Spending Time in Deep Woods: Journal Notes

I’m sitting in my hammock on the fifth of a six-day solo trek into one of my favorite haunts in all of New York State. It’s one of my former wigwam sites, a place that feels like home, even after years of being away.

The weather is perfect. Everywhere I step there’s a profusion of black trumpet mushrooms (Craterellus fallax). I carry a camp stove, cookware, my own dehydrated and foraged food – and Larabars, but nothing like butter or olive oil.

So I crushed a number of shagbark hickory nuts and the oils blended beautifully with the smoky flavor of the black trumpet.

I’ll carry a part of these woods in my thoughts as I spend the next month in New York City becoming certified to teach English as a second language.

My hammock is more comfortable and was easier than ever to set up thanks to the dedicated hammock-loving designers, inventors and entrepreneurs who contribute quality information on HammockForums.  Dutch will always be in my prayers for designing and sharing the Dutch clip. It’s so much easier than knot tying. A special shout-out to Jacks’R'Better. Jack himself actually saved me from purchasing each item separately, because he sells everything I am ever likely to need in his hammock suspension system product.

I’m almost afraid to admit that I love my hammock from Mexico. I like the air circulation and the fact that it does not fold around me the way the nylon hammocks do. It takes up more weight and space, but comfort is worth this concession. My Western Mountaineering 800-fill down sleeping bag is almost too much for this weather, but it packs down smaller than any sleeping bag I have ever used. I have an Equinox bivy for it when I need a moisture barrier.

We have so much amazing talent in this country. I keep hoping these entrepreneurs will one day get the business breaks lavished upon huge corporations (are corporations really people?).

While black trumpets, which look like little kisses to me, put a smile on my face, the abundance of edibles including bi-color boletes (Boletus bicolor), gilled boletes (Phylloporus rhodoxanthus), black velvet boletes (Tylopilus alboater), hygrophorus milky mushroom (Lactarius hygrophoroides), and even a few chanterelles made every day a mycophagy. I didn’t even bother with the russulas, although there were a lot of green and several mild red ones.

I set up my tarp in a pup-tent shape, anchored on one side, with the other side folded back, but ready to be put in place in case of rain. This way I could look at the sky. The one rain storm we had was at night and my little plan was effective. The inventor of Grip Clips will also always be in my prayers – these little attachments let me pull the sides of the tarp out, creating more room inside where the hammock hangs. I have an eight-by-ten foot Equinox silnylon tarp that folds up really small and is a perfect water barrier. I’m thinking I might want a 10 X 12 foot tarp, because I tend to get claustrophobic in plastic shelters.

I feel truly blessed to have so much abundance, including the time to reflect and prepare myself for a new venture. I’ve spent most of my time collecting mushrooms and thinking about a number of possible futures.

I’ve spent the last two years researching and acquiring American-made, light-weight gear. What I brought with me on this trip is ideal for a summertime trek. I would need more clothing and food in other seasons.

I still carry my Lowe circa-1982 backpack, because the suspension is right for me. I love the freedom of being able to bend down and get a drink from the creek without losing my balance or having to take my pack on and off. I simply had the torn fabric replaced and the zippers repaired. This trusty friend is as good as new.

I do wish TurtleSkin gaiters came in different sizes. They are really lightweight and keep my trousers from getting tangled in underbrush.

I’m sorry to see cargo pants go out of style. For years I was able to get them at thrift stores. I don’t mind beating up my clothing when I’m not paying a week’s wages for them. Pockets help distribute the weight of the items I want handy.

The only non-US made item I have is my Ex Officio vest. It’s really light weight and comfortable, with a variety of pockets in useful sizes and locations. I can’t seem to find it online now, which is too bad. I’d buy another.

The weather was so cooperative, that after the night-time thunderstorm, the air was cool and a light breeze dried out my tarp and tarp lines. I love the paracord I use for a ridge line, but I don’t like the memory in the mason twine I use on the tarp grommets – I need to find better cordage. My friend Barry Keegan would tell me to get a supply of dogbane or cedar bark and make my own cordage. He’s already encouraging me to make my own hammock.

One thing I learned from previous treks is that my gear is three times heavier when it’s wet than when it’s dry. Right now I’m feeling really pleased with myself because I did not pack anything extraneous. Everything I packed I have needed to use.

As I gaze up into the treetops, the tanager who calls so vividly has managed to elude my sight. With all the rain, the hemlocks, beeches, gray birches and chestnut oaks are lush and green.

I’m also finding an abundance of ripe black raspberries. The blueberries should be ripening soon.

I savor each moment of this peaceful trek. I love that I can still go out and immerse myself in the primal ooze, wonder at the sight of fireflies and feel a depth of gratitude I cannot even find words to express that the natural world was part of my early life and has continued to guide me ever since.

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    1. Kathy Americo July 3, 2011 at 5:29 PM #

      I have read this posting three times and each time puts me in the woods, savoring the magical moments you so beautifully describe JJ. thank you for sharing your wonderful adventure and your love of nature. You are part of the gift.

    2. Kathy Americo July 3, 2011 at 5:32 PM #

      I have read this posting three times and each time puts me in the woods, savoring the magical moments you describe. Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventure and your love of nature. You are part of the blessing JJ.

    3. JJ Murphy July 4, 2011 at 10:56 AM #

      Kathy, the encouraging words from my readers keeps me inspired. Thanks for your support and friendship.

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