It’s been a busy year and I haven’t spent as much time in my camp as I’d like. My camp is on our 15 acres and literally less than 300 feet out the backdoor of our newly built house, but life gets in the way sometimes and I’m guilty of letting that happen a bit too much. So today I put aside morning obligations and chores in order to get some time in the woods before heading to work in the afternoon (shout out to my fellow 2nd shift workers). I loaded up my new Maxpedition Falcon II pack for the first time, let the dog talk me into taking him along and headed out the door. The weather was in the low to mid 30’s, no wind or clouds and the sun had just risen above the trees. A beautiful day for this time of year in Indiana.
Fletcher (my eight and a half year old labrador retriever that still thinks he’s a six month old puppy) and I took the long way to camp, taking a well worn deer path along the old fence line and through the woods rather than straight out the back door. Even taking the “long way” it’s no more than a ten minute walk if I take my time, and that I did. In that short walk there is still lots to see in the woods, and I took it all in. Fresh deer tracks, squirrels scampering up trees, the sound of crows flying overhead…it’s amazing what it all does to refresh a man’s soul. I was long overdue for this.
Arriving in camp I immediately noticed how obvious it was that I hadn’t been there in some time. Autumn’s fallen leaves “flooded” my fire pit and branches from past high winds were strewn about. I cleared the fire pit of leaves, chasing three alarmed mice from their homes, and started a small fire. Once it was going, I put the kettle on to boil water for coffee. It wasn’t long before I was sipping a cup of hot java with one hand and rubbing Fletcher behind his ears with the other. Small song birds passed, oblivious to our presence or just not caring, and a red tailed hawk glided through the woods across the property line. The smell of wood smoke wafted through the air and I knew I would never again let this much time pass before I visited camp again.
After a second cup of coffee, I loaded and lit my pipe. Then Fletcher and I took a short walk south of camp to see if any large trees had fallen across the fence that might need cut up for firewood. I always enjoy seeing the more mature trees at this end of the property. Oh, how I wish old trees like that could talk! One large tree in particular holds the remnants of an old treestand, and I’m sure the hunting stories alone would provide for some wonderful campfire tales. The fencing along that part of the property was in fine shape, so it was back to camp to sit and finish my pipe. As I puffed on my pipe and enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of the forest Fletcher opted to go explore some more. He took off out of sight to the west, but as is his norm he soon turned back to come look for me. He trotted back into camp and gave me that look where he cocks his head to the side, perks up his ears and stares at me as if to say, “Aren’t you coming old man?” When he sees I’m not getting up from where I sit, he happily runs over and accepts more rubbing of his ears in trade of more exploring.
Once my pipe goes out, I decide I’m enjoying this too much to head back to the house quite yet. I load the pipe back up with another bowl of tobacco, light it and enjoy the morning for another half hour or more. Afterwards I start packing things up and pour the rest of my water on smoldering coals, making sure the fire is out completely. Then I tell Fletcher we’re going home, and I swear I hear him sigh sadly. We walk back the way we came in and again we enjoy every step of the way.
Overall, the morning walk wasn’t anything mind blowing, but I can’t tell you enough how much I needed it. The best part of it all is I paid attention to how much of my gear this morning were items I either purchased from friends or were gifted to me by friends. The day pack, kuksa, sitting pad, knife, backpacking grill, fat wood, striker, flint and other items I’m probably forgetting were all from friends I’ve “met” either in person or online. It very much felt as if I had friends along with me on my little adventure this morning and for that I’m most grateful. Friends, a dog and coffee in the woods…it simply doesn’t get much better than that on a Monday morning.