I Recommend Camping on the Side of a Hill for at Least One Night


I reached Cosby Knob shelter at about 6pm. One of my first 20+ mile days. I started the day at Icewater Spring shelter.

The tenting area at Cosby Knob is hilly with a little stream running through the valley of the camp. There weren’t many tenting spots left by the time I got there. I found a little plateau by a sturdy tree halfway up the hill and away from the stream.

On closer inspection the plateau was at a bit of a slant with two tiers separated and bordered by roots. The roots made two troughs. One for my pack and one for me.

I set up my tent over the tiers. I put my pack in the far root trough and climbed in my tent. I had misestimated the grade. I was pulled strongly down the hill toward my pack. I experimented with curling up and bracing against my pack. The gravity pull felt so strong that I thought my pack and I might roll down the hill, swirling into a tent burrito.

I placed my sleeping pad and quilt in the upper tier and settled into the root trough. I found a way to nestle into the trough in a way that I could relax, one hip and opposite shoulder tucked inside the lip of the roots.

It took a while but when sleep came I had the most beautiful and vivid dream.

Old friends were dropping off seed packets for me at my childhood home. My mother was at home too, answering the door and helping to bring in the seed packets. In the dream my mother was vibrant and happy. My mother in this earthly realm passed away in 2005.

The seed packets were literal seed packets in the dream and they also seemed metaphorical. We are planting seeds for each other all the time. Every person we encounter, every interaction, shifts our trajectory to some degree. We turn away, we turn toward. Do more of that. Don’t do that.

Thinking of seeds for growth, as a teacher I can’t teach anyone anything under any circumstances that they aren’t already primed to learn. I can plant seeds though to sprout later.

I’m still calling up and budding seeds planted decades ago for me.

“Oh that’s what they meant!”

Back on the trail I thought about so many people in my life who I carry with me daily in lessons, perspective shifts, snippets of memory, preferences.

I had several conversations with hikers over the next few days about the intelligence of trees. How trees communicate and share nutrients through underground networks. Mycorrhiza, the mutual symbiotic relationship between fungus/mushrooms and plants/trees.

A few days later my neighbor back home in CT who I share a garden with let me know that our lilac tree we planted at least 5 years ago bloomed for the first time.

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