Pattison on Wheels

Saturday, May 3, 2008

5-3-08: Questing For Magic Revisited

Today was supposed to be a day of rest. As usual I overdid it instead. Just as I finished breakfast it started to rain. I put on my poncho and took a hike leaving everything except the camera at campground #58.

I hiked a couple miles upstream to the Pole Road Creek Trail. Then back a ways and up the Martin Gap Trail to the Sunkota Ridge Trail. That part was pretty steep and took me through lunch time without food or water When I got there I just rested under a tree and let my poncho collect rain for drinking.

What motivated me through the pain is the aesthetic pleasure of these woods. The wildflowers, the perfect new leaves on the new plants and old, and the green everywhere from the moss on the tree trunks and rocks to the top of the high canopy. Streams and waterfalls everywhere.

I was also somewhat questing for a clear view of what I remember from having been here at this season in 1959. I spent days then watching the clouds and mist rise and fall in the valleys It was a magic time for me and I was revisiting it with this days weather—the weather that give these mountains their name.

I never did get an unobstructed view to bring back in the camera but I saw the beauty of it through the trees. The only people I saw were two couples on horseback. As I passed them the women were dismounted to photograph a perfect ladyslipper bloom. When I got back to camp around three I drank a lot of water, had lunch and slept for an hour. When I woke the sun was out. A nice dinner and a short quiet walk ended the day nicely.

Friday, May 2, 2008

5-2-08: Backpacking: A Wobbly Start

I slept and meditated, meditated and slept until 9:30. I had some trouble getting a wood fire going well and spilled some water from the cereal pot too. Then some women came fast exercise walking by. They interrupted their conversation to say hello and stared at my smoky little scene. More humility for breakfast. I filtered some water and devised a system for carrying it in a ziploc plastic bag inside a my little nylon pouch. First I spilled the water and had to refill the bag then the first bag leaked down my pants leg. I was thinking I should just turn around and go back to the car. But the breakfast cereal tasted great just slightly burned on the bottom the way I like it. So I headed farther up the trail. I was surprised to find a numbered campsite just a quarter mile along. Apparently I hadn't camped where I thought nor in a designated area. I walked a couple more miles to the next campground and had lunch and rested for an hour before moving on. It turned out to be only a short distance from there to campground #58 so I didn’t overdo it too much. But I must say this is the first time on this trip I have been backpacking and the first time I feel old. I used to hike into Granite Basin in King’s Canyon in a day. It’s ten miles and a 5000 foot climb. I barely made six miles here in two days. I’m old now. This is hard work for me. I’m packing lots of weight. It’s good though to think about petroleum and the lack. And no matter how sore and weary I am nature’s beauty keeps amazing me.

I saw no people after the two women exercising in the morning. Oh, there were five men on horseback with two pack animals. They were stunningly photogenic but I didn’t think to snap.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


I broke camp an took another look at the elk viewing area but no elk. I did see a tom turkey in display.

I headed out of the park looking for another site at lower altitude so to be warmer. I stopped at a visitor center where they had advice and a large model relief map. I picked out some possibles and headed for Deep Creek. I got a short run on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s a gorgeous highway built specifically for scenery. There is no commercial anything and the shoulders are mowed grass and it goes through some stunning natural beauty. Though it is a dream come true it felt a bit embarrassing in this time to treat petroleum as a recreation. Don’t you think we are running out? Not that we haven’t burned it foolishly in times past and not that we don't currently by people living in the past. But now?

I arrived at Deep Creek campground seriously ambiguous about camping vs. backpacking and then camping. I made an impulse decision and packed up my backpack and headed up Deep Creek Trail. Somewhere along the way I lost my water bottle. Not auspicious. My doubts came back. I left my backpack at the first campsite and walked back a couple miles to where I last remembered using it. No sign of it. By the time I got back to my campsite I was pretty tired.

This is when I really start to be hard on myself usually. I was worried about the water thing but solved that and several other problems one by one. I have a water filter and the trail follows a creek. I’ll be fine. Just got another slight pride haircut.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

4-30-08: Relaunch Next Venture

I fiddled around all day getting ready to go, saying goodbye and thanks to sister Peg. I packed the car, tried to figure out where to go and finally just picked a place name from Smoky Mountain National Park and printed out directions from Google maps. I was vaguely unsettled as I drove for the few hours it took to get to Cataloochee campground. The leaves became thinner and newer and the dogwoods were still out at the higher altitude and latitude. I guess I just felt a bit lost. Or something. I kept asking: “WHAT?” It’s something about my constant low-level complaining. Looking for proof that life sucks. Whatever for?

I checked into a lovely little campground with very few campers and a fine fast mountain creek burbling by. I made myself an excellent meal using my new ultra-light camp stove and took a great walk up the creek . . . so to speak. I wanted to get some photos of the creek before it got too dark. So I did.

While walking it occurred to me that I need to apply the same sense of wonder to my thinking that I apply to other mind-boggling mysteries like “what was the neighborhood like before the big bang,” or “why does time expand just ahead of the expansion of space in our expanding universe.” Why do I think I’m qualified to rate my thoughts—myself—good or bad. It’s all a wonderment and me no less. So there.

A short drive to check out the neighborhood and on the chance I might see an elk or bear but it yielded only gorgeous scenery.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

4-29-08: I, Bozo

Another day in a house. It’s getting to feel comfortable and that makes me uncomfortable.

So I went shopping and bought a backpacking stove, a small camera case suitable for packing. and some lightweight food items.

During the shopping trip I noticed that I would forget to lock the car about one out of three times and twice I came back to the car and found my lumbar support lying next to the door. I am a bozo. I am confused. I am nevertheless somehow usually unscathed. Again and again I bumble and put myself at risk and survive. Fine then. I don’t get to be proud of it really because I look a fool but, in fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When I got back to the house I made a simulacrum of my famous shitake vegetable stir fry. Since I didn’t have my rice cooker I looked on the web to find how to make rice and learned a new way that made great fluffy rice. Actually, better than my rice cooker.

Peg and I took a walk through the town of Greer SC and then a ride to look at another house she is considering for her next home. Life unfolds.

I took no photos today but I got around to processing one of the endangered swallow tail kite that I took on April 23 on the river trip. I saw them several times—a group of three. For a raptor kites are quite social, often nesting in villages. They are threatened by the loss of the lowland forest habitat which I have been so enjoying the last weeks.

Monday, April 28, 2008

4-28-08: Drudge

I worked the last couple days. My usual creative self, building some new web pages. Fun and scary. Scary because I get so wrapped up in it all, don’t take breaks, don’t think about food or walks, and forget to have a life worth blogging about. Fortunately others reminded me and I got some of those things done as well.

The brown thrasher has a nest in the back yard and is wrapped up in domestic chores even more than I am.