Nature’s Morning Symphony

It’s morning in a Virginia mountain forest. I’m awake at 6 a.m. listening to the sounds outside my tent. Melodic trills. Whining whistles. Urgent notes increasing from loud to piercing. Hollow pecking. Raucous scolding calls. Buzzing that whooshes past my ear. One propeller in the distance. I can just barely make out the hum of cars on a highway. Sharp Percussive hits rustle leaves on the forest floor. These sounds I recognize. I greet the birds by name whose voices are familiar. I rejoice that i didn’t set up my tarp under the tree that’s dropping nuts. I drift back into half sleep.

And then theres a stomping sound. It startles me. I sit up. What’s that? I lift the bottom edge of my tarp and look out. 20 yards away I make out a movement. My eyes sort out a rusty brown shape . Long thin legs lift up then beat the ground. I discern a head lowering then snapping up. Its a deer! And its regarding ME – or at least the unrecognized and threatening shape of my tarp. It makes sense that a blue and yellow triangle would not be in the memory base of a young deer.

My head is out. We look at each other. I don’t budge. The deer stomps her warning rhythm six or eight more times, then shakes her head and snorts a sneezing barking sound. I don’t leave. She does; hooves pounding out a last percussive phrase through the trees.

I want front row seats for more of this Morning Awakening symphony ! I pull my mat and sleeping bag out the door of my tarp and sit watching and listening, my senses bathed and nourished in Nature’s living art gallery

My Umbrella: A Room with a View

I Love My Gear!

My Umbrella is a Rainy Day Room With a View

Yesterday, I walked on Cold Mountain, VA, in a cloud. Rain drizzled down and visibility was

"My Room with a View"

about 20 feet. Yet, I was enjoying the walk, the view, and a visit to this magical place of beauty.  As I walked, I realized that my umbrella played a big part in my ability to embrace this moment in comfort  and joy.

When I first started backpacking, I thought that an umbrella would be about the dumbest thing I could bring.  Wouldn’t it get caught in branches along the trail?, I thought.  An umbrella is fragile and awkward! Umbrellas are for city streets, not trails!  It’s just not right! An umbrella is bulky and hard to pack. My list of reasons to leave the umbrella at home was long.

Four years later, I’d walked the entire Appalachian Trail in plenty of rain, snow, and sun all without an umbrella.  I’d walked along perfectly well with my poncho that covered me and my pack.  My AT hiking partner even used an umbrella, but I wouldn’t cave in.  Umbrellas were simply NOT for backpacking!

Fast forward to mile 4,479 of my backpacking career and I’m holding –an umbrella!  And I’m loving it!

Snow was falling all around me in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington State and I had the feeling of being in a cozy room of my own with a beautiful view on a wondrous world.  My upper body was dry.  My hands were dry. My glasses were clear. A new world had opened before me. My initiation into the community of Umbrella Backpackers was complete.  “Umbrella” was permanently on my packing list.

Here’s what I like about my umbrella on the trail:

  • It’s lightweight rain gear
  • It’s easy to pack
  • It’s quick to pull out and put away
  • It’s easy to replace when lost or broken
  • It’s a good conversation starter
  • It’s a windbreak for my outdoor kitchen
  • It’s great for night-time toilet runs


It’s still true that an umbrella doesn’t work well in wind, so I still carry a poncho that doubles as a ground cloth.  However, an umbrella can be turned against a light wind to create a wall to driving rain.  If wind and rain are too heavy for my umbrella, however, that’s a good sign for me to get out of the weather and head for a shelter or set up my tarp and go inside.

Now I’m an umbrella advocate and I invite you to consider packing one for your next walk.


What do you think?  Let me know by commenting below!