SPRING IN NEW YORK
NOTE: For those of you who've never visited NYS, there's a lot more to it than New York City - for which those of us in the upstate area are thankful indeed. This is dairy farm country and part of the Finger Lakes Region.
Nothing lasts forever - not even New York State winters. The flocks of geese heading north a month ago foretold the coming of spring, but it's just been in the past week that the buds on the trees reflected the change of seasons that officially took place a few weeks ago.
With the passing of winter into spring comes the realization that it's time to get outside and do "something". Cabin fever has reached a fevered pitch and the urge to head out into the woods is overpowering. Everything is new, fresh, and coming back to life again....and hibernation gives way to a sense of adventure. Where to begin?
We started by heading up the hill behind the place we moved into. We knew there was some state forestland nearly, but as we reached the edge of the woods about 500 yards away, the trailmarkers showed us just how close it was. This is part of a very large wilderness area that's accessible for hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, horseback riding, and firewood cutting. It had been a few days since the rain had stopped, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that the "creek" beside our driveway was actually the lower end of an access road that runs through the adjacent state land. From the top of the hill we can see for miles - in fact, to the base of one of the Finger Lakes that's at least ten miles away and beyond.
Being in the woods inspired us to do a gear check/revamp that lasted into the wee hours of the morning. There's nothing like sending a couple of gun-totin' crazies into the woods to inspire the urge to tote in style...or perhaps we just wanted to go through equipment that had been shuffled during the move to make sure we had everything in its place. With my resident expert's guidance, I lightened my BOB by several pounds (although I managed to convince him that the M&M supply was an absolute necessity). As is always the case, we were pleased with the end results of our efforts and felt more comfortable about our preparedness level - seems you always find something you forgot you have when doing gear/supply checks, as well as a lot of "junk" you can do without. By the time we move again the household inventory will be reduced substantially!
New locations mean revamping old plans - new coordinates, new routes, new trails to explore, new campsites to map out. The terrain in this area generally consists of steep hills and narrow valleys, which makes emergency routing an interesting proposition - 10 miles "as the crow flies" can take a lot longer than you'd imagine when the route resembles a roller-coaster track. My inclination was to gain access to a series of pipeline trails that lead to just about anywhere you'd ever want to be; one of these goes through "the land" where we train. By skirting along the woodline, I could travel most of the distance between my place of employment to the land without having to cross any paved roads; however, in checking the maps a second time, it seems the path of greatest resistance is also the path of least visibility. Add four hours to the ETA and multiply by two and I'll be there when I get there...
Now it's time to start in earnest. The group has become disorganized from neglect and lazy from too many months of inside living. There are new people, new ideas, new standards to get in place and get accustomed to. By enlisting the assistance of our friends during the move, we managed to get everyone's mind back in tune with training; now comes the tricky part: getting mind and body in tune with each other. It seems as though this was a long if rather mild winter, and neglected muscles have given way to some new but satisfying aches from what amounts to an almost steady ascent from the house to the woodlots. The same coming of spring that colors dormant branches green also sends myriad natural springs flowing down these steep hills - it's soggy to say the least and a quagmire to speak the truth. Those newly-polished boots are going to get ugly before it's all over, and the tents and packs are going to take a beating. Finding a dry campsite in the spring is an exercise in creativity around here, but I expect if we're persistent we can manage. Before we can get into some serious bushwacking, we need to acquire some topos of the new area, and get them marked up for realistic travelling. The four mile stretch between here and our first rendezvous point is likely to include several wetland areas, and practicing the fine art of avoidance is preferable to slogging through stagnant water.
A friend of mine said she went into the woods the other day and practiced building a shelter from downed tree branches and other available materials she found there. I applaud her initiative in practicing what we all preach - and I encourage all of you to do the same. It's not enough to know the ins and outs of surviving; no matter how much you read about it, or hear about it, or watch videos about it, there's no substitute for "doing". Survivalism is a mindset, a lifestyle all its own and not a spectator sport or a weekend warrior game - it's everyday, all the time, all at once. Spring is a time of renewal, and there's no time like the present to renew your commitment to walking the walk ...