I was, in fact, on the right trail. Landmarks that appeared in my map/book soon jumped out at me. This was a good thing since the park rangers at the station had no idea where I was aiming to go. I journeyed alongside a dry creek bed, which, according to the book, was supposed to be a raging stream...well, at least in the spring. In September, the creek was bone dry. I tapped one of my two Nalgene bottles with my fingernail and grinned. Hopefully there'll be water down yonder, I thought.

It was about an hour before I threw off my pack. I had found a campsite, but I was still a few miles from my destination. I inched down to the creek bed and lifted a painted turtle from a large puddle. He squirmed between my thumb and fingers. "See you tomorrow", I said to no one in particular. I continued to hike along the creek which wandered under Highway 68 in Allegheny County, somewhere in Western Maryland. The sound of bigrigs and motorcycles soon grew faint and I found myself at yet another (dry) stream crossing (though there was a sufficient swinging bridge in place). I sniffed around and looked for a good place to camp if my original destination turned out to lack any water. At least here there were a few puddles. Just out of view from the trail I stumbled on a great site that overlooked the creek bed. There was a large fire ring and a place to pitch a tent, and just below the bluff stood a semi-clean puddle filled with trout minnows. I took note of all my surroundings then double timed it back to the trail. I then encountered the first person I'd seen since starting the hike. He told me the creek up ahead was as dry as baby powder. I continued another half mile just in case and, it was then, I noticed that strange object up on the hill. I blinked and winced then continued on my way, wondering all along what it was. Shortly thereafter I about faced and decided, due to the Sahara-like condition of my water source, to head back to that spot I found up river. Again, my eyes caught that white object in the woods. What was that? Before my brain had a chance to answer, my eyes caught a most bizarre site - a car. There was a car up on that hill! I was in the middle of nowhere, so how did a car get up there? A crash?! I quickly threw down my pack and began clawing my way up the hill. I was high on adrenaline and looked up every few seconds or so. Was there someone in the car? Was there a body? did someone need help? I could not see. I could only see a red, brown dusty color sticking out amongst the green/brown forest. Then I saw rust. The car was old. There would be no body and this was no longer an emergency. I relaxed somewhat but continued to fox paw my way up the steep embankment. There was glass everywhere. Why was there so much glass? The entire floor of the hill gave out every few steps and I gripped small trees and palmed the earth in order to make my way up that God forsaken hill. Soon I found myself in what seemed to be a trash pit of sorts. Rusty cans of Scahaefer and half broken beer bottles dating back decades peppered the landscape. I was concerned about shoving my fist into a piece of glass and tumbling down the hill. I clawed the dirt towards a clearing. It was a dusty old road. I quickly surmised that the car had flown off (or had been pushed off) the old dirt road above me. Generations of local teen must have come out to "dead man's turn" and thrown old cans and bottles down towards the wreck. Why? That's what kids do I suppose.

Back at my place of choosing, I whipped up a campsite and soon had a small fire going. I collected some water from my puddle and made a delicious freeze dry dinner of beef burgonya and noodles. I sipped bourbon out of my leather bound flask, got high on a Nicaraguan cigar and watched day turn into night. The cool air came in and wicked away my sweat. I fell asleep alone in the deep dark woods listening to the howl of a particularly lonesome coyote and the hoot of a barred owl.

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