Night and Sunrise

Day 122: south of Grider Creek, south of Seiad Valley, CA

Liquid moon poured over me in the center of the night. I awoke neither startled nor afraid, and totally unhurried. But I wondered why I woke, and I never did find the answer to this.

I got up to pee, and walked behind a large tree to separate myself from camp. As I crouched, I heard loud breathing behind me. I turned around and saw nothing, but when I faced camp again, again I heard loud, hoarse breathing. I shifted my position several feet closer to camp.

When I lay back down, I continued to listen. I heard something loud snap a branch, but that was all. Silence. I had the feeling, the distinct feeling, that I was being watched. I felt a lion or some other wildcat was as curious about me as I was about it. Strangely, none of this came with fear. No primal fear, no phobic fear, no discomfort whatsoever. Just a surety that I was indeed getting my desire to be amidst the wilds of America. I lay quietly for many minutes, carefully looking around in the bright moonlight. I saw nothing, but a couple of more times I heard movement barely distinguishable. I would like to think it was a cat, so therefore I will think so. Yet I will not tell my friends for they would not find it comforting, but disconcerting, and so let us pretend that we are alone in the forest, especially at night.

Only one sound eventually punctuated the stillness. A bird? An insect? No, too loud for an insect. An owl? Strange for an owl call, but what type of songbird plays to an audience of only himself? I’ve never heard this animal before, certainly because I am never awake at the wee hours of the morning amongst these companions. But last night, I got to witness the soundscape of the forest in deep night.

 

And then, I did it. I finally did it. I was up and walking this morning before the first light hit the trail. The reward? Sunrise over the distant ridge, peach sky silhouetting the jagged crag. The western mountains swaddled in baby blankets of pink, then blue, then ivory white. Hillsides of bees wake, buzzing like mad before it’s light enough to see them. It seems all the other little creatures are still in bed, beginning to shake off sleep, but here I am, exploring this world before day. And feeling fantastic for having finally gotten to experience something new.

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