Since the last ordeal and the conclusion of shaman sickness (although not of ordeals, I’m already getting info on the next four) the Lady, and of course Var too, has started seriously pushing me in several directions. Some of these are making me realize how much longer the shaman sickness ran than I had thought. I think that the real start of all this can be traced to me breaking my neck. For fear that they might answer I have elected not to ask the Bosses if my injury was in part their doing or if they merely took advantage. Given that the break in my neck was a direct result of surprising, I imagine that the worsening of my tics would have played a role in the initiation of shaman sickness no matter what.
This bring us to tonight’s topic, camping. Not in the “ShowtunesShaman” sense of the word though. Rather I refer to going outdoors and hiking and sleeping and the like. Being outside, especially in the woods or by/on the sea is incredibly important to those of us in the Clan of the Sacred Lands. I won’t go into too many details, but I will say that it is essential to our spooky. Prior to my injury there were a good number of physical activities that were central to our magic and spirituality. The change in our magical focus after my injury was probably essential to my becoming a shaman and now that am not as single mindedly fixated on surviving the process, She is pushing us all to find a balance between what we are now and what we were. This is necessary for us to fill the role She needs of us, as well as for Fire and Summer to develop the ways they need to.
Hiking in the woods was the most frequent of those outdoor activities. Regular walks in the woods were central to our way of life. By our I primarily mean Fireheart and I, as Summer came along after I was injured, his experiences were somewhat less intense in that way. In addition to hiking, Fire and I were also quite interested in backpacking. That is: hiking through the woods, stopping for the night to camp, and then hiking on further. Our best trip wasn’t quite a typical backpacking trip, but we spent a week out on the Appalachian Trail where it passes through Massachusetts camped out in a lean-to and doing day hikes. This isn’t really allowed, but since it was Dec 30 to Jan 4 no one really cared.
Now it is looking like we may be doing a not inconsiderable bit of backpacking this winter. We already have several plans coming together and the Lady has made it clear that this is to be a priority. Some of that is certainly because She wants us to have our gear and skills together in case the need arises to be away from civilization for a bit. We are not planning or expecting anything, but there are growing indications that what is politely called “civil unrest” is a circumstance that many of us would do well to have plans in the event of.
This brings us to my problem. We live in a state which makes a great deal of money off of outdoors tourism. The northern part of New Hampshire is made up largely of White MountainNational Forest, which runs into several large forests in Maine. We can drive just over an hour north and enter into a largely unbroken stretch of forest land covering multiple states and larger than some countries in area. Not to mention that Vermont to the west is mostly forest land as well, as is much of upstate New York to the west of that. Aside from WMNF to our north, there are several state forests closer to us. The second most hiked mountain in the world is five towns to our south. One would think that I would have no difficulty finding areas where one can camp.
I know this because I did think so. Unfortunately it is not true. Many forest areas only permit camping at designated shelters on certain trails, which is not a problem if you can only find out which ones. Some forests allow camping unless otherwise noted; believe it or not this has not proved to be better for me. The issue is this: how does one find out where one can hike and camp on trails or at trailside shelters. Most of the readily available hiking books profile day hikes, since that is a much larger market. And the internet, ha!
I don’t know if this is new or not. Around 2000, the last time I was seriously backpacking to any degree I was not nearly as internet savvy as I am now (which still isn’t all that much). I could find news and pictures of men’s genitals pretty readily and that was mostly what I did. When one searches camping today one finds information on campgrounds. This is very different. Campgrounds are places where one drives and pitches a tent, or more often apparently, lives in the vehicle which got you there.
What we do at Cauldron Farm for multi-day events is camping in the campground sort of way. It sure isn’t anything like what I am looking for info on. Even searching for “backpacking” somehow led me repeatedly to either private or state-run campgrounds. The reason is simple, money. There isn’t much money to be had from backpackers. Although at White Mountain National Forest, many of the trailside shelters are not cheap (a caretaker collects the money), if there is a charge they are often quite nice shelters; and there is usually the option to go past a certain distance away and find a spot to pitch a tent.
Unlike some folks I am not going to make a value judgment on people taking RV’s to or renting cabins at campsites. I figure that there isn’t a lot of point in spending a whole day in an RV or cabin and since these are mostly families, at some point this means kids are getting some fresh air and maybe some exercise. In a perfect universe they are also learning some appreciation of nature.
I freely admit that both hiking and backpacking are strange hobbies. “I know! Let’s go walk really far. Let’s do it over often difficult terrain. And to cap it off, let’s do it with fifty or so pounds of crap on our back so we can stay out and do it some more without having to go stay in a Motel6 or something else with a bed or toilet.” In further fairness, I should say that I really like the trailside shelters that have nearby outhouses or compost toilets. I’ll probably try to stay near those sorts for as many trips this year as possible, especially given that it’ll be winter.
Just don’t tell me about your “camping trip” that involved staying in constant reach of a gas stove, shower, and satellite TV. I’m not even really interested in the idea of staying in a tent at a campsite, but it is a lot closer to what I am interested in than a cabin or RV. My way isn’t necessarily better, just different and I’d like it to be recognized as such. If nothing else, it would make it a lot easier to find info about places to go from the internet.
And no, I refuse to believe that being interested in being near something with a seat and a roof for doing my business when the wind chill is below 0 degrees Fahrenheit is the start of a slippery slope down to watching “Project Runway” from an RV at a “campsite.”