Our journey over the border into our Motherland was a small inconvenience, but unsurprising. Despite the thirty-minute delay, and the discomfort of strangers rifling through our personal space, the crossover was painless and almost expected. I do not agree with everything that our law enforcement does, or every policy that our country has, but I have a great deal of respect for people who put themselves in that role, and I certainly do not feel entitled to pass through borders without scrutiny if others cannot. Frisking aside, it was merely an exercise in tolerance and patience, and a glimpse into a world that many others encounter, much more severely, on a regular basis.
Upon entering our glorious country at high noon, we set our course for Ann Arbor with high spirits, high expectations, enjoying high temperatures, and high food prices at a local Whole Foods, where we purchased the fixings for some trail mix, some bread, rice cakes, peanut butter, jelly, and a couple of vegetables for that evening. We enjoyed a picnic on the campus of the University of Michigan, which enlivened our spirits and made us ready for a night in the nearby woods!
After a brief stroll through Ann Arbor’s mostly closed downtown (it was Easter Sunday, as we were reminded), we hopped back in the car and headed to a nearby area where we had read that we could camp. The recreation area was twenty minutes away, but it took us a good hour and a half to navigate our way through the area’s convoluted road system to the campsite, which, as it turned out, was still closed for the season. Fortunately for us, the woods do not abide by the mandates of men, and the trees voiced no objection to our presence.
It may sound silly to some, but entering the woods feels like going home to me, and that is no exaggeration. Walking amongst the trees, the complex house of cards that is daily life collapses into a purer form. The trees are unconcerned with the future, and give little regard to the past. They do not put up arguments or impose themselves on one’s activities, yet their presence is distinct and tangible. They are the supreme Taoist sages, yielding but mighty, forceful yet forgiving. They are eternal, both fresh and ancient like the spring breeze. Hanging out with the Woods in today’s world can feel like spending time with a dying friend. There are few places left where the natural world is untouched, undamaged. The trees and the birds, however, do not hold grudges. We breathe and sigh together, and my consciousness relaxes, expands, once again.
Molly and I were alone at the campsite, which was a welcome solitude after the noisy and chaotic nature of our hostel the previous two nights. We arrived in the early evening as the sun was a couple of hand-widths from the horizon. Our tent was up in minutes, and after the seemingly obligatory bit of trouble getting a fire lit, we had our foil-packs full of vegetables happily roasting (see below). We munched contentedly on our appetizer of nuts and dried fruit without another obligation in the world…a fine feeling indeed!
We sat, enjoying each other’s company and feeding our fire as it slowly quieted to a bed of hot embers. The vegetables took about an hour. Perfection, after all, cannot be hurried! However, the moment we decided to pull them off of the fire and indulge, a slow rain began to fall. Slow rain quickly turned into a steady fall, and the relaxed pace of the evening developed quickly into a comical, frenzied dance of vegetables and teeth. The meal was consumed in a tiny fraction of its preparation time, and we quickly huddled in the tent to keep warm and dry, only to have the rain come to a complete stop within minutes. No matter anyhow; the sun had set, the night had arrived, and we laid down our heads. We had a bit of a surprise within an hour of going to bed, when we heard voices and saw a flashlight wandering the campsite, of which we were, to the best of our knowledge, the sole occupants. Apparently another couple had decided to come and sleep in a yurt that we later found out existed nearby. Crisis averted! After that, the night was refreshing (albeit a little cold), though it included little sleep, as nights in the woods often do.
We both awoke the next day feeling refreshed, healthy, and ready to get on the road again! A slight detour back into the city of Ann Arbor brought us to Comet Coffee, one of the more pretentious yet pleasant coffee shops I have visited in my time, though I hardly mean this as an insult. We sat for half an hour or so, and enjoyed the uplifting feeling of caffeine entering the mind, before hopping back in the Adventuremobile, unfurling our sails, and catching the easterly wind to Chicago again!