Enjoy your own companionship while alone
Although the summer has provided a fair share of sun and mild temperatures this season, it has also produced a spat of extreme weather incidents all across the North Country. High winds have snapped limbs and felled trees, while drenching rains have left the rivers and streams swollen and the trails flooded.
There has also been a verified tornado that touched down in St. Lawrence County long enough to rip the roof off a barn. There was also a high-wind event that made a mess of things when it passed through the Fish Creek/Rollins Pond campgrounds earlier in the season, toppling trees and breaking limbs.
While incidents of severe weather have always been a component of the local outdoor legacy, it does appear the frequency and ferocity of recent foul weather patterns has been increasing in recent days.
Weather extremes were cited as the reason for two recent drowning incidents that occurred on the Sacandaga River and the Ausable. The incidents were further amplified by news of a kayaker who went missing on the Saranac Chain. Sadly, rescue efforts to find the missing paddler were shifted into recovery mode after exhaustive search efforts that included the Saranac Lake Fire and Rescue and the state Department of Environmental Conservation eventually located the victim with the aid of a sonar device.
If you happen to be camping and an incident of extreme weather occurs, hopefully you will have taken care of the first step in the process. That would mean you pitched your tent on high ground, where water would not run off and puddle. In addition, you would have sited your tent away from a leaning tree or where broken branches could fall on it. And in anticipation of warding off wayward wild critters such as bees, raccoons and other camp pests, you had the good sense to avoid setting up your camp near a bees nest or around obvious holes or dens that may be home to skunk, fox, raccoon or other such critters that would be interested in sharing a meal with you.
As a rule, I prefer to camp away from others, and often, even two is a crowd. Typically, this is an effort to save them from my “Snores of a Thousand Slices,” which would surely endanger their opportunity to enjoy the complete and utter solitude of the wilderness. I also like to keep my distance to avoid hearing their snores or conversations.
I don’t want any neighbors when I go off to camp. I want an opportunity to be alone. As Noah Rondeau explained, after having spent more than nine months primarily all alone in the solitudes of Cold River City: “I find that I am very good company.”
Unfortunately, the art of becoming lost is rapidly becoming a lost art. Primarily, this is often due to the difficulty involved in obtaining the primary ingredient: the opportunity to be alone. As wild areas are becoming more and more uncommon amid the ever encroaching world, solitude has become ever more difficult to achieve. It only takes a few days to discover that you’re rarely alone in the vast Adirondack woods.
A recent National Park Service report indicates the sounds of civilization can now be heard in more than 30 percent of our nation’s wilderness areas. Despite our best efforts to escape the intrusions of the modern world, we can no longer hide from the jets overhead, the satellites above, the selfish mountaintop cell phone conversations and the selfish selfies they send to them.
Although cell phones have proven to be extremely valuable tools — especially in terms of locating lost hikers or hunters — the omnipresent use of cellphones for simple conversation or the vanity of making a dinner reservation from the summit of Mount Marcy is simply rude and unnecessary.
Despite all of the planning, preparation and effort necessary to successfully escape the din of civilization, it takes only the sound of a single ring tone to be reclaimed. I often wonder if it is still possible.
We go to the woods in order to get away from the clutter of civilization, and to step back to a time when it was entirely possible to get away for a spell. I remember those days, when I was untethered, and I’m too old, not to miss them.
Even after darkness engulfs the planet, the mysterious voids of the evening sky are no longer immune, as satellites and space stations intrude and leave a paw print on the blank, black blanket that was once was the “Great Beyond.”
Climbers atop Mount Everest regularly use hand-held satellite phones to proclaim they’ve made it; as do astronauts.
It has become impossible to escape the din of civilization. As a society, we are heading toward a time when, according to the New York Times, “portable phones, pagers and data transmission devices of every sort will keep us terminally in touch.”
However, in a more important aspect, society has become almost terminally out of touch. Our innate need for genuine and constructive aloneness has been lost and forgotten, and in the process, so has a part of all of us. We no longer have the opportunity to be loners, as it is nearly impossible to escape from the technology that now surrounds us, monitors us and, sadly, defines us.
Over the years, I’ve learned there are times when I don’t need to be in touch, or I just don’t want to be.
Although humans are surely social animals, we also have a great need to spend time alone. The scent of solitude provides us with an opportunity to enjoy the companionship of the only individual we will ever share our lives with from the beginning to end: oneself.
With practice, solitude teaches us how to deal with this single companion, how to put up with them and to get the best out of them. However, without the regular opportunity to spend time alone, we’ve become out of practice and out of touch.