Sunday, February 24

Memories are made of this - Good Times

This scene won't mean much to any of you out there unless you have a very sharp eye and know the Lake District views extremely well. Today it appears at the head of the new E--Petition campaign site.

But to me it's a time of great joy. And one wildcamp that I'd like to share to explain some of the associated passion.

We all have those moments of intense emotional highs. And much less commonly, thankfully, the lows as well.
Those times when you try to suck up inside you all that is happening. Storing that special emotional state away with mental triggers, to recall at less happier times.
Storing Hope, if you like.

Human memory being such a vague tool at times such moments may get mislaid, possibly never to return. And then suddenly thirty or so years later a trigger phrase, smell or image brings that occasion flooding back. Or at least some of the associated events and feelings. But it's rare to get that full emotional intensity as felt at the time.

August Bank Saturday lunchtime 2005. I stepped off the train at Windermere for an ad-hoc Lakeland wildcamp trip. No prior planning, just a sudden opportunity for a quick break that came from out of the blue. The rucksack, bulkier in those days, was a hurried collection of walking/camping gear left in a ready-to-go pile after my previous trip earlier in the year. As a result my synthetic sleeping bag proved too large to fit in the pack alongside the gear for a week away.

Hence my trip north from the station was broken by an afternoon in Ambleside urgently seeking a replacement bag to fit inside my pack. Or else spend the rest of the week lugging around unused camping gear whilst YHA hopping in the area.

Ambleside was that anthill of tourist activity that only a Bank Holiday brings. The outdoor shops, scenting the end of the camping season, were of course running down their stock. But finally I found a knowledgeable sales assistant, who listened to my predicament and was able to meet the criteria I set for a bag (compact, 2/3 summer wildcamp use, and within my price bracket)
I wandered out of the shop bearing a Vango Venom 225 a 3 season down offering that packed into such a ridiculously small space it could well have been carried in my pocket. The company name was one I recognised, but the bag/model unknown. A calculated risk, but then my choices were limited by necessity and time constraints.

Hopping a bus to Grasmere I alighted on to the village green for a quick change into walking gear. The pack now hugely reduced in volume once the walking boots were removed (and I'm still trying to work out how to overcome the 'boot' space on train/walk trips to this day)

Hitting the track up onto the fells rather late in the afternoon I met walkers descending from their day out. Once past Easedale Tarn I was the sole figure heading upwards. No crowds here. The earlier sunny weather now turning to ominous cloud with a moistness in the air.

I pitched at a new spot near Codale Tarn, one I'd noted in my trip log on a previous trip up to Sergeant Man. Well sheltered behind a large rock, safe from the freshening breeze, and successfully used the following year by Litehiker and his tarp at the UK Bloggers meet. A good spot.

The cloud cover was now complete but visibility remained good. In the valley I could see Grasmere a couple of hours walk away, and apparently a source of a mobile telephone mast as I was able to contact home to report my location, route plans, and emergency logistics.

A brew made, I was rested and refreshed following the exertion of my walk in. And then, suddenly, nothing.

The early start to catch the train from a station now 350 miles distant. The bus hopping northwards. The Ambleside shopping trip. The walk in. One continual rush to get to this spot. The next few days were mine to spend as I wished.

I sat and watched the world around me, settling into the environment.

A young buzzard mewed as it flew amongst the rocks above Codale Tarn. Its parents choosing this time to drive the now adult bird from their territory, to make its own place amongst the fells. I watched their interplay for an hour or so until the fledgling moved on.

The wind freshening and cloud cover complete - rain undoubtedly on the way as night approached. I turned on my MP3 player, a cheap simple memory stick. An experiment I was trying during this trip aware from experience that radio reception on the fells could be very variable.

Accompanied by the rich sound of my music selection I strolled about my temporary home, exploring amongst the rocks and water sources. Killing time it seemed. In reality soaking up that unusual feeling of having No time-target; No to-dos; No places-to-be. Just being.

Looking over to Grasmere I could imagine the bank holiday evening entertainment starting to get into full swing. But for me there had been no sight or sound from humanity for many hours.

Onto the player came a new piece of music, something I had quickly loaded the previous day. Rob Zombie's thumping ditty 'Pussy Liquor'. Not to everyone's taste I'm certain. But at that time and in that place the rhythm grabbed at me in a way that listening to it elsewhere wouldn't have been possible.

And for some reason, alone there high amongst the fell, I started to dance. Bopping amongst the rocks and heather And it just felt so right for the moment.

Playing the track as I sit typing these words I vividly recall the huge beaming smile I was wearing both at the total incongruity of that scene for any passer-by, and the deep sense of happiness and at-one -with-the-worldness deep within me.

The following day I walked straight into the teeth of a rather nasty gale force storm and recognising the high element of risk there followed an uncomfortable and very rapid descent to the safety of the Langdale valley.

But that sense of well being remained with me for many days, and is one that can be recalled when needed.

And the sleeping bag? A great bargain and still in regular use despite many temptations to replace it.

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Amazing coincidence - the Vango Venom 300 (a tasteful little grey and yellow number, and reasonably priced considering the good quality) was the sleeping bag I took with me in my North Face Terra 40 backpack on my recent Camino walk! It fitted a treat into the bottom compartment. And, as you say, it scrunches up to almost nothing. Lovely post - thanks.
PS The zip a bit iffy though...
Good Post, Mr Hee!

My own solution to the boots on train/walk trips problem is to just wear the boots. I try to ignore the stares on the homeward trip when both boots and trousers are sporting more than their fair share of mud!
great post and i think i have a plan now for a few days around the spring equinox.lakes for a few days.thanks
I'd agreethe zips not the biggest I've ever seen, but never stuck on me yet though

Boots - tried that before. But after 6 hrs on a train they're not fit toremove until at least 10 miles from the nearest human habitation. Plus I carry goretex trail shoes (Hedgehogs) for a change, so usually travel in those.
M - glad to be the catalyst
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