I like the mountains. Many people say they like the mountains for the quiet that they offer, but they have a unique noise. The inappropriate screech of an owl or the howl of a wolf, and don’t even get me started on the incessant swellings of the insects, provides enough noise on some nights to make any big city proud. It has a soothing tone to it for the most part.
No, I like to go to the mountains because the deeper I go into nature, the less I have to deal with people. My Uncle Carl always told me that if I learned one thing from him, it should be that people are stupid. I can add to that that people are crazy as well.
I like a person. I can relate to a person. But when you get a lot of those persons together something seems to happen. They snap, or mind meld or something because the next thing you know the perfectly acceptable person is part of a stupid or crazy people – or worse a stupid AND crazy people.
The train ride allowed me to avoid people because I upgraded to a private car. I enjoyed the white noise of the train on the tracks. It was a short ride, but I still wanted a snack and made my way to the dining car. I’m not sure that I counted a single empty seat along the way.
The dining car was also packed, which meant I had the delight of sharing a table with three college kids from Southern California or maybe they were from Minnesota – they spent most of the mealtime texting on their phones, laughing, and sharing what they were texting on their phones.
I retreated to my privacy car, my people proof sanctuary, and enjoyed the rest of the train ride without interruption by a single people.
Getting off at the train station was a different story completely. There weren’t just people, but there were mobs of people, and they seemed to expand as I watched. The scene outside the train station was equally disappointing. There were literally people everywhere.
They were loud and crowding my space. I had to get away.
I slung my pack over my shoulder and started for my planned camping spot. It took me a couple of hours hiking to get there, and the roar of the people did little to wane as I wandered through the woods.
“Maybe I’ve got my bearings wrong.” I stopped long enough to check the compass – because who in their right mind would bring a cell phone out into the middle of Noserviceville? It all looked like it was in place, so I continued.
The clearing down by the stream had always been a great retreat for me. I could let the song of the water block out the noise in my head – the worries, the lists, the reminders of all the chaos and crazy I left behind.
The stream sounded louder than normal, but that would make sense considering it had been such a heavy snowfall during the winter. It would make for an even better block.
Only it wasn’t the stream that roared with such intensity. More people trampled my tranquility.
I noticed my three dinner companions from the train – at least I recognized the tops of their heads since that was as much as I had seen during our time together. They were still buried in their phones, texting and nodding along.
“NOOOOOO!” I cried out. The people were bad enough – but technology had now slinked its way into my stronghold – my world would never bet the same.
My sudden outburst was lost in the roar of the crowd.
This was not what I wanted – and it definitely wasn’t what I had expected. I needed to get away from people, and people had followed me.
I walked on up the stream in the dim hope of finding somewhere untouched by the people invasion. I didn’t have to go far to discover that not only was I not going to find any peace, but somehow things were going to get even more outrageous.
The little clearing had been made a little bigger, and now a portable stage had been set up. Someone had the brilliant idea to create a sound system run on solar power to help make sure that every people around could hear what needed to be said.
“At least there will be quiet in the night hours,” I spoke my thoughts out loud, certain that people would be too caught up in whatever people were doing to pay any attention to the one person out there to find quiet.
“Oh, they thought of that.” A young lady standing close by had heard my cry and determined that it was one of distress instead of glee.
“Yes, oh yes.” Her two friends chimed in – all three nodding with such vigor that I was certain they were the ones that would be responsible for producing the energy needed to run the sound system at night.
The first girl pointed to what I could only describe as a contraption. It has several wires hanging off it and a strange metal spring that twisted in the running water of the spring. “That will take the power of the water and convert it to power for the stage.”
“That’s great,” I responded with enough sarcasm to end the conversation.
“We are so excited to be a part of this. Who knew that right here in our own backyard there could be such devastation.”
“I completely agree.” And I did.
“Yes, oh yes.” The nodding sisters added their emphatic reply to their triplet.
I wanted to know what was being devastated beside my own peace and quiet, but I feared that inquiring too much might cause one or all of the girls to spontaneously combust right in front of me. I’m a very careful camper. I never set fires without having the ability to keep them under control. I was once the Vice President of the Smokey the Bear Fan Club. I hate forest fires. They are almost as bad as hangnails.
I took a small step back from the excessive nodding trio and when they didn’t follow I continued to take small steps until the people around me engulfed me. I could still see them looking around like they were trying to find me and I did feel almost a twinge of guilt for having ducked away in the manner I chose – but it wasn’t enough to make me fight the people to get back into the nodding game.
I moved onward – not so much forward as it was up and around and through. There were more people than when I first arrived or maybe they were all crowding closer together. Whatever the case, I needed to find my way to the edge or perhaps I was already on the edge and just waiting for one of the people to push me over.
It was too loud for me to think, so I was having trouble figuring it out.
I made my way up through the woods and soon found a spot where I could see the crowd of people, but I was not forced to engage with the monster that had invaded my retreat. I settled in for some semblance of relaxing, which was probably the very signal that the sound man had waited for – because the screech of the microphone shattered any hopes I had of finding my happy place.
“HELLO!” A voice from somewhere beyond bellowed out – only it turned out that the voice was not so much beyond as he was behind. He stepped out on to the stage and repeated the declaration. “HELLO!”
“Hello!” The people responded with a screech almost as painful as the one given by the malfunctioning microphone.
“Are you ready?”
No need for words. The people just threw themselves into a frenzy. While the voice had been greeting folks, a band had gathered behind him, and now they made a noise so painful I’m pretty sure small animals were leaping from the trees around me to their demise. It was better than listening to whatever they were doing.
I packed up what I had thought was my final settling point and moved a little deeper in and farther up. I could still see the stage, although to make out the finer details I had to use my binoculars. I thought about using the scope on my rifle (I always carry a rifle for protection when I go into the woods alone), but I figured that as soon as I pulled it out people would see and people would go even crazier than they already were.
Nobody needed that.
I set up camp in my new location – far enough not to be connected with people but close enough to keep an eye on people just in case. I have learned from experience that when people are left in the wild alone, they can become a bit unruly – dare I say scary. It’s always best to keep an eye on people in these situations.
Don’t engage them – just watch them. It’s not all that different than watching the bears catch salmon. You want to be close enough for some good pictures, but not so close that a bear might mistake you for a chew toy.
The sun dove behind the mountains, darkening the valley where the stage had been located. The sound system soon followed, as the solar energy that had been reserved was quickly devoured by all of the instruments and equipment plugged into the stage.
I had my night vision goggles – because much like a rifle, it is always good to be prepared when one makes a trip into the wilds. I used those to watch the guys hooking the contraption to the sound system.
I know it was wrong of me, but a part of me wanted to see the fireworks that would come if electricity and water were to collide. I was disappointed – not just because there were no sparks, but because the sound was soon rocking again – and they seemed determined to rock us into the night.
I made a note in my travel log to add earplugs to my emergency kit. They would have been a great addition at that moment. I hoped they would at least tire out enough to sleep sometime.
They did finally tire out – just in time for the sun to begin its ascent. I knew there would be no chance of me getting any sleep once the light started to shine. I decided that maybe I could find out exactly why people were where people were – and maybe even plot how to get them gone.
I edged down through the woods, careful not to disturb people along the way – although they had done plenty to disturb me and it would have served them right to be disturbed. I just wanted to avoid as much interaction with people as possible, so I set my tracking system to stealth mode and took my chances.
I had to move back down almost as far as the stage before I found what I had been looking for. It was a sign about why they were there –not like a burning bush kind of sign, but an actual poster board that someone had drawn on. The image looked like a cross between a rabbit and a chinchilla or a mouse – but it was the words that told me all that I needed to know.
“Save the Spotted Naked Mole Rat.”
# # #
Check back here next week for part two of Chapter two!
If you missed part one catch up now!