Saturday, July 26, 2008

A brief return to the mountains

A brief return to the mountains

16:00 hrs on 17 July 08: Base camp was in good condition. It had weathered yet another field season. Many days and nights were spent at camp. It was disassembled and loaded in my truck within 45 minutes.

The tent had to be emptied and cleaned. Tarp cords were unfastened from the posts and surrounding trees. I pulled the tarps off and swept them clean of dozens of spiders and periodic cicada exoskeletons. Also losing there home were the three large crickets that perched each night on my screen window.

Between the tarps was a mouse nest. The mice family evidently successfully saw the young leave the cozy home. No sign was evident of the wriggling babies seen in silhouette from inside the tent a month prior.

After removing recycling, a bag of rubbish, and miscellaneous camp items from the tent, the stakes were pulled and it was put up. Moving the tent from its ground area of three months revealed a matted depression of leaves that hadn’t seen the light all summer. The floor area was randomly dotted with the exit holes of periodic cicadas.

All that remains at camp is what was there before. Only stones stand at the tarp posts and around the fire pit. A few small stones also remained around ferns and saplings that were endangered of being trampled.

Not a tree or brush in the camp had been felled for any purpose or by accident. It was a truly low impact field camp.

The evening lighting was phenomenal. It’s a scene frozen in mind. The light our eyes perceive can never be captured on film, but the lighting was optimal for photography.

As I write this on the mountain side above camp a pileated woodpecker is scaling up a tree only 30 meters away. This evening’s singing birds include; peewees, nut hatches, wood thrushes, ovenbirds, cardinals, scarlet tanagers, hooded warblers, black-and-white warblers, wrens, vireos, and blue-jays. The birds that are being vocal are not singing much if at all. They are mostly calling and more active in the sunlight of the northwest slope. By far the dominates sounds are those of the buzzing, humming and whining hordes of insects.

Elk tracks were abundant. A pair of dung beetles rolled a ball of elk droppings as a flat millipede crawled by for a photograph. An ovenbird, a swallowtail, and a few flowers provided good portraits as well.

Moving south and up the ridge’s slope light beamed through gaps and lit the way with striking patches of green. It wasn’t the dull green of spring. The foliage was bright. This was the setting for the final evening on the mountain. It was indeterminable whether the natural soundings or mixed emotions where the backdrop.

Both seemed to be in unison. I was in mid-thought on a tangent. I think it was something about anthropomorphism. Then the unexpected happened. A cerulean sang at 20:57hrs. It sang only a song or two and was silent for a while than sang twice more. The canopy of hickory and oak was full of other species as well. None of them where singing much. First year birds were darting about more actively than the adults. Among them were first years fattening up for migration in another month.

The mountain was at peace and so was I after a tranquil close to another field season.

The sun set quickly and I walked down from the mountain through the darkness. It was a brief return… a brief season. Time flies. It’s as fleeting as migrating songbirds.

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