Where have you been?
I’ve been away, far away and unable to post due to circumstances beyond my control. However, my experiences zapped me with more fodder for posting than I ever imagined. I sketched them out in my notebook. Here’s one.
I drove along a stretch of a wilderness road in the Adirondacks and side-glanced a sign that read “fishing access”. Those simple words straightened my bent sense of what-am-I-doing-here. I’m adventuring, right? So I ask you, is there a better reason for banking a hard right onto that narrow dirt road? Take a risk, I told myself.
The loose gravel crackled under the tires. On both sides dense woods lined its meandering miles. I couldn’t deny the isolated feeling that crept into my soul. Boulders of morbid thoughts rolled into my brain. What a perfect place to dump a body. What if I have a heart attack or stroke? No one would ever find me here. Suddenly, the sense of aloneness that usually brought me peace and solace now frightened me into a conniption fit.
In a thumping heart beat, I braked, fumbled for my cell phone, and punched the navigation button. It beeped an apology. No service area. I forced myself to breath, steady and slow, a rhythm that relaxed and calmed my frayed nerves. You’re okay, I told myself, just pay attention to where you are. I stepped out of the car to observe the strange milieu.
The lack of human debris – no empty McDonald’s sack, beer cans, or cigarette butts – reinforced my feeling of isolation. The pristine wilderness, untamed and unbound, intimidates the cultivated and constrained. Gazing into the dark forest, I realized that my feral self doesn’t exist. I am not in these woods. I wanted to exit, but the road was too narrow, the edges too embanked, that I couldn’t turn the car around; my only choice was to forge ahead and find the “fishing access”.
I drove slowly. A dead branch blocked the road. Once more I faced the wilderness, a void I didn’t understand. I dragged the branch to the edge of the road leaving a scrape mark in the dirt, an act that changed how I felt. Like a conqueror placing a flag on vanquished soil, I made my mark, an I-was-here billboard. With increased confidence, I drove on.
The road ended in a clearing by a lake, a simple parking area marked off with timber. There was a cork board nailed on a tree. The papers that were pegged on it and covered in Plexiglas shouted out like a town crier. Hear ye! Hear ye! People do come here! I read the fishing regulations and a handwritten sign that said “privy across bridge”.
Off to the side of the clearing, I noticed a foot bridge suspended over a swamp. The bridge extended about fifty feet across the water and into a wooded area. Anyone with an ounce of curiosity would be compelled to cross it. Naturally, I started across the bridge.
The planks were worn and loose, but I was not deterred. The swaying and the creaking merely annoyed me. Once on the other side, two paths split in opposite directions, both equally treaded. Two roads diverged in the shadowy woods. I’m not Robert Frost. If one of them had looked well travelled, that’s the one I would have taken.
I followed the path on the left which led nowhere, a foray into the deep woods for nothing. The privy? I didn’t want to believe that “privy” meant a squatting place in the woods. I backtracked. The other path must lead to a more civilized notion of “privy”.
The path on the right promised little more than its twin. Undaunted, I decided to be fair and give it an equal amount of distance as I gave to its sister. Then I hit pay dirt. Score! Up ahead on a hill, I spied a tiny wooden structure.
I marched up the hill to inspect it. Constructed with rough planks and slightly listing, it stood seven feet tall. Even though no one was around, I knocked on the door, a natural act, like scratching when someone mentions head lice. Inside the dark three by three foot space was the squatting hole, the primitive privy. Yuck!
I fled like Alice, cured of curiosity by a malicious Queen of Hearts snapping at my head. No more rabbit holes; no more weird paths through the woods.
My next wild adventure would include a scotch and water at a hotel bar. And make it a double.