Monday, September 08, 2014


At McNallys (on our morning rounds after the farmers market) I ran into a book that I’d been aware of for a while - Microadventures by Alastair Humphreys. My first thoughts were that I didn't need a book like this - I had my fair share of adventures. But I started to wonder if that was really true. I was just as prone to inertia as the next person, waiting till the handful of times a year when I travelled. For example, all summer I'd been saying I should get the kayak out more, but somehow never "getting around" to it.

So that afternoon I got off my butt and took the kayak out on the river and had an enjoyable paddle.

The book is also big on sleeping outside, not in official campgrounds, but wherever you find a bit of wildness. I used to do this, but sadly it’s been years.

So late in the evening, after a movie (and a glass of wine), I grabbed my pack, with my sleeping bag and water and not much else, and set out into the darkening night. I took a familiar route, down the alley, across the park, and over the pedestrian way on the bridge. At the far side I turned left, away from town and into the Sutherland Beach area. These used to be my favourite running trails, but after it became an off leash dog area and I got harassed and bitten several times I quit coming here. But I'd timed it well and after passing one exiting dog walker I didn't encounter any others.

It was a warm evening, peaceful and quiet in the dark. The almost full moon was plenty to follow the trail by, except where it passed under the trees and got darker and spookier. Hearing a noise I looked over and saw several deer running away from the surprise of my appearance.

I took no gadgets (other than my camera) - no phone, not even a watch. I didn't even take a book, part of the goal being to think, not to fill my mind with someone else’s story.

I wasn't planning to go far since I wanted to get back early in the morning for my long run (20k again). I found a suitable spot on the river bank, away from the trails and with only a few city lights in the distance. I lay on my back in my sleeping bag and watched the scattered clouds drift slowly by. Most of the stars were overpowered by the bright moon but I could see the familiar Big Dipper.

It was surprisingly noisy. Music faded in and out. Traffic droned in the distance. Planes coming and going to the airport. A chorus of yips sounded at one point - foxes perhaps?

The ground was surprisingly hard for what had at first appeared to be soft grass. I'd only brought a thin foam pad and it was a far cry from the soft air filled sleeping pads I was used to.

The bugs were the worst nuisance. They weren't really bad, but just as I'd start to drift off one would land on my face and I'd startle awake and slap at it. Because of the bugs I had my sleeping bag drawn up around my neck but that made it too hot. I have to admit it crossed my mind that in 20 minutes I could be home in my own comfortable bed.

But patience solves many things. Eventually the night cooled off and the bug disappeared. The music stopped and the traffic quieted. And I slept surprisingly well, apart from waking occasionally to change position on the hard ground.

It seemed only a short time later that the sky started to lighten and a new day arrived, heralded by honking geese. Fighting the urge to turn over and go back to sleep, I sat up and pulled on a light jacket. The air was cool but not cold. It was only a few minutes work to pack my sleeping bag. No more than 10 minutes from waking to walking.

sunrise and geese

It was a beautiful morning with clear blue skies and not much wind. After a few minutes walking I found a good spot to stop and make a cup of coffee on my little folding twig stove. No big "white man" fire as my father called them. A handful of twigs burn quick but hot and boil a cup of water in no time. Coffee in hand I resumed walking.

I was glad I'd gotten up early. It was calm and silent, no one out walking their dogs yet. As I crossed the bridge one of the few people I saw was a lone fisherman casting in the early morning sun. I paused in the back alley to snap a few photos of the backlit flowers - wild stragglers managing to last late in the summer.

flowers in the alley

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