We are in the forest, navigating the elements. Blame it on the sun, it lured us here. Its brilliance convinced us to enter nature’s forest, away from the citadels of mankind. So this is where we find ourselves now. Deeper into wild arenas we venture, further and further away from civilizations, cars, cares, and worries. Certainly, without civilization, nature is the master with us completely at its mercy. We are reliant on her whims, on her moods, with no manmade contraptions to at least give the illusion of keeping her at bay. She assails us with her sentries of insects and heat, but we still press forward.
We proceed along the trails that wind about, like a labyrinth in the woods that packed themselves as far as we could see. It is as though we had transported ourselves in a world where trees were the dominate species, and we were puny characters in their story by comparison. Heat and humidity bake the air around us, constricting our airspace. There is no air conditioning to mitigate the circumstances, so our only choice is to submit to nature’s conditions, slowing down to the pace that she dictates. Our steps are heavier with fatigue as the heat increases. Altitude rises in the pitched trails, and hills seem like mountains. Nature is concocting a stew, with us as ingredients in a recipe born of her spontaneity.
We’re at least somewhat prepared, at least so we think. We have water, some food, and a phone. Underneath our clothes, we are wearing bathing suits, in case we find a good watering hole to cool off in. We have a GPS, but it’s in our truck, and probably wouldn’t work with all the trees anyway. So the old-school magnetic compass will just have to do. Which is a good thing, because even though the sun’s out, we aren’t exactly tracking it. In our case, we trusted the trail and the technology we have. Who knows if that’s a good strategy or not, but we make do with what we have.
Why go through all of this insanity when an air-conditioned vehicle is less than three miles away from here? Go to a hotel with a pool, immerse yourself in the blessedness of cold water splashing all over you….Oh, wait. That was me thinking that. Man, I’m getting hot. We’re both getting hot. Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a blast. I enjoy the feeling of shutting out all the stimuli and clutter that contained daily life. I love the feeling of fresh air, and being in a world that was larger than four walls. Gulping water down my gullet was not quenching my thirst. Where the heck are these running streams that my National Park book insisted upon the existence of?
Luckily, we are enjoying every minute of it. This kind of intensity feels great, which is an oblique way of saying we’re having a blast. Maybe to a person who isn’t much of an outdoor enthusiast, the idea of sweating away on a trail sounds like sheer folly and nonsense. We, however, love seeing life beyond humans, domestic animals and lawns trained and trimmed.
Then it happens. It first comes upon us through sound, a whispering that speaks in a different tenor than the breeze conversing through the trees. Our path, which before seemed like an endless maze through a forest, has brought us directly to a stream that rages and roars. As we approach, the air was different. All our senses come alive, with the vibrancy of smells and sounds. Its luscious beauty spouts forth like a fountain, which is the perfect antidote to the steaming heat. It makes us want to just dive in, bask in its delicious coolness.
We ready ourselves to meet the water by stripping down. The sun and the warmth of the air provided deception as we wade through the rapids. The water rushes around us like icicles coming alive. Instantly, the heat we feel turns into a numbing freeze, as the meltwater from dying snow rushes around us. Man, we never thought feeling frozen would feel so good. The last couple hours of sweat are washed away. If our hike ended now, we’d at least have this awesome encounter with nature to remember. But we hope it won’t, so we just milk it as much as we can, while we can.