Wednesday, July 10, 2013

City in the Forest (Day Sixteen)

The pounding of the drum circle still sounded through the forest and sagebrush meadows as we woke near dawn. Rolling over for a cool morning nap, we were finally refreshed as the drummers stopped and the sun rose higher.

Having entered the Gathering at sunset, led to our campsite in the dark, we were as good as lost in the outskirts of an unfamiliar city. Excited for the change of pace, we soon set out to learn the layout and habits of our surroundings. Pancakes and coffee from the kitchen Montana Mud got us started, soon followed by our own usual, more whole grain breakfast of Malt o Meal, raisins, and dark chocolate amazing mush.

Forest paths meandered through endless tent neighborhoods - we followed them back to the information booth and message boards, then through the Trading Circle. Having heard there was a lake to the west, we found a Forest Service trail headed that direction and soon came to the lake and icy creek feeding it.

After shared watermelon and a quick dunk in a built-up chill pool, we walked back to the metropolis through Lodgepole forest and grass/sagebrush clearings. Unlike our Nevada and Eastern OR observations, the sagebrush here had many vascular plant companions. Red paintbrush, blue lupine, succulent Sedum, yarrow, mariposa lilies, a grass-look-alike with flowers that were definitely not grass flowers, and many unknowns gave cover to the rocky soil below the taller sagebrush.

Nearing the populated forest once again, we took a slightly different angle of approach and found ourselves quickly in unfamiliar surroundings. More kitchens, structures, tepees, and an undulating, smoothly worn dirt path as wide as a city street added to the complexity of our growing mental map. Back to known territory and eventually camp after a dead-reckoning shortcut through an open stand of young trees, we prepared to cook the can of tiny shrimp found roadside several days past. But before we began, our campmates returned and let us know that Evening Circle was beginning.

Enticed by the promise of vegan curry, we made the trek to Main Meadow. Finding a small gap in the vast, concentric rings of seated people, we settled in and pulled out our personal eating gear. Many passes of large pots later, their contents of mashed potatoes, bean sprouts, rice, bean soup, pasta, tomato sauce, quinoa, and garbanzo bean curry ladled out by cheery volunteers, we laid back in the sunny grass, exceptionally well-fed. Our bodies tuned to make quick use of these nutrients, the food coma didn't last long.

After determining that another man-on-a-bike had ridden just from the parking lot, we fell into conversation with a cycle touring Belgian couple we had met earlier. They also had ridden the 8 miles of gravel into the Gathering site, with much more gear and a small child in tow. Impressive!

After an evening camp fire shared with neighbors, we dragged our sleeping gear further from the ruckus and fell asleep to distant drumming once again.


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