Bedazzled: Me, At the Gates of Dawn
When we left our intrepid backpackers, they were heading into their tents in the backwoods of Moshannon State Forest for the night. So let's pick up where we left off, shall we?
The temperature was getting colder and there was no moon at all, so all we had for company was the blanket of sparkles against the sea of blackness above our heads. What a starry, starry night!
I had brought some clothes from home that I thought would be comfy to sleep in. However, I judged poorly, for the outfit I'd chosen turned out to have a major gap in it around the midriff, and that is where the cold got in.
For our overnight low reached 23 degrees F, which is pretty chilly indeed. Did I have the gear for that? Why, yes, I did. The gear that would have saved me was right in my tent with me, but once I was in my sleeping bag, on a cold night, you just can't get me out without a couple of sticks of dynamite. I am a hard-head like that. Bull-headed, my mother would say.
So I spent the night rolling around on Big Agnes, mummying up my sleeping bag, trying to keep the chilly air out and the warm air in. In the colder weather in particular, I take a jug along with a wide enough mouth, and a lid, that I can pee in overnight so I don't even have to get out of the tent for that. Yes, girls can and do go backpacking, even though the degree of difficulty can be higher for us in some ways.
During the time I DID sleep, I was having a weird dream where I was in the creek again at Quehanna, and I was in the midst of the big flip-flop caper once again, when I felt a sharp pain in my right foot. OW! These flashbacks can be difficult and SO realistic! Only upon getting up in the morning did I discover that the socks I had had on had somehow ripped the scab from that adventure right off my toe! So it was real pain and not dream pain that got me.
In the middle of the night, I was lying there looking at the stars, feeling wakeful and cold and stupid about it all, and I finally thought, my camera is right beside me, and if I'm spending the night like this, at least why don't I take a picture of the stars?
Well, I got my camera out and turned it on and tried to focus, but I couldn't see a single star through it. All I could see was darkness. I have ONE photo I took and it is a picture of pure blackness. In the morning, the camera battery went (know this, photographers: cold weather will give you less battery life, so take extras along), and I replaced it with another. Maybe it was just having a weak moment.
So I don't even have a shot of our great star show to represent my rather sleepless night. (Which, let me reiterate, I could have prevented by my changing clothes, but no, somehow I was too tired to take the one step that would have made my situation better!)
And so it was that I saw both sides of dawn on this day. I spotted the first streaks of light begin, even before the sun rose. That was well before 6 a.m. When actual first light hit, it was dazzling, and there were no drapes or curtains to keep it out. Emily Dickinson called it "sunrise' yellow noise," and that was a pretty accurate description!
The rat-a-tat-tat of a distant woodpecker began on a faraway tree. I tried snuggling down in my bag, and finally gave up and decided to confront the dawn! I also wanted to try my camera out right away to make sure it wasn't somehow ruined, as it would not take the picture I wanted in the middle of the night. I figured a selfie or two would do, for starters.
So here is a picture of me, way earlier than I ever should have been up, but out in the woods, looking pretty darn happy in spite of it all, and so it was all good, in the end. I am in my tent, and the day has just begun. The dawn, in fact, is dazzling if you ever see it first-hand in the woods.
That orange thing hanging to the right is my husband's hat, which he had placed near my tent so the hunters coming into the woods for spring gobbler (turkey) season would not shoot me by accident. Safety first!, as we always say.
And then we had our morning in the woods, but we took our tents down early. I usually like to lollygag in my tent all morning, but I'd had enough of tent time and was ready to get out. So before 10 a.m., our tents were down and we were starting to pack up our gear.
A single huge bumblebee came through the campsite, buzzed me, and sat on my book. By 12:30, we were packed up and walking out. Our strategy paid off. We easily found the orange tag that marked our path, my husband removed the tag from the tree, and I led us up through the woods and out. "Smallie got to lead the way!" said my husband. (Yes, he sometimes calls me Smallie, or simply Smalls.)
We went straight home, and it was good we did. We discovered that we'd left the freezer door open about an inch on the refrigerator, and everything in it was defrosted, but still cold. We got out a huge ham, which was already on its way to thawing, and set it in the fridge for our Sunday dinner. My husband dumped out the water from the melted ice, and we quietly closed the freezer door up again, and hoped for the best.
We'd also had Amazon orders pending, and of course, all three packages we were expecting had arrived early. Two of them were on the porch. A third package (a brand new monopod for my camera, a thing I have been thinking about buying for a while) had been tucked into the mailbox, and it was big enough that the mailbox door stood open.
So we rescued our packages, messed with the freezer stuff, unpacked the car, aired our our gear, and had a bite to eat, happy to be back home again!
I find I have two songs for this story. Here is one for my night in the tent with all those beautiful stars, not a single one of which I was able to capture with my camera. Here is Don McLean with Vincent (Starry, Starry Night). And here is a song for dawn: Gordon Lightfoot, with Minstrel of the Dawn. (My own minstrel being that distant woodpecker, of course!)