Thursday, November 26, 2009


I enjoy solitude more than most people. There are lots of reasons for that, but the main reason is that I really don't care that much for the company of others. People tend to get on my nerves. So whenever I can I try to get as far away as possible from the crowds. That's why I like to vacation in out of the way parks and National Forest sites. The popular outdoors locations are generally packed with folk, which defeats the purpose of my journeys. It only takes one jerk with a big-screen TV parked beside his RV cranked up to full volume and a noisy generator to ruin a trip. (Don't laugh--I've actually had this happen.)

Sometimes I feel the urge to get as far away from anyone as I possibly can. And by this I mean completely alone. At such times I load up my backpack and, filling it with my portable home, bedding, food, take myself into spots where I hope not to see or hear another human being for a while. One place that I used to go for such solitude was Panthertown Valley. However, suburban sprawl has crept in on the boundaries of that place, so it's almost impossible to go there these days and avoid people and the sounds of their machines and creeping construction sites all around the former wilderness.

In fact, it's getting more and more difficult to find spots where I can hope to have some real solitude. Every once in a while I get lucky. The Middle Prong Wilderness was good to me for two entire days during which I never saw a single human. Ironically, the Panthertown Valley afforded me the same--but it was just after a hurricane and most people thought that the place was off limits (and I still heard diesel engines growling when the wind was blowing the wrong way). A few years ago I also had two days of complete solitude in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But I backpacked in during a February and got lucky.

The other place that has afforded me a few days with no contact with humans was the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. Once again, I went during very early Spring when most people don't use the place and found myself all alone--as far as I could tell--in the gorge. I was so alone and it was so quiet that I broke my own rule and built a campfire on that trip. I was camped beside the Linville River and the banks were covered in vast supplies of driftwood that made perfect fodder for my campfire. I kept the fire going for two days and it was--ironically--good company. The only company I needed, in fact.

I'll try to experience similar solitude in the coming weeks. I'm searching for a place to go and have not quite settled on a location. I only hope that December will be a good time for others to avoid the wilds where I go to find peace and quiet.

Quiet along the Linville River two Aprils gone. Firewood was not a problem.

A couple of summers ago hiking into Middle Prong Wilderness. You never know what you're going to find when you go bushwhacking in there.

The mountains can make you feel very tiny. The quiet is soothing.

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