Friday, August 26, 2011

The Road (Much) Less Traveled


I've never been a major poetry fan. As a writer, I'm happy to be a hack. I write about wizards, spies, centaurs, gnomes and pegasi. Not only do I not want to write the Great American Novel, I'm certain I don't want to read it, either. None of that has stopped me from loving Robert Frost's poems, especially The Road Not Taken, which ends

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, 
 I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Definitely, I'm a road less traveled type of person, and when someone recently commented about people she knew that,

They don't do real camping. They go camping in places where the hiking trails are paved.



I thought she was joking. Yesterday,  thinking I would go crazy if I stayed at my desk one second longer, I took off for the closest regional park and it turns out there really are paved hiking trails!

Seems like an oxymoron doesn't it?  Fortunately for my sanity, there were also normal trails branching off from these sidewalks in the woods, and I took the first one I saw. One of the advantages of being a small person is I can crouch down easily and fit through a lot of openings made by wildlife. It is a false rumor spread by my best friend that I actually use rabbit trails on a regular basis. I'm not that little! Being still somewhat disturbed by the weirdness of paving the forest, I left the actual trail for the one above, which was really just a dry stream bed.




A few minutes climb up the stream bed, I made an interesting discovery. In this regional park, not a mile from multi-million dollar homes, someone had set up a homestead of his own. (I assumed it was a "his" although I didn't stay long enough to introduce myself.)

In one section of the "home" was the living room, with crates set up for sitting.

He seemed to mostly have a liquid diet, although not what you are thinking. A few yards away were bags, neatly tied, with empty bottles that held water, sports drinks and protein shakes. It made me wonder if he didn't have many teeth or it was just the lack of facilities for cooking and refrigeration.

A few dozen yards away, up on the hill, I could see his "bedroom", where a green sleeping bag was laid about in a cleared space under a canopy of leaves.
He had as much privacy as the average person with their mansions in the canyons, in fact, probably more. Not many people would fit beneath the branches lining the creek bed, and even fewer would think to leave first the paved "trails" and then the dirt path to walk on rocks just to see what was there.

I think if I was ever going to live in the woods, I'd want some place where I couldn't still hear the distant sounds of the freeway from my milk crate under the trees. I'm hardly an expert on homeless living, though, so maybe it is the optimal location for all I know. If you're searching for a place  to set up your home in the woods, don't go by my recommendations.

My deadline was looming back at the office and, besides, I felt like an interloper, as if I had just walked, uninvited into a neighbor's living room. I headed back down the trail, to my car and back to work.

The entire drive, I could not quit thinking of the contrast just a few hundred yards apart, between people who were too 'civilized' to walk on the forest floor and someone who lived on it.

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