Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Swamp Sites

In a long line stretching from the lowland creek all the way up past a piped springhead and beyond, the Swamp Campsites(including the #9 Tipi)were a series of stealth campsites first shown to me by Salmon Paul in 1977. We walked back into the woods along the little skunk cabbage plants and found a stone and brick spring house choked in the brush.

All along the creek there were little campsites here and there, one by a fallen log, one by a leaning basswood tree, one further up next to the tumbling creek I called Little Winklers, one further up the draw where I built a small meditation tipi, and the several final ones high up on the ridge finger forming one of the many leads going to a 4400 foot mountain knob.

In a way, this creek bed and the adjacent campsites was where my career in the woods all began. I wouldn't be sitting here now on the banks of the Bald River wilderness or in the Citico wilderness if it wasn't for the many nights spent along skunk cabbage creek, the swamp site, the hooch camp, the debris hut camp and the tipi camp. It was here that I could put up my nice North Face Tuolumne tent w/o paranoia and use my now aging Bigfoot bag and later the new Ibex.

In a June '78 entry I wrote: "Well, I had a good morning today hiking out behind my humble home. I started up a stream bank lush with may apples and violets to a point about one mile inland where I found a campsite well protected by dry ground though not far from the trickling stream. Along the way I dug violet roots for supper, shook the dirt off and placed them half submerged in the rapid current of the creek to rinse. Leaving them, I went further upstream and found a pretty draw where I left a stone marker to find in the future. I traveled on a short distance coming to a huge grassy clearng while further off was the high mountain wrapped in midmorning mist. I stopped here and eventually went back, knowing that I would return and go beyond the clearing to the source of the spring fed creek."

My gear at the Swamp Site in the beginning was a USAF duffel bag slung over one shoulder holding a tent and a bag and an ensolite pad. One rainy night I camped on the little swamp creek with my Bigfoot bag when a downpour hit me hard and I did not bother putting up the tent. The bag got soaked and I carried it into town in the morning and went straight to the dryers at a laundrymat. Another time I was camped there in the tent when a huge tree limb fell to the ground ten feet away and made my heart stop. Now I always look above me when I camp(but I didn't at Marys Rock in the Shenandoahs back in 1988 when a tree fell on the tent, but that's another story).

My most remarkable memory of this lower creek camp was when I threw my bedroll on the ground w/o the tent and was startled awake by a banshee scream in the night right behind me about seven feet. I froze solid and could barely breathe. Later a friend told me it was a mad deer wanting some space. I cannot duplicate the horrible sound it made.

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