Monday, July 19, 2010
Guest Blogger John Heydinger: Notes from the Last Frontier, pt.3
NOTE TO READERS: I KNOW I HAVEN'T POSTED MYSELF IN A LITTLE WHILE. I AM SO PROUD TO HAVE GREAT FRIENDS WHO HAVE OFFERED TO POST, BUT REST ASSURED, THE LAST JEW STANDING STANDS FOR HIS BLOG.
John Heydinger is a great friend, currently somewhere in Alaska tracking brown bears on the ground and from the air via helicopter. He enjoys macaroni and cheese and watching basketball, particularly the insight of color commentator and former star Bill Walton.
The following is part three in his series, "Notes from the Last Frontier" a journal of his Alaska experience. Enjoy.
On a rare off-day I decided to really get some exercise.
I took a hike up Johnson Pass, a fairly flat trail. The pass is known for an easy trail with the opportunity to walk along Upper Trail Lake for a few miles before heading upwards. Because I needed to work the next day I would be unable to camp-out, therefore I wanted to focus on speed and I strapped on my Vibram Five-Fingers (thanks to my friend Jason for introducing me), hoping to get in 26 miles.
One of the primary rules for hiking in brown bear country is that you don't hike alone; also, you must make a fair amount of noise as you move so that you don't surprise a bear on the trail. About twenty minutes into the hike I realized that I was barely making any noise at all, as my Five-Fingers forced me to walk largely toe-to-heel, instead of the normal heel-to-toe "clomp clomp" of booted hiking. This was fine with me as I resolved to keep myself alert.
About an hour into the hike I came around a bend in the trail and saw, not twenty feet in front of me, a big ole porcupine, lumbering down the trail in front of me. He (or she, I'm not the best at sexing porcupines) was headed away from me and he neither saw nor heard me so close to him. Because I wasn't particularly in a hurry and I found this fellow so interesting, I decided to follow him, close, but not so close that he would become aware of me and change his behavior, or take off into the woods.
It would be easy to say that the half-an-hour which followed was wholly uneventful.
My little friend continued to trundle along the trail, while I followed, slowly and quietly, within ten feet of him. Here and there he would stop to chew a piece of grass, and I would duck behind a tree. He would stop to scratch himself, much like a dog, and sniff around the base of trees. I had no particular feeling of connection nor special "belonging to the land" as all of this happened. Rather, it was thoroughly pleasant to see a rather reclusive animal, moving along, solely at his own ease; to be there to witness another simply going about the business of living and walking in the sunlight.
He never did see me. As he came to a bridge on the trail his path and mine diverged and he made his way along the creek bed, up the hill. Stalking this fellow I learned little about his ecology, or his habits as such. Rather he helped to remind me that we are all moving along together and that we are well served to remember that our community extends beyond ourselves. It was simply nice to share the space with him.
at least for while.