Living Sustainably

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Conversations With Homeless Campers, Living in the National Forest

I have joked with friends on several occasions about I could soon end up living in a tent in the national forest. This still may happen. However, I egotistically assumed that my solution to economic catastrophe was an original idea. It wasn’t. I will have the company of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of other Americans.

On the way back from seeing the bears, I picked wild raspberries and blueberries. Once at the campsite, I roasted some sweet potatoes in hot coals. My dogs don’t like fruit, but they love sweet potatoes. After doing some reading in a book written by James Adair in 1776, it was time to do some more hiking.

Oh, and forget the image of a pristine park-like campground. We were in a area so remote, that rangers seldom even patrol it. The campsites are natural meadows beside a trout stream, that generations of campers have kept bare by the constant trampling of feet. The road was nothing more than a sandy trail. Fortunately, there is no clay on the tops of mountains here.

We took an even narrower trail to an even more remote area of hemlock groves. There I was shocked to come upon a camp site with a 20 year old car displaying a two year old Maryland tag, a tiny pup tent, a small vegetable garden and clothes hanging on a rope line. Oh, I bet they didn’t have auto insurance either. How dare they be so irreverent of the god, Commerce!

I was equally shocked when the young couple informed me that they had living here for a year and a half. They pleaded with me not to tell the rangers, since the rules are that you can only stay at the same location for two weeks. He had been in construction. She had been a public kindergarten teacher. Both had lost their jobs, and had moved to Georgia Mountains, where they assumed the winters were milder. They had been rudely surprised that the mountain temperatures were colder than Annapolis, where they lived before. Keep in mind, that they were in a small PUP TENT, where at that altitude, the ground was covered in snow for much of the winter. I don’t really see how they survived. They both were city folks, not a rugged Creek Indian like me, who had spent as much time as possible in the woods as soon as I could walk – and had grown my own food on a mountain farm for 17 years.