Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘Camping’

“…and bears, oh my!”

In Camping, Nature on June 6, 2022 at 4:15 pm
Hello, cutie-pie. (Not my photo.)

We’re spending the summer volunteering at a state park. A lot of folks are unaware that Maryland extends west to the Appalachian plateau. Properly speaking, Garrett County, were we’re living this summer, lies in the Allegheny Mountains, which form the western flank of the Appalachian Mountain Range. They’re called mountains. Frankly, they’re more hills, lovely hills, but hills, nonetheless. You’ll find us here, nestled in these lovely hills, banked against a lovely lake, living in our lovely Airstream, under a thick canopy of lovely oaks , beech, and maples. My feeders are regularly visited by a host of neighbors, goldfinches, nuthatches, ruby-throated humming birds, a variety of woodpeckers, and titmice. The traveling warblers are moving on now but the last few weeks have been tremendous, warbler song filling every nook and cranny of the woods. 

Life under the awning.

Birds aren’t our only neighbors. Maryland Department of Natural Resources estimates a black bear density of around 65 per hundred square miles in Garrett County. Garrett County consists of 656 square miles. Do the math. We’re home to about 425 bears, give or take. And a few have stopped by to pay us a visit. 

We have a bear box, as is necessary, in this campground. Every night I take down my bird feeders, six total, and place them in the box. The box sits about six feet from the end of our picnic table and about twenty feet from the door to the Airstream. A couple weeks ago I heard a terrible banging outside. It was the middle of the night. Carole from the safety of the bed: “Don’t open the door!” My flashlight didn’t penetrate our smoked glass windows, only reflected back in my eyes. Consequently, I slowly opened the door. Momma bear turned to give me the stink-eye. I shined the light in her face. She grunted and the hair on the back of my neck stood at attention. From behind the bear box a cub, weighing, I’d guess, around thirty pounds, jumped up on the oak. Mom’s silhouette obscured the entire bear box, she was that big—by far the largest black bear I’ve ever seen. They eventually slipped away into the woods, like ghosts. 

Our bear box.

Two nights later they returned to clean my grill, dragging it from under our awning, about three feet from our pillows, on the other side of the Airstream’s aluminum skin. When I went out to confront them, momma had the grill dismantled and was licking clean the grates. Thank you very much. I tried to shoo them off, but she was intent on finishing the job. No point in starting a job you’re not going to complete. Eventually she and baby bear ambled off, licking BBQ sauce from their cheeks. 

Last night they came back. The grill was secured, the feeders put away, consequently they just expressed their disappointment by beating and pounding on the bear box like spoiled children. I tried to reason with them. “It’s 2:30 in the morning, com’on guys, go to bed.” Eventually they gave up and headed off. I returned to bed grateful I was not a tent camper.

 * * *

A couple hours after writing the above Cooper went nuts on the deck under the awning. Cooper doesn’t go nuts. He’s chill. I stared into the woods down the hill but saw nothing. He paced back and forth, crying and whining. A moment later a call to the rangers came over the radio. “Bear at the dumpster by the entrance gate.” 

It’s going to be an interesting summer.

That’s the report from the woods. Thanks for reading.  

Yesterday

In Camping, Dogs, Life on August 7, 2018 at 11:29 am

Peak One Campground, Frisco, Colorado

Yesterday while working in the campground I rounded a corner and came upon an elderly gentleman being pulled by three small leashed dogs. I’d met him the day before. His wife had eventually tugged at his elbow, saying, “Enough already, let the man go do his work.” He seemed lonely, though I only thought it because he liked to talk. This morning his wife was not present, only the man and his dogs. I said hello and we talked about dogs for a few minutes. One dog, a white terrier, feisty and keen, was the focus of his comments. As he talked the three leashes became intertwined but the man didn’t seem to notice. The terrier had been his daughter’s dog, he said. She got him when she learned she had breast cancer. She wanted the companionship. The man talked without emotion, in that way people from Kansas do. The flatness of his voice settled on me in emotional way. I began to tear up.  “She told me she wanted me to raise him if she didn’t make it.” We’d had a rain the night before and the tacky aroma of pine was suddenly apparent. I was wearing a jacket, it being cold. I took off my glasses and wiped my tears. The little white terrier was busy sniffing the edge of my boot, likely picking up Lucy’s scent–Lucy, waiting patiently for my return down the hill and across the campground.

“I’m having a good day.”

In Family, Memoir, Wisdom on September 6, 2017 at 12:40 pm

Two days ago my two-year old granddaughter said something that I’ve been thinking a lot about. We were walking to the park. Her little hand was wrapped around my extended finger. She was looking straight ahead and it was a sunny afternoon. “I’m having a good day,” she said, apropos of nothing. Imagine that. I’m having a good day, said the little two-year old.

Today it has been raining and I’m out in the woods, up on the Appalachian plateau, the only participant in a two-week self-designed retreat. I’m in my Airstream so it’s not too much of a hardship. Still, it has been pouring from dawn to dusk. But never is a day bad. It might be a day of bad weather, but the day, well, the day itself is always just that, the day. I try not to categorize by labeling it good or bad. It’s part of a practice, to experience a thing without either latching on to it or being put off by it. Just recognize it for what it is directly, without stamping a value on it.

My granddaughter did not say it was a good day. She said she was having a good day. There is a difference. Picasso said it took him a lifetime to draw like a child. I wish to have a day like a child, to have a day that is simply good and call it out as such, like it is the most natural thing in the world. That is a fashion of drawing like a child, to breathe the air and feel the sun and hold someone’s hand and know it is good.

So here I am out in the woods. It is night and I’m listening to a little music, sipping some bourbon, Lucy asleep on my bed while the rain dances on the roof of my little aluminum abode. I took some long walks today, between storms. This afternoon the wind picked up and I noticed a few amber and orange leaves skittering across the field. Fall is on the way, my favorite season. I spent a good amount of the day in meditation and a good amount of the day with my guitar. I’ve been working on Carcassi’s Allegro No. 1 and am getting better at the transition from the third to eighth position. I made myself two simple meals and didn’t watch any TV. I only have 1X data coverage, so I didn’t stream any videos, hell, I couldn’t even load a web page, which is perfect, given my designs for this retreat.

I like going to sleep to the sound rain falling. I have had a good day.

 

By the Wilson Stream.

In Adventure, Life, Nature, The Examined Life, Writing on September 18, 2012 at 6:00 am

Against the night.

I camped along Wilson Stream last week, not far from Toby Falls–four nights in my sleeping bag, crawling out of my tent in the morning, welcomed by crisp fall air and the scent of pine. By Saturday night the weather had turned from cool to cold and I woke in the dark of my tent and searched for my tee shirt. I had my summer bag, rated to forty degrees. It is no longer summer in Maine and the summer bag will be stowed and replaced with my fall-winter bag, rated to zero less eighteen. At one point, deep in the night, I exited the tent and studied the night sky. The northern night sky, void of light pollution and reflecting a black ice clarity, always makes my heart sing. The big dipper hung overhead and from the ladle I traced the line to the north star, steady in the sky. There is a short period, three minutes or so, after crawling from a sleeping bag, where the warmth of sleep clings to a body, insulating against the elements. But, like so many protections, this too is brief and temporary, and a scramble back into the bag follows without delay.

I slept next to moving water and there is hardly a thing better than going to sleep under the north star on the bank of a lively stream.

I am not sorry to see summer go. Fall is my favorite season and now I’m steeling myself for cozy nights and short days and plentiful reading and thinking and earnest study.

_____________

I relish evening fires with new friends, faces in dancing orange and amber, curtain of night descended. I find great comfort in a community fire ring. There is warmth and protection and sturdy friendship constructed there. It is deep in our brains a friend said, this satisfaction. Yes, I agreed. One hundred and fifty thousand years ago my ancesters and your ancesters and all our long-forgotten families sat by the fire as protection against the unknowns of night, finding comfort in one another. That is but one reason to seek out the wild. It feeds an ancient longing that cannot be defined; but if one is still and is patient this ancient thing might speak to you.

No Boxed Thinking.

In Adventure, Life, Nature on September 2, 2012 at 6:00 am

Blue Lobster, photo by Mike Billings, Portland Press Herald, 8/31/2012

The morning paper carried the story of a blue lobster caught by a blue lobster boat on the evening of a blue moon. The lobster–transported in the photo above by sternman Mike Billings–will presumably live, a curiosity ensconced in a saltwater aquarium in Bangor.

Blue moon is the term for a second monthly full moon. (The full explanation is more complicated, but we will settle for simplicity.) No one seems certain why it’s called a blue moon. It does not appear blue. There is a blue moon every two and half to three years–more than once in a blue moon, it seems.

I observed the almost-full soon-to-be-blue moon rise from camp this week. I was sitting at the fire, pondering the tendrils of sparks launched into the gloaming, and it rose from the northeast, over my shoulder, and illuminated our campsite. It rose simply and singularly for us alone and we where selfishly delighted. I watched Virgo rise from the west and knew that libra was waiting patiently below the horizon. I don’t know much about the night sky and remain in a state of ignorant awe when enjoying it.

We camped on a bluff about twenty feet above the Cupsuptic River in Rangeley. It’s a small river at this spot, easy to wade across, and produces a soothing melody by which to fall asleep, or to be enchanted. The name “Cupsuptic” derives from the Abenaki language (the Abenakis where a tribe of original Mainers), meaning “a closed-up stream.”

Next week I journey west to hike a stretch of the Colorado Trail with son Tim. The CT stretches five hundred miles from Denver to Durango. I’m going to bite off just a small portion and will chew throughly.

A Facebook posting recently caught my attention. It was a photograph of a tent glowing from an inner light, against an indigo backdrop of  water and rock and mountain. The text read: Think Outside. No box required. I like that. It would make for a good tattoo.

________

Have a good week, friends. Thanks for reading.

Acoustic Living

In Life, Nature, Technology on August 27, 2012 at 6:00 am

Cupsuptic River, Rangeley, Maine

We are camping next week in Rangeley. In a state with an abundance of outdoor venues, Maine makes my head spin. Rangeley, one of the state’s most popular regions, is nestled to the northwest, in the corrugated topography of the Appalachian plateau. I don’t know Rangeley very well, having only passed through a few times. So, in an effort to expand my experience (a discipline I recommend, expanding one’s experience), Rangeley it is.

I contacted a campground on Cupsuptic Lake and made arrangements for a site. Unlike many of the western states, Maine does not have vast regions of public land. One can go Ninja camping–find a spot and pitch a tent–but most likely you will be poaching on someone’s property–land owned by a lumber company or a public trust. I Ninja camp occasionally, particularly if I’m just knocking around the woods; but usually I stay in a campground.

This campground maintains about three dozen sites on the lake, assembled cheek by jowl, one abutting the next. That’s not my style. Instead, I reserved one of the “remote” sites a few miles to the north. Two of the sites are hike-in only, one site is accessible only via four-wheel vehicle, and two or three can be driven to. I went to the map store at Delorme in Freeport and purchased the topographical Kennebago Quadrangle of the area. (Proudly, I am a map nerd.) The remote campsites follow the Cupsuptic River north, dotting the water at intervals of about two miles. One site, called Moocher’s Home, looks particularly inviting. It sits at a twist in the river, about a mile before it spills into the lake.

I find it curious that the campground’s web page claims that “all remote sites have full cell phone service.” They perceive this to be a selling point. Perhaps it is. But not for me. There is an article in today’s Times called, Turn Off the Phone (And the Tension) that speaks to modifying the thirst for the technological. (Admittedly, a personal challenge both desired and illusory, a classic tension.) I’ve written before (read here, or go to my category “technology”) of my longing for a life less digital and more analogue, a life blend I don’t seem capable of achieving. The article quotes an academic of behavioral science who recommends “setting up a kind of screen diet, building in a period each day to go screenless, either by going for a run and leaving your phone at home, or by stashing it in a drawer during dinner or while hanging out with friends.” This sounds like an addict treating his problem by tucking his stash away in a sock drawer, but I guess one has to start somewhere.

Regardless, I am going into the woods untethered–by choice. It will be just a few days. Too, it will provide a warmup for a longer off-line period I’ve scheduled late in October. I’ve blocked off two weeks for what I am calling a “writing retreat.” I’ve rented a cabin Downeast and will go it unplugged, experiencing, if you will, the acoustic version of life. Two weeks is a long time for an addict to go without. It should afford me a clear measure of my problem. My name is Doug and I seek balance.