So today was cold and rainy with frozen bits in the rain on the windshield as I drove north to the Adirondacks. It is going to a cold night, but I don’t care. There are ways to stay warm in a tent… When I get there, I take my time unwrapping the tent and raising the tarp up again. Everything is completely dry inside! It all survived last weekend’s ice storm with flying colors. I decided to leave the smaller tarp covering the top of the tent with the silver side down with the idea that it might hold in some of my body heat later tonight when it’s 20 degrees outside. There is still a lot of snow on the ground and I am using snowshoes to travel up and down the hill. The last thing I need is to fall again. I got everything arranged the way I like it, and before the sun had set I climbed into a snuggley warm fleece and then under the blankets and sleeping bags. I put hand warmers in my gloves, socks, and hat. It felt good to feel them warm up and get hot, kind of like the comfortable feeling as the water warms up in a shower. Although it took a long time to warm up the bed, it did eventually get cozy as I watched the light fade quietly into darkness. I listened to bare branches rubbing against each other in the breeze, and to other night sounds a sleeping forest makes. Although I relish sleeping in this tent, and when I’m sleeping, it is a deep and peaceful sleep, I still wake up several times at night. Usually just to roll over (an athletic endeavor with the heavy covers) and go back to sleep. I am also excited just to be here with the prospect of being back on the River tomorrow. Waking briefly, hours later, the clouds dissipated and the half moon shone its shivery silvery light softly illuminating the tent. There is nothing better in the world than this moment here and now, bathed in moonlight on a cold spring night.
My Colorado friend and I are in my regular tent I usually stay in up in the Adirondacks. We are running the Hudson tomorrow and then I will drop her off at the airport to go home. She asked me what could be walking around in the woods outside the tent. I hear it too, I hear it often enough when falling off to sleep. I tell her I believe its probably deer or raccoons or some other night time creature, nothing to get worked up about. Out of curiosity we shine a flashlight out the window to catch the deer in action. Surprise! That thing walking around out there is the moose! It has been out there all summer! He is caught by surprise by the light and just stands looking at the tent about 20 feet away. The flashlight is not a particularly strong or bright one, so we can just make out his shape and form in the darkness. Of course his eye shine is too high off the ground to be anything but a moose. We all stare at each other for many long minutes. He finally decides we are inconsequential and moves on, making noise as he calmly walks through the leaf litter on the forest floor and foraging his way out of sight and hearing. WOW!!
Early morning half light filtering through the trees, birds singing their praises to the rising sun. Water drips from the wet leaves onto wet earth from last night’s gentle rain. Damp cool morning air washes over my bare arms, groggily I roll over and peer through the tent screen out into the wakening green world. I notice a spiderweb up in the corner of where the tarp meets the pole holding it up. Large and perfectly formed, ghost colored gossamer silken strands, painstakingly spun out into embedded concentric geometric patterns. Its small light brown and gold occupant waiting patiently in the center, all her delicate legs folded daintily beneath her abdomen. I can see tiny glistening dew drops have formed all over the web giving it an ethereal quality, other worldly, and strikingly beautiful.
I wake to the startling sound of something crashing through the jumbled dead leaves and detritus on the forest floor, I open my sleepy eyes to early morning mist with water drooping from the trees. Groggily I think “that was something big”, so I sit up to see out into the blue morning dusk. Ten feet away is a mythical moose! This is the first time I have every seen a moose, so I have been calling them, mythical for many years. He is a young male with tiny antlers just appearing, thin, muscular, and all legs. He stands taller than me, but I believe he is small for a full grown moose. He is twitchy and nervous, he knows I am there, but isn’t sure what to make of me. I watch transfixed, mesmerized, excited, all sleep immediately gone from my fascinated brain. I watch him for many long minutes, hardly daring to breath. He eventually calms when no immediate danger presents itself, and he walk a little away, turns to look at me through the tent screen, takes a few more steps. He is silhouetted in a small clearing, his dark shape outlined by a brighter area of forest. After a few more steps, he has passed out of sight in the misty blue half light of predawn. I have seen a moose! Later when I actually get up, there are moose prints next to the tent platform where he was walking under the tarp when he startled and jumped into the dead leaves that woke me up. How many times has he passed this way before?
Darkness, lantern turned off, listening to water dripping from the sodden trees. It is dry under the tarp, although the air is humid and the blankets feel damp. I hear night noises, quiet rustling and whispering shuffles out in the forest. I am contemplating the darkness of the nighttime world when I see a flash of tiny yellow light. It flashes several times more, I realize there is a lightening bug sitting on the outside of the tent. I see another on the other side. These two fireflies showing off their glowing tails in an effort to attract a mate. I am a silent spectator, watching with fascination, as a third firefly flies in toward the tent. I can not see the actually insects themselves, only the random yet rhythmic flashing of their tails. Its my own little personal fireworks show in the dry space under the tarp.
Back in my tent up in the Adirondacks (yes that is three mountain ranges in three days), sleeping fitfully, keep waking and thinking it is near dawn, first light, try to go back to sleep for an hour or so before I need to get up. This happened several times before my sleep deprived and groggy mind realized that I can not have woke up this many times in the early early glow of first light, it just doesn’t last that long. Oooohhhh, right, its the near full moon light filling the forest with that blue glow, a false dawn that confused my half asleep brain. I watch the trees in the silvery light for a few timeless minutes, then let go and finally fall asleep.