So, since joining the WordPress community back at the beginning of August I’ve heard (read) “NaNoWriMo” bandied about here and there, and the idea to participate has been encouraged by several of my followers and bloggers I follow.
For those who don’t know: The obejective of National Novel Writing Month is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Seems simple enough, right?
The “volume” doesn’t sound too daunting because I could easily write that many words (I think). I’m not afraid of failing in that sense. However, I don’t have a clear picture of what I want to write in mind, yet. I’m hoping that with what I get started today I’ll be able to create something enjoyable. (Plus I haven’t created an official account on the NaNoWriMo website so no chance of winning anything with this anyway.)
Each post after this one will just jump right back into the story, and then I’ll include a running tally of the word totals at the end along with a snyposis on story/plot progress. Well, that’s what I’m planning on doing anway. That may change as I get this rolling.
You caught me. I was just rambling, as you suspected, procastinating and ambling about trying to buy some time while I think about what my novel should be about. People typically have some sort of plot worked up before they start a novel, right? Yeah, that would probably be helpful. But, I don’t always do things the easy way.
And, yes, I’m still stalling, so without further adieu, pause, distraction, side note, or tangent:
(Okay, one last thing – to prove that I’m not afraid of the word count aspect of this challenge, I’ve already written 250+ words without actually saying anything of any value. Imagination what I’ll be able to do when I have characters to work with and plot twists to develop and a nice happy resolution to wrap it all together. And, no, I’m not going to count any of this nonsense towards the 50,000 total.)
(And that extra little tangent put me over 300 words.)
Okay, for real this time:
The lightning split the sky and for that brief moment everything in the forest was as clear as day. The rain drops were fat and large. The pine needles on the trees shimmered in the reflected light as the water filtered through sometimes splashing off and sometimes clinging to the razor thin needles. Puddles and rivers of water were everywhere on the saturated mountain ground. Then the light was gone and everything disappeared.
I could hear the rain still but could no longer see it. The trees and ground and mini-rivers running through camp vanished from my sight. My night vision was worse than it had been before the lightning had flashed overhead. I was essentially blind.
Then I was blind and deaf. The thunder rolled down the canyon shaking the ground under my feet. I imagined the trees around me swaying as the force of the crash and crack swept through them. The sound wave echoed up and down the valley, bouncing off the high granite walls, and faded away. My hearing came rushing back with the sound of the pounding rain. My vision began to pick up bits of movement, splashes of color, and the outlines of the trees and rocks closest to me.
It would all be short lived as the electrical storm camped out in my valley continued to unleash its fury. There would be more lightning flashes. There would be more thunder. Through it all, the rain would continue to soak the world around me.
Thankfully I was stashed away, dry and warm, in my tent. I zipped up the flap, closing my view of the outside world and nestled back into my sleeping bag. On my back, hands under my head, I closed my eyes and reveled in the power and majesty of the storm: the sounds, the lights, the smells. It was a real rager. Though perhaps not the biggest storm I’d been caught in while trekking through the Sierra it definitely was one vying for consideration of that crown.
Three days of nearly constant cloud coverage, rain, hail, and lightning. I’d been fairly lucky so far in the few times the storm had subsided coinciding with good times for me to pack up my gear and get back on the trail, pump water, and cook my dinners. Plus, my rain gear had done its job admirably well so far. The only thing that is worse than being caught in a large summer storm in the backcountry is being caught in that same storm and failing to stay dry. Once you’re wet, there is no good way to get dry again until the sun comes back out, and sometimes that can be a very long time.
I smiled, pondering the absurdity of it all, in my sleeping bag as I mentally knocked on wood. No need to jinx myself. It wouldn’t be good if my rain gear suddenly decided to stop working the following day when I expected there to be more of the same weather: rain and hail.
Oh yeah, we’ve covered that already.
I stretched out my legs, easing the pain out of my sore muscles, and moved my hands from behind my head to rest gently on my stomach. Sleep was still awhile away but it couldn’t hurt to get myself in a good position to invite it in sooner. It had been another long and tiring day and my mind and body could both due with a bit of recuperation. Sleep was the only ingredient I had at my disposal to assist with that.
Well, sleep, and water. Staying properly hydrating is also key in staying healthy in the backcountry. I certainly had plenty of water on the trip to keep myself hydrated. Plenty. Not a problem.
Water was really easy to find with the rivers, lakes, streams, trails, camping areas, swamps, nooks, and crannies all swollen and overflowing with the stuff. It had been storming for three straight days! Oh, I mentioned that already too, well it is worth repeating a few times.
My mind wandered out into the rain, passing through the drops without altering their course, and skimming along the surface of a rivulet that was edging its way suspiciously closer and closer to my tent. From there it danced among a few nearby pines, spinning around the trunks and swinging from the lowest hanging branches. Then it lost sight of the present drenched and dripping world and climbed into the past to relive a few of the more memorable moments from the previous days.
Using the spade of my privy shovel to punch a hole in the ice at Evolution Lake had been one of those moments caught between a complete frustration and a complete life affirming jubilation. I had never had to pump water out of a frozen over lake before. Can go ahead and check that one off the to-do list. Don’t ever need to do it again.
Forging a path through the snow, the trail buried and long lost but not forgotten, to reach Muir Pass was much more fun that it sounds. Other than the few times when my legs broke through the top layer and the weight of my backpack drove my leg down into the snow until everything below my knee was buried, the pass was fairly easy to reach. The snow added a different type of traction and I didn’t miss the trail too much. If nothing else, it was interesting to just have my bearings and head up, creating switchbacks in the snow only as I needed them.
The view from the top of Muir Pass was amazing. Everything, rocks, trees, lakes, was blanketed in snow down either side as far as I could see before the twisting canyon walls blocked my sightline. The clouds were only slightly higher than the pass and seemed to be pressing down upon me, dark and swirling and ominous. It was magical and I only regret not being able to spend more time at the top to thoroughly enjoy the view. The sizzle of electricity in those clouds made it pertinent to descend as quickly as was safe.
Balancing on slippery logs and rocks and carefully, painstakingly slowly, crossing the many outlet streams and other watery expanses near Helen Lake proved harrowing. Adrenaline coursed through my veins and I spent the entire time with my nerves on edge. It would have been super easy to slip and find myself in any one of those bank busting creeks. It was probably better odds that I would fall in. Chalk that success up to sheer dumb luck and it is also something I never need to do again.
But I’ve done those things and the memory of them will stay with me forever. They’ve shaped me. They’ve made me stronger and wiser, hopefully anyway. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
Plus there was one more memory that will stand out more vividly than the rest over the course of time. There was a solo hiker, barefoot, fording through the swollen streams by Helen Lake. We were opposites in tactics and directions. I scrambled to stay safely high and dry above the chilly grasp of all that flowing water while heading down the canyon. He trudged straight through that icy liquid while heading up.
He stopped as our paths crossed and asked a single question, “How far to the next campground?”
“You’ve already passed it. There is nothing the direction you are headed except more streams to cross, a snowed over pass to scramble up and down, and then a long cold trek to a frozen lake some eight or so miles away.” It was late in the afternoon, it had started to hail again, and the clouds, if it were possible, seemed to be growing darker by the minute. His only real choice was to turn around and head towards the camps I was headed to.
He thanked me with a slight dip of his head and a smile, adjusted the weight on his shoulders and sauntered off. In my head I see him boldly walking into the heart of darkness, daring the elements to do their worst, and then I think of those bare feet and the thoughts of bravery and toughness are replaced with insanity.
Bare feet while rivers of hail stones pour down the trail… The crunching sound of flesh on ice stone snapped my mind back to the present. Safely ensconced in my dry tent and warm mummy bag I still couldn’t ward off the shiver that started at the nape of my neck and worked its way slowly down my spine. It tingled and itched and the hairs on my arms stood on end until the feeling was pushed to the side by the pain of my cramping legs.
I stretched again, pointing my toes first towards my head and then away, and the dull ache in my thighs faded away. I let out the air I had been holding in a long slow breath and began to force myself to relax. Rest is key.
Outside, the sound of the rain changed from a steady torrent to the pitter pattering of a storm nearing its end. A stiff wind picked up and pushed the clouds out of the canyon. The peels of thunder moved further and further away until I could no longer hear them. The occasional tiny flash from the corners of my vision were a reminder that the storm had just moved on but had not completely dissipated.
Though, as I felt my body relaxing and sleep stealing upon me, I wondered if that wasn’t just my mind playing tricks on me. Perhaps the storm was gone and the following day I would wake up to a cloudless sky and the rejuvenating warmth of several hours of sun. Perhaps, perhaps, it was something to hope for, and something to usher in pleasant dreams.
Above my tent the trees bent in the increasing rushes of wind. The needles whispered to one another their secrets and ambitions. The limbs creaked and groaned out their complaints and annoyances. The droplets of water sounded out their rhythm heavy songs as they were shook free of their various perches. The tiny streams burbled out their gossip as they wound their way through rocky creek bed.
The clouds drifted silently down the canyon and a few stars twinkled on and off through the thinning edges. The temperature dropped and night settled in. It was just another day in the Sierra.
Word Count: 1,758
Story progress: Haven’t really developed the main character at all yet but I think I’ve supplied a pretty good idea of the setting. Should be interesting to see where I end up taking this.