Thursday, April 7, 2016

April Off Trail Trip Report

I had just about given up.  I had been through my basket of maps several times, and my restlessness had not subsided.  The basket had originally been for picking wild mushrooms, but I've found that a satchel lined with a small paper bag works better for me, so I re-purposed the basket to hold all my wilderness backpacking maps.  I've collected quite a few over the years.

But of course I would not waste my set aside 24 hours for an overnight trip in what happened to be gorgeous spring weather.  I always have a few back up plans of spots both on and off trail that are my go-to places to haunt.  Some of these patches of woods I've slept in several dozen times or so.  Hence the restlessness.  I craved something new, and also something challenging.

I took out one last map of an area that I have not explored as much as others.  This would be the last map before I gave up and just chilled out at home and drink coffee and read books as my weekend treat.  Maybe go for a walk around my neighborhood, maybe go for a swim in the sea.  The morning was fading away, so I had to make up my mind.  Lucky for me, as I studied this map, something caught my eye that I had not noticed before in the corner of the map.  

An isolated set of lakes and ridges--typical rift valley terrain of this area--that are nearly devoid of civilization.  No roads or paths through it, not even lumber roads or even marked trails, and no farms or buildings.  Then I noticed that this big, narrow slab of forest that... wait a moment... tiny little text that marks it as a nature reserve.  And the pale green color that marks woodland area at times makes the outlines of nature reserves a bit hard to see at first glance, especially when this outline gets mixed up with lines of elevation.  Ah, lines of elevation--I wanted a challenge, after all.  I suddenly and seamlessly switched into the autopilot mode of going on a backpacking trip.  

Step one: check the buses, trains, trams, and find an entry and exit point.  Step two: allow the chaos to wash over you as you realize you have 20 minutes to get your gear, fill your water bottles, and pack your food.  The bus stop is a 5 minute walk away.  Or a 2 minute run.  It would have to be a 2 minute run.

I ran upstairs and threw my gear all over the place and then all of a sudden I am sitting on a bus panting.  And I only managed to forget one thing: my phone charger and external battery.  Could be much worse.  Would have to take less pictures and use airplane mode a lot.  But this was going to be an off trail hike climbing up and down ridges and cliffs anyhow, so I would need to focus--not to mention that I'd need to cover enough ground to get close enough to my exit point to make it home in time for my good friend's child's birthday party the next day.  Her name is Gloria, and she turned five years old, and my children like her and of course who doesn't like a piñata--her parents always have a piñata at birthday parties.  It was a wonderful party, and I showed up in my hiking clothing and no one cared, because my friends don't care about that sort of thing.  And they know I am always going out to the woods anyhow.

I have to run to the train too, but make it.  There is a layover at my stop later on, so I eat lunch in a small town before taking another bus way out into the woods.  I get off at a small village in the middle of nowhere, just how I like it.  I walk down a small, residential, asphalt road for a few kilometers.  Then the asphalt turns into gravel and dirt and I walk for a few more kilometers.  The dirt road leads to a small trail that leads into the nature reserve, but this trail only goes on for a few more kilometers before ending abruptly in a small bog.  But on the other side of the bog I could see the ridges rise again.  I found an animal trail to follow for a bit, but that ended too when I got to the first ravine.  Past the first ravine was pure, raw woods.  There was an occasional animal trail here and there.  And a clumsy badger, a distant moose, and a few comfortable deer.

I wasn't fast enough to get pictures of the animals, then again when I see animals I am still not used to taking pictures of them.  I watch them for some passing moments before I remember that I should take a picture.  It is usually to late by then.  But there is something I can't explain: all the beautiful wild flowers.  I probably saw thousands of them.  I even stopped and gazed at them for a bit at times as I caught my breath on the top of the plateaus of the cliffs.  I thought about taking pictures of the flowers.  In the past I have taken plenty of pictures of wild flowers.  But on this trip, I just couldn't do it.  I just wanted to look at them, so that's all I did.  My favorite ones were the tiny, little, star-shaped, purple ones.  I don't know what they are called.

In the end I didn't take that many pictures.  Not even of my campsite and shelter set up, which I normally love to take pictures of--though I did snap a picture of the spot I slept at: a nice mossy patch on top of a hill just outside of the nature reserve.  This was nothing like the wild flowers, however.  I was in a hurry to hike to the next little village so that I could catch the bus.  If I missed the bus, I'd be stuck in the middle of nowhere for a long time--there were only three buses that came through this village that day: morning, noon, and evening.  But I made it, and with enough time to spare to buy a cup of coffee at a little cafe next to the bus stop.  The woman that ran the cafe was legitimately surprised to sell me the coffee.  No one visits this places, she said.