We are driving into the parking lot for the High Peaks area in the Adirondacks and I’m already planning our next trip. “Next time, I want to see if we can get a ride up here, so that we’re just paying for gas.” We haven’t set foot on the trail yet – haven’t even put our backpacks on and already I am looking for a cheaper way to make it back up here. What is it that does this? What is it makes me willfully choose to repeatedly come back to something that is such a colossal pain in the ass?
You have to plan ahead for everything when you’re camping – everything you’ll be eating, all the trash you’ll be making and even the crap you’ll be taking (literally). You have to rent bear-proof canisters that you store your food in. You have to bring a shovel to bury your “call of nature” about 200 feet from any water source because you don’t want a heavy rain to come along and have your ‘call of nature’ be someone else’s giardia. You also pack a water purifier (so you can pump -rather than carry in – all your water for drinking, cooking and cleaning), and an inflatable therma-rest (to put under your sleeping bag). You have to weed out ANYTHING from your pack that you might not be using because you’ll be carrying this 50-pound pack for many miles over rocky terrain that involves occasional butt-sliding and even a ladder, at one point.
You’re also supposed to start that trek nice and early so you aren’t feeling the onslaught of fatigue-shaking knees right about the time you realize you can’t even see the rocks. Unfortunately this part didn’t quite pan out for us and I got to the point where I was wobbling over the rocks like a geriatric paraplegic. Don decided that he would run off and find a campsite in the dark while Paul and I rested on the trail. That’s when I got Big-Footed.
Our travel buddy, Paul, had been watching the Discovery Channel ‘s program about Big Foot and he re-counted it all with outrageous and incredible detail. It was love at first listen. Maybe it’s because Big Foot fills that black hole that was punctured the minute I found out Santa Claus wasn’t real (June 9, 2002), or maybe because it’s so cultural – they even have Bigfoots in Canada (“Sasquatch”), The Himalayas (‘Yetis’), China (“Yin Ren”) and Europe (“Germans”). Either way, by the time Don came running back to take us to our space, I was deep into designing ways I might find Big Foot and develop a friendship while learning about edible plants, nighttime walking and Samauri Chatter (the official language of the Bigfoot)
Don took us to our sight, we pitched our tent and found a “kitchen” spot about 200 feet in the opposite direction of the ‘triangle’ you’re supposed to make with the food and the tent. It was a huge rock bed with a running brook that looked like something out of “Lord of the Rings”.
After a couple glasses of box wine and Indian food, we were ready for bed.
The next day, we got off the trail and climbed down ‘John’s Brook’ until we found this swimming hole. We had it all to ourselves, so we pulled out a picnic and went for a dip. Hours later, right before we left, I went inside the woods for the requested 200 feet with my shovel to answer a call and change out of my swim suit. As I stood there, exposed in what’s probably my most vulnerable state, I heard a ‘whoop’ in the distance every so often. I t went on for 15 minutes. When I got back, I was shocked to find out that not only were Don and Paul not making that noise, but Bigfoot has been known to give a sort-of football -like ‘whoop’ to communicate. The excitement didn’t escape me any more than the irony did. The thought that this creature could possibly have came to know me during my most vulnerable moment, made me feel like I had been inducted to some new, earthy, cavernous culture., where one day I too could walk through the woods naked at night, spying on mankind. I only hoped these creatures weren’t more advanced than I was giving them credit for- with telescopic lenses and access to Facebook.
Days later, walking back to the car, I feel like I’ve had a reverse IV – where the New York slowly drips out of your system and becomes inconsequential. I’m singing as I walk along the trail, still planning a return to the woods. There is always so much more calling me back- things bigger than us- unplugged solitude, expansive peace and hopefully- fantastical creatures. I don’t believe you can find this anywhere but nature.
I searched the rest of the trip, but Bigfoot must have been shy- knowing that he might end up here on the page. I think we all will be glad to know: you can keep on believing. Bigfoot remains at large. With everything else that’s going on in the world, isn’t it nice to have something big to believe in?