Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mountain Rider

Ten o'clock rolled around at the CUP. Everything was quiet but lit up with bright fluorescent overheads. The floors, some colorless tile, reflected the light, and beyond my square, frameless window existed only pure blackness. I stripped in my office and pulled on my bike shorts and my favorite; the HooRWA riding shirt I earned last year for a 75 mile ride in the hills of New England. Black LG sleeves slid on, and cycling shoes strapped to my feet. Finally I grabbed my cycling gloves and helmet.


As I rolled down the quiet hallway to the door I shut off the lights and the put the CUP to rest for the night. I opened the outside door, heavy and metal, breathed deep the cool and damp night air. As I let the door swing closed behind me I turned on my rear flashing red lights and my forward white light...which provided very little in the way of sight. The moon, big and bright, shone overhead. Clicking into my pedals, i started off slowly, the gravel popping under my tires as I trekked slowly toward the road.


Nobody was out and about. People were in their beds with lovers or pets or both. Many alone. Houses were quiet. The very occasional car drove lazily by. My plan tonight was to bike over the mountain, over Mt. Pleasant, the highest point in Ithaca. I had moved to Ellis Hollow mainly because I wanted that mountain close and I wanted it to challenge me. It loomed in the distance, dark, silhouetted in the light of the moon.


Breathe.


Up Stevenson road I went, slowly, deliberately. The pungent sweetness of freshly spread manure hung heavily in the air. Large swaths of field, eerily lit by the pale moonlight, seemed alive and as one with the light wind that caused ripples as if the vegetation had turned liquid. My useless light, dulled by the moon, shone only on pavement a few feet ahead. And yet there was the shadow of bicycle and rider, pushing along, finding no difficulty riding up hills that only existed in daylight.


Onto Turkey Hill and then, oh, the steep, steep Mt. Pleasant. Leather shoes creaked and chain with metal rings strained up the first leg. Dark: Hidden in the shadows of trees, the road became an abyss. But no matter. There was no hill, only darkness. Only the distant call of a bullfrog, the rustle of leaves, the running of a deer scared by a quiet two-wheeled animal prowling the mountain. Heating up, but cooled by the night, the slow up and then down, down, down so very fast. Wind whipping by, pulling at clothes and face, watering eyes....then up...


The road up the mountain is bordered mainly by field, and the fields are low and quiet even in the wind. The moon, my god, the moon shone so bright. At the highest point I stopped. A circular rainbow surrounded that big white moon. So bright was she you could see the blue sky. In the distance, shadows...mountains...hid a storm. Orange flashes like fireworks, brilliant in size and stature, defined the dark edges and colored the horizon. Close to me, fluttering around the fields, a million fireflies flashed... green, green, yellow...green, reddish...dancing the dance of spring and summer.


I never knew the night could be so colorful.


Getting off my bicycle I stood there. I stood in amazement and watched the beauty of life and color unfold about me. I watched this dance on the mountain of atmosphere and biosphere, intricately woven together, playing out an ancient ritual that will continue long past the time I am gone and done. Dust and atoms I will be to feed the future plays of our planet.


I blinked.


Then shook my head.


All people, so afraid of their shadow. Afraid to live. Afraid of the night. Hiding in houses, wrapped up, confined and consoled by a television or computer that tries so very hard to convince them that the lives they lead, the world they have surrounded themselves with is right and good, that they should be afraid of everything and listen, listen, listen to the electric preacher that comforts them and reinforces their bad decisions, their life of possessions.


In the end we posses nothing but memories and experiences. We are the culmination of those experiences at our end.


These memories, these feelings, these sights and smells...oh the smells...


Riding down Ringwood the scent of wood smoke teased my nostrils and then, the smell of skunk assaulted them. Fragrant tones colored the breeze as more flowers have bloomed, more plants have unraveled their sex and life into the air. I sang and whistled "Yellow Submarine" as my bicycle coasted down the mountain...for joy and for the ears of animals and especially deer that might run into my speedy path...


I rode on. Home.


Found my box. Put my bicycle away. Sat down.


And I remembered.


The only thing I could do is share and hope that someday, those I share this with, will have a story for me, and experience they loved or will come to love, and will enrich my life with it.


My one night over the mountain ends...with the thought of many more to come teasing my mind.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year, Same Goals

2010 was one of those crazy years in this place we call Ithaca, NY. I ended up homeless for a short while, then found my way back into a couple of different roommate situations, neither of which panned out, and one that turned sour very quickly. I started working for Gimme! coffee on Cayuga street and soon found myself working for Cornell as an assistant curator with a three year contract. I almost didn't end up living here, pointing my nose in the direction of Northern California and the Pacific North West, but Ithaca, small as it is, is a beautiful spot if you can find a job that allows you to enjoy it beyond the draw of Cornell or IC.

The riding was spectacular this year, and in August I went back toward my home state of Massachusetts to do the HooRWA benefit ride. This was one of the most spectacular rides I've ever done. 75 miles through the states of Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York. HooRWA stands for the Hoosic River Watershed Association. The cost of our jerseys and entry went to helping support the conservation and health of the watershead and the people, animals, and plants that live there. The watershed itself is home to some of the most beautiful New England and New York scenery. Mountains, farms, rivers, and beautiful small towns were all a part of the eye-popping beauty that we explored on bicycle.

I was consistent in riding and exploring until my second roommate situation soured and I had to put my focus into finding a new place and moving for the fourth time that year. Before that I had an amazing commute from Freeville, NY to Ithaca. Roughly 20 miles of riding a day. I had a chance to explore more back roads on the eastern side of Cayuga Lake, and found spectacular views with the help of fellow cyclists who, through the FLCC, had wonderful suggestions on routes...all of which I modified to suite my need for discovery. Every weekend I found myself doing a 50 to 80 mile ride, and with most days providing me with a 20 to 30 mile ride I was in excellent shape and really enjoying the world around me. Unfortunately, the last move forced me out of riding for nearly a month and a half, and with that I lost a lot of my stamina for the 100 mile Ride for Life.

The RFL was, however, awesome. I didn't do it as fast as I would have liked, but I did the first 50 miles with little issue and no break. Little did I know that I did have a "break" of sorts. During the ride I thought I threw a rock with my tire, hearing a loud "ping!!" as I was riding. Turns out out blew a spoke. I didn't realize it until after the ride was over, but my whole rear wheel was warped. I figure I rode 50 to 60 miles like that and, perhaps, that's what slowed me down a bit. This was the first year I rode with Team Gimme! and, while it was a lot of fun, I was bummed that they didn't do more training rides. I offered many times, often showing up to no riders for simple 20 miles rides. The few time riders did show up, it was a close friend or two and they were pleasant rides, with a brutal hill here and there. But always the reward of a beautiful view across the Cayuga Lake valley or some other place.

The new year has brought new goals along with the rehashing of old. The three year contract I've scored with Cornell means I'll live as simply and poor as possible to try and pay off as much of my college loans as possible. I have also decided that this 5th year will be my last, for a while, riding in the Ride for Life to raise money. I bought a motorcycle recently and may volunteer as a helper, but in the near future I'll be riding it for pleasure only. New goals have arisen, I need to get the GRE's out of the way, and I need to do well at my current job and move on to whatever comes next. Grad school or a job that is more permanent, deciding research goals, and getting to be a better naturalist all top the list of educational goals. I want to continue to explore Ithaca and surrounding areas, and I want to push myself physically and be better at riding while getting my hiking and running legs under me. I'm also trying to make music a bigger part of my life and hope to have my own little recording studio someday, with lessons for instruments planned for the short-term. Artistically I'm also planning on getting more tattoos this year, some of which will be designed by me, and others designed by my brother if I can twist his arm into doing it.

Of course, it would be nice to have someone to share all this with, but discussion on that is the topic of another blog...still it is a goal and should be mentioned here.

And finally, I want my work at the CUP to be highly successful and, if I don't get a permanent job at Cornell, I'd like to make sure I have great references and add to my CV for future projects. One of the huge goals associated with that is the McLean project: A biodiversity study I started in 2006 with a local Naturalist that needs to be completed. With some help I should get a publication out of it. But it's slow going.

I don't know what the future holds, and I know there's a lot of craziness out there that we as humans keep perpetuating, but I hope that your little circle of life is full of good people and good times. Maybe if we shoot high enough with our goals, the ones we actually achieve will still make life sweet. Good luck with the New Year!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Spring Rides

Click Here to sponsor me in the 2010 Ride for Life!!

It's been an exciting time for me, riding in Ithaca again, finding my legs, and finding that it's a hell of a lot harder here in the hills. I've put in several rides since the last post: 27 miles, 24 miles, and 23 miles respectively. The first was supposed to be 35 miles but, not knowing my own limits, hitting a heat wave, and improper hydration shut my legs down riding up Yellow Barn Road off of Ferguson Rd. I'd gone south crossing Rte 13 onto Irish Settlement and gotten a bit lost. Ferguson seemed to be a road where all the upper-middle class folks live. I've rarely seen so many largish (but not quite McMansion largish) houses on one street. Ferguson, Spring Run, and lower Yellow Barn were all quite the same: Highly manicured lawns, kids playing in the street, long driveways, oversized yards...you get the picture. Why people want to mow that much grass is quite beyond me. This is one of the sad stories relating to farm land and beautiful scenery: Back home in Massachusetts I often was discouraged by all the folks from NYC and Connecticut who had so much disposable income they could buy up all our farm land and put god-awful eyesores that they live in for a couple of months at a time. If people want to know why the housing bubble burst they really don't have to look far. All those ugly houses and who can afford to heat them let alone buy them? Horrible investment.

It's not so bad on Ferguson, but that's a bit what it reminds me of. Moot point really. I had originally wanted to ride through Yellow Barn and Hammond Hill State Forest, but I found, riding up Yellow Barn, that my legs decided they had had enough and both locked up on me at the same time. I was amazed, in all honesty, that I didn't fall over. I realized what was happening just in time to pop my left foot out of the clip-in and stretch that leg out, allowing me to straighten the other after the bike tipped enough. I think I stood there for 10 minutes, different muscles in both legs cramped and locked, rubbing them and trying to get them to loosen up. It was rather painful and, although I wasn't thinking about it too much, I had about five miles left and was working out in my mind how to get home while coasting or pedaling lightly the rest of the way.

Eventually my legs loosened up. I drank more water and was thankful for the short rest I had in Freeville where I stopped at a local ice cream shop named Toad's Too (strange) and bought a slush puppy to help cool me off and hydrate a bit. I had gotten a late start to try and avoid the heat, but it was pushing 90 degrees F and was humid. The folks at Toad's were great and helped me get back on track as I was a bit lost at that point. But I digress.

I ended up getting back in reasonable shape, tired, but not beaten. The only casuality being my Cateye bicycle light: It originally strapped to the front of the handlebar, but the strap and lever mechanisim have become useless and the light just flopped down giving me little forward light.

Last year I did all my riding, at least initially, in Quebec. It was fine but it was quite flat. There was one very beautiful ride near Rimouski, Quebec that involved a lot of elevation change and a beautiful view of the St. Lawerence, and in New Brunswick the rides may have been flat, but they were almost always bordering the ocean. Now, in Ithaca, the world once again has a lot more vertical dimension and is a great challenge. I'm finding it exciting training for this Ride for Life while getting to know more of the local roads.

My 24 mile ride was more or less uneventful, but beautiful. And the attempted 27 mile ride that was more like 23 became so only because I was riding with a new friend, we didn't have great directions, and she crashed rather hard. Actually that's an understatement. She nearly killed herself rolling at a speed between 25 and 30mph. She sent me a picture of the bruise on her leg which I'll post shortly, but she had road-rash, cuts, scrapes, and gashes on most of her body. The fact that she rode another 7 miles home was a testament to her strength and durability. I hope she'll ride with me again, but she's off to the Phillipines first and then back for the summer.

Here is a link to the ride:
Finger Lakes Cycling Club

More to come! I'm going to start posting a gear section and a bit more about what type of bike I'm riding. It may not be real helpful, but to anyone starting out it might lend some insight.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ride for Life - Easter Training Ride

http://www.firstgiving.com/torbentornado

Welcome to my first "Ride for Life" blog. This is a bit of an experiment for me. I'm attempting to make this ride more "human" and less electronic. I hope to do this by sharing my rides and experiences over the next six months. This blog will also include insight gleaned as an Ithacan in New York. I'll express my observations over the changing of the seasons and of life.

The first planned ride ended up landing on Easter Day. I'm not Christian so I don't technically celebrate Easter, but I do celebrate the Vernal (Spring) Equinox. This ended up being a wonderful day. I went on a hike with several friends and then did a 40 mile ride in the Southern Tier between Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake.

It was actually a bit brutal. I don't consider myself a hard-core cyclist. I don't have the time or the training to be competitive. But I am stubborn and I like to climb hills at my own slow pace. Let me give you an idea of how I come up with a route: I pick a number of miles I want to ride...20, 40, 60, 80, or 100 usually. This gives me a starting point. Then I use Google Maps to sort out a trek. I just randomly click and drag in the Maps program until I'm close to the mileage I'm shooting for. Then I write down the info on flash cards, which are easier to pocket and look at while riding, and go for a ride. I'm always open to changing direction and finding alternate routes on a whim.

This route ended up having more hills then flats and, being my first longish ride of the year, put me nearly at my limit physically simply because of cramping and a lack of planning. I'll elaborate more on that later.

After getting out of the town of Ithaca I took a left onto Floral Ave coming from Seneca. Floral Ave is also called Rte 13A or Old Rte 13, and is much more pleasant to cycle than Rte 13 (running parallel), which is just an insane gaggle of road traffic. From here I took a right onto Bostwick Rd and...started a long press uphill. Bostwick is a bear but, Ithaca being in a valley at the end of a glacial lake means no matter what way you travel you have to go UP to get out and about. This also means there are several different levels of ridges, carved by glaciers about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, that you have to conquer if you desire more than a 10 mile ride.

The topography isn't as extreme as that of Vermont...if you've been there you'll know what I mean: The ridges are impressive and around the Rochester, VT area some of the steepest roads in the country exist...especially near Abraham Mountain. Serious cyclists in Vermont are in incredible shape; they have the perfect training grounds once the snow disappears. But it is still intimidating in and around the Finger Lakes Region. Bostwick Road turns into Harvey Hill and, while consistently steep for the first 2 miles, It ends up being about 8 miles of hard pedaling, for a guy like myself, if you go all the way to Buck Hill Road.

One thing I noticed were the Robins (American Robin). I hadn't seen any in the valley, but once out and on top of the ridges I started noticing them everywhere. The trees were not yet in bloom (except for the Magnolias in the City of Ithaca and some shrubs like the brilliant yellow Forsythia - Olive family), and the landscape was still rather brown, but hints of spring were in the air and on the ground. During the earlier hike I noted Spring Beauties (Claytonia) and Hepatica in the understory of the forest in Upper Buttermilk. Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) was also in bloom and quite happy. The ground was thawing and the smell was that of mud and decay... an aroma I have pleasant associations with: Sort of a rotting leaves/growing mushroom smell. I breathed it in quite hard as my lungs and heart pounded and strained up the hill. It was exhilarating. Cars flew past me at breakneck speeds up Bostwick, and I wondered at how sad it was that they would probably not experience the landscape as I was. In fact they would probably never know what they were missing.

From Bostwick I trekked toward Upper Treman (State Park) and beyond until I came to Trumbulls Corners Road. I'd never been up TCR and had no idea what to expect. It was pleasant, a gradual uphill, and it mirrored some of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) crossing a lovely stream as I headed up. I turned onto Rumsey Hill Road, looked up, and Laughed. This hill reminds me of Vermont. I just geared down to my "granny gear" and pushed forward. At one point it felt so steep that I thought I'd just flip over backward if I pedaled too hard. The road was still covered with a thick layer of sand to help vehicles gain traction in the winter months. Now, dry and dusty, it was working against me as I pushed up to the top. My heart pounding I stopped and took a picture back...I'll have to shoot a picture up the next time...much more telling of the climb.

I had finally reached the plateau. There were some minor ups and downs but nothing like Bostwick and Rumsey. The rest of my ride was rather pleasant. I rode past a farm with peacocks, dodged potholes and chucks of pavement on winter ravaged "paved" roads, found a wonderful little artisan shop near one of the most unusual tombstones I've seen (picture below) and a small orchard, and avoided many a dog, especially on Grove Road. Grove connects to Black Road, which in turn connects to NY-79 W (coming from Ithaca and traveling toward Watkins Glen). Grove road is mostly "up" heading toward Searsburg. I'm always amazed at how people who live in some of the most beautiful areas also trash those areas the most. I spied trash lining the road near the adjacent stream (Called "Spring Brook" on Google Maps) and there were obvious signs of people dumping, mostly yard waste, but other waste as well. Apparently if it goes down to your neighbors yard it doesn't exist anymore. I've never understood that. I waved to a couple of kids adding fertilizer to a garden and was chased by a massive Bull Mastiff named "Sam" whose owner was nice enough to call off this dog that was nearly twice my size. I said "hello Sam" and was happy to still own my leg. He was pleasant enough however. Simply intimidating.

I ended up nearly missing Searsburg...not because of directions, but because it's so damn small. Once you get out of there, traveling East, there is some lovely farmland looking over what I call the Cayuga Valley. Heading toward Trumansburg the light was starting to dim and I was running out of water. Never a good sign especially on Easter when most shops are closed. I crossed the road and stopped at gimme! to see if I had made it...but it was past 7pm at this point and they were vacuuming up inside. I propped my bike up against the bench (picture below) and lay on the cement walkway to stretch out my back. I then ate another of my chocolate chip pancakes (or maybe two) and sucked down the last of my water.

It was cooling off at this point. The sun was going down, the twitter of the Robins strengthened as twilight rolled on, and riding from T-Berg to Ithaca I found myself running into pockets of warm and then cold air. With 5 miles left in my 40 mile ride my right biceps femoris or my semitendionosus muscle locked up...got a wicked cramp. I got off my bike and walked a bit, found another 2 or 3 ounces of water at the bottom of my CamelBak, and slowly rode the rest of the way home.

All in all it was a fantastic first ride of the season, and one of the earliest and longest I've taken since getting back into bicycling since arriving in Ithaca.

I'm including a few pictures below for you to look at. If you can think of any suggestions to improve this blog, or would like to see some different material, please let me know. And please sponsor me this year in the Ride for Life.

http://www.firstgiving.com/torbentornado

More to come!
From left to right: A map of my trek, getting my gear ready, and looking at Ithaca Valley from the top of Bostwick.



From left to right: The top of Rumsey Hill, the strange tombstone, and gimme! coffee at T-Berg.



I'm obviously not great at manipulating pictures in this blog so if anyone has advice on how to make this more accessible or more person friendly please let me know!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Amazonian Experience

Yesterday afternoon started out like any other...

It was a very hot day in the rainforest, especially in the exposed and barren section the new research station had been built upon, but a forgiving breeze rustled the leaves of the surrounding vegetation and cooled my sweaty brow. The mosquitoes and no-see-ums were out in force and I had not been feeling too well the night before. Thus I had taken some Imodium and decided to wait out the gut. By lunch I was feeling fine so I decided that I'd go on a little hike/collecting expedition to escape the heat in the cooler interior of the jungle.

I tried to get a nap in earlier but it was just too hot. Laying on my mattress and surrounded by the bug netting, I was sweating like a pig roasting on a spit. Unable to get more than a few moments of nap time in, I got out and put my gear together. The idea was to take a trek on the “SA” trail (about 1700 to 1800 meters) and then cut east along the boundary line. The trails through the jungle are all rather thin and cut, usually by one person, via machete. The property boundaries are quite a bit wider, roughly the width of one side of a standard road in the U.S. and cut by a group walking the boundary. Thus the boundary lines are much easier to find and follow.

Ryan, one of the students of Florida International University, wanted to go do his palm transect out in the woods, which happened to be along the “SA” trail. He decided to walk with me as far as his latest study area and then we would part ways.

Along the trek I collected a frog and a small lizard along with a flower and many pictures. The “SA” trail runs almost directly south from the base station which is at the far north of the reserve near a “road” that serves as the northern boundary for all the lots located in this area. To the far south is a cut boundary running east and west. The “SA” trail forms a “T” with the east and west southern boundary near an intersection of two streams that form a sort of triangle.

Without too much difficulty I crossed the stream using an old rotted tree trunk as a bridge, and headed on my way.

My first mistake was this: I wasn't as familiar with the map as I should have been. I knew in my mind that by cutting north on the next available boundary I would intersect the road. Yet I believed that by continuing to travel east I would also intersect the road. I'm still not sure if that is true or not (I need to take another look at the map) but regardless my trek ended up following the eastern boundary.

I had brought the basics: A flashlight and a Camelbak full of water along with plenty of plastic bags for collecting, and toiletries (a small plastic trowel and toilet paper that is bio-degradable), and most importantly a compass.

Traveling east I realized after about two hours that I was getting nowhere near the road. I had run into a couple of villagers with what looked like an ancient shotgun and a machete. They spoke no English and I spoke very little Spanish. That amounted to the most confusing conversation of my life. I ended up continuing East for another few hundred meters. At this point it was getting dark and I cursed myself for not heading north. I figured I had to backtrack and hope that the flashlight I brought would last me to camp.

Now I'm not stupid. I understood that this would be a tough walk. I had already used about half of my water and started conserving it: The jungle is very hot and humid and I was sweating quite a lot as I climbed hills, trudged through swampy areas, and jumped over or otherwise crossed streams.

I made a first goal for myself: Get back to the point where the trail seemed wider past a large fallen tree. This was a place where earlier I had crossed and had a difficult time finding the path. I felt like getting to that point and onto the wider trail would help me mentally and physically. When one is in any unknown area a recognizable place can make all the difference. I kept walking hard west (I had since turned around from my easterly trek) and made it to that spot. Little did I know my greatest challenge lay ahead.

In a bit the trail widened. It was getting dark and I felt tired but good: I was going to make it home thirsty but in one piece and tonight. No problem. I sang a little song about a girl and my two cats Lucius and Sanura to keep my spirits and energy up while I walked. Soon it turned pitch black under the forest canopy as a blanket of night engulfed the forest.

As I was heading west I had another decision to make. I had a basic flashlight, non-LED (the old bulb style) with a few C batteries in it. I knew that it was very limited so decided not to use it until absolutely necessary. This turned out to be a lifesaver.

Compass in hand I continued to travel west toward the boundary. The path was well cleared and obvious. I came to a stream that had a log across it and crossed over. The path on the other side looked OK so I continued on and then...nothing. The path had disappeared!!!!

Now I should say that there are many such paths in the Amazon jungle. Often there are little side-treks that go to nowhere and you have to back track. I had two major problems in this case: 1. I was in a thick jungle with only one flashlight and a compass: I didn't have the time to bushwack for miles to the camp. The light wouldn't make it and my water was getting low. 2. I was scared. I kept reminding myself to keep a level head and so, in the middle of the night in the jungle I did the unthinkable: I turned off my flashlight and thought hard about what I would do next.

I came to a few conclusions. First I knew that the trail couldn't be too far off. That was a fact. I had somehow ended up either too far north or south of it. I could work with that: I turned my flashlight on and readjusted my compass. I walked north for a bit first: Nothing. Then I walked south about the same distance and a little farther: Nothing. I came to my second conclusion: As much as I hated the thought of bushwacking all the way back to camp it might come to that or sitting in the jungle the rest of the night and that wasn't an option. I had to keep moving.

I knew if I traveled west one of two things would happen: If I had overshot the “SA” trail I would run into a northern boundary line. If I hadn't overshot the “SA” trail I would run into the stream that led to it. But another problem arose: I didn't know if I was too far north or south of the southern most boundary at this juncture. Thus my next decision became easy: Plot a course northwest. By traveling northwest, if I was too far south, I'd have to run into some kind of boundary or path since they all ran north to south. Traveling south wasn't an option since that might put me below the boundary and into no-mans land where only forest and a few scattered villages existed for thousands of square miles.

I turned my light back on and adjusted my compass to north by northwest. I took a deep breath and moved forward.

I don't know how many of you have been lost in the jungle but let me say that it is quite disconcerting. You can't see the stars in the sky nor any horizon nor even the sky 99% of the time. I was walking through massive palm plots, understory vegetation, and through every spider web known to man or woman. Somehow, roughly one hundred meters later, I ran into the east-west boundary line!!!! I had somehow gotten myself too far south when I had crossed the river and made the right choice by trekking in a northerly direction.

I still wasn't out of the woods so to speak. Now I had to figure out how far off I was east or west to make it back to the “SA” trail. This proved to be the most difficult.

I tried backtracking east to see if I could recognize anything. The only thing I ran into was a northern boundary line, well cut, leading to the road. Still I didn't know how far off I was or if this line even made it to the road but, after turning off the flashlight and carefully deliberating with myself I figured that the best option was to take the northern line. It was freshly cut and Devon had mentioned earlier a new boundary was opened up on the far side of our property. I was tired, hungry, thirsty, and mentally drained but I had to take my situation into my own hands and do whatever was best.

I should note at this point that the best thing to do in any survival situation is to sit in one place, especially if you are on or near any trail, and make your presence known. Thus, as I walked, I kept yelling “hoooooooolllllllaaaaaa” (or “Hello”). I didn't stay in one place for a couple of reasons. 1st I was very far south on the property boundary but knew generally where I was. Thus, if my flashlight died I could possibly yell for help or at least be close enough to the road to worry less about getting home in the morning. Second, although the distance was a factor, the area was rather hilly making for hard hearing even if I was close to camp. There was a third factor involved: I was running out of water quickly and was quite hungry.

The water actually wasn't that much of a problem. I had jumped over many streams as I walked and the water is quite good. The exhaustion is more of a problem as is the mentality of being out in the woods in the middle of the night with no cover or protection from the elements or the animals and insects. So, drinking water at various streams, I moved on.

Eventually I heard someone reply to my yelling. It was obvious that I was overdue and people were looking for me. Tired I stopped, my flashlight failing. I turned it off and sat on a dryish hillside, waiting for about a half an hour as we all played “Marco-Polo” in the Amazon Rain Forest. In the dark I could see the bio-luminescence of fungi, glowing in my peripheral vision, and becoming stronger as my eyes adjusted. Above me, some rather angry but small members of the primate family were knocking down palm fruits in disgust at my presence.

Devon, the head of Project Amazonas in the station we were at, eventually came up the trail and we were literally only a few hundred meters from the road. Walking out of the forest, the view of the night sky and the stars were exquisite. We met up with Ryan, long since finished with his transect, and in we went to camp where I gobbled down a huge amount of food, peeled off my rubber boots and socks to expose a few blisters, and took a long and exquisitely cool shower. I passed out gratefully under the mosquito netting and slept very peacefully that night.