February 23, 2010
A Hike in the Beginning of Spring
Sitting on a barren ridge overlooking the Belgrade lakes, I kicked spots of lichen looking for marble sized rocks. Wind gusts flexed the trees and wrestled pine needles as I picked up a small dice sized piece of granite, pulled back the pouch of my wrist rocket and let go in the general direction of a nearby tree. With a zing, the rock chipped off a quarter sized piece of bark and ricocheted towards the frozen lake some 600 feet below.
After exhausting the aerodynamic rocks within reach of my feet, I set my wrist rocket down to enjoy the unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon unfuddled by boyish temptation.
I kicked my feet out on an ottoman-like rock, rested my head on my scrunched up Filson Mackinaw cruiser, and crossed my fingers on my chest.
Two hours earlier, Dan and I had set off on a quest to carpe diem despite having celebrated my 22nd birthday the night before. After deliberating between a trip to the coast and a local gun show, we opted for a more feral outing and headed due west towards the Belgrade lakes region of central Maine. I threw two wrist rockets into the back of our car and we set off. After a thirty minute hike under the canopy of fir trees, the foliage opened up exposing an easterly view of central Maine’s lakes and rivers. For the next few hours we shot at trees with our wrist rockets, captured the season’s first cosmic rays and watched the occasional jet on the final leg of its transatlantic journey.
After twenty minutes of daydreaming and listening to the sounds of snow melting, my boyish impulses returned. I thumbed the blade of my Swiss Army Knife open and whittled a fir branch with no intended destination or journey other than tapping the smell of fresh fir. As the branch shortened and narrowed, my mind jumped to an earlier day some 15 years ago when woods-lore captured my imagination and time.
Building on my countless hours spent struggling to make fire with pieces of wood in my back yard as a seven year old, I started shaping the piece of fir in my left hand into a spindle as part of a bow drill. A bow drill uses a friction to create a small coal.
After finalizing the spindle, I set out in search of the board and hand piece. Scavenging through the underbrush, I narrowly avoided two branches to the face and eventually settled on a dead fir branch and spent five minutes banging it against a pointy rock like one of those dudes from a Geico commercial. Next, I pulled out my red lace from my Danner boot and was off to the races. A half an hour of swearing, bloodied knuckles and frantic blows into a small nest of dried grass later, we finally got a flame.
The fruits of our labor.