It’s that time of year, well, a bit past due but I was lucky enough to be doing field research for an extra 5 weeks this year. I’m looking for your submissions for issue 3 of The Nature Zine: (re)connecting with the natural world.
Get creative! Send your poems, stories, thoughts, illustrations, paintings, photos to be submitted in the next issue. Topics can include but are not limited to: favorite hikes, backcountry recipes (vegan only please), foraging tips, trail reviews, adventure stories, bike touring, species descriptions/identification tips, collages, places in the city to appreciate the natural world, permaculture, primitive skills, fears of the natural world, train hopping, attempts to balance city and wilderness, essays, book reviews. I think you get the idea.
There will be a limited edition tape release with issue 3!
Thanks to everyone who has submitted to and supported the Nature Zine in the past and continue to do so. Issues 1 & 2 are still available, but there may be a delay on shipping as I need to focus on getting Issue 3 together for now. If you are in Chicago or New York City, you can pick up a copy at Quimby’s Bookstore or Bluestockings Bookstore.
Send submissions to batsnbikes at gmail dot com by December 1, 2014. If you prefer to snail mail your copy, please email for an address.
The contents of my pack lay scattered across the sidewalk. There’s a slit of sun cutting across the path and I’ve strategically placed myself onto this thin slice of warmth. I’m shifting items around into various piles, taking moments to enjoy feeling the sun creeping into the sky, slowly warming the frigid air around me. A park service truck pulls up behind Sanchez’s Sprinter, a man steps out, eyeing us, and he doesn’t seem to be pleased that we’ve decided to take over the entrance to the seasonally closed visitors’ center. He approaches us, and his look of discontent does not fade until after he gestures for a handshake, placing cookies into Sanchez’s palm while saying, “Merry Christmas.” It is indeed Xmas morning, and I’m starting off the day with the best gift- my recent tradition of camping and hiking on a day that I would otherwise dread.
Besides the cookies, the ranger also leaves us with a local map, safety tips, confidence that the Sprinter can handle the gravel road to the trailhead and his personal approval of our decision to hike and camp in the Needles region of the Canyonlands National Park in the winter. We flip through the charts for backcountry permit reservations, the boxes are all empty for the weeks shown; we mark off December 25 and 26. Soon after, we are on the trail- it’s a short climb in the beginning, the snow is packed down on the rocks forming a nice slick surface in all the wrong places. Moments later we are hiking across a large flat rock surface that must bathe in the sun for hours each day because the snow is absent and we’re throwing our packs down and peeling off our layers. After a couple of miles, we arrive to our campsite region and scout out a sunny spot with the least amount of snow, only to realize the next day that the sun wouldn’t hit this spot until the late morning.
Camp is set and we hike a few miles to Druid Arch and back. The path mostly follows the frozen creek and Sanchez finds joy in breaking the ice that has formed between the rocks. He searches to find a large patch that will have the perfect shatter as he jumps onto it, the sound of the crash echoing into the quietness around us. We become aware that we are close to Druid Arch when the trail starts to quickly gain in elevation. I over analyze each icy step as I make my way up the pile of boulders that tower in front of me. We are in the shadows, but gazing upward I can see sunlight at the top. Upon reaching this cast of light, I am also struck with the intensity of the arch. The sun is beginning to set and I’m placed between the arch and its shadow that is transcending upon the rock wall behind me.
We return to our tent in the dark, the cold is quickly filling the night air around us as if the sun had never existed. I immediately add my layers back on before my body begins to feel the cold. Some tea and soup keep me warm for a bit longer, but then all I can think about is burrowing into my sleeping bag. My feet are already freezing by this point, and I realize there is no hope for them – forever doomed with my poor circulation. But let’s pretend that I slept great and I was warm all through the night. Nevermind that it was in the single digits, what mattered was that I was surrounded by the vastness of the Canyonlands and I would climb out of the tent the next morning to find a patch of sun to warm me once again.
It’s 21:00 Wednesday night and I’ve just pulled my Toyota into the dirt drive of the trailhead to Big Beechy trail off of WV150 Scenic Highway. I turn off my car, and then the lights. Everything goes dark around me. I panic for a moment, a long moment and a million thoughts go through my brain: What am I doing? Why am I so stubborn and why am I at this trailhead at night and most importantly- WHY AM I ALONE?! Why did I think this was a good idea?! What if someone saw me pull into this drive and they know I’m alone and they are going to wait until I get out of the car to attack me? WHY AM I ALONE?! No phone service. Ahhh, I totally have to pee and now I’m too freaked out and don’t want to get out of the car. CALM DOWN! Turn on your dome light, no wait, don’t- then people can see in and you can’t see out. WHAT PEOPLE?! Ok, turn on your headlights… but wait, that’s when it happens in movies: you turn on your lights and BAM there is someone right in front of you! Just do it, Vanessa. Ok… no one is around. Calm down and get out of the car. How do you plan to go into the forest alone if you can’t even get out of your car at night. OK! OK!”
I eventually got out of my car, headlamp on and knife in hand to pee right outside my car. Don’t worry, I didn’t start hiking right away. I decided to sleep in my car and wake up at sunrise to start my adventure. It was a long drive and I figured it best to just be there at night and ready to go in the morning. After folding up my back seat giving me enough room to lay down in the back of my car (Toyota Rav4) I got out the map printouts, copies I had made from a trail guide and my hiking GPS. Something I’ve always done before wandering off into the forest: take a GPS point of the vehicle. I reread through the trail info I’d copied from a pretty awesome book I recommend checking out if you are going to hike the Cranberry Wilderness: Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide. Looking at maps and reading trail guides calms me. An outline of the hike, followed by a bit of details and photos:
- Big Beechy Trail: 2.0 miles
- District Line Trail: 2.8 miles
- County Line Trail: 4.0 miles
- County Line Trail: 3.0 miles
- Middle Fork Trail: 2.5 miles
- Big Beechy Trail: 3.0 miles
- Big Beechy Trail: 3.5 miles
Total: 20.8 miles (I’m going to call it at least 21 because I wandered and check out some things off trail.)