“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived … I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…”
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Secret Vistas –
By Glynn Wilson –
SOMEWHERE IN THE WOODS, Md. – I went to the woods in a camper van to live simply and cheaply to make the least possible carbon footprint on our dying planet.
There is a Proverb in every religion conceived by human kind that talks about living by example to provide a model to follow for those to come. Even in this oh so modern society we’ve created with all its complications, I set out to prove that it is possible to live simply and still have an impact.
Could I have chosen an even simpler existence? Somewhere much further from the constant din of traffic in the nation’s capital? No doubt.
There is a woman just a few camp sites up the road now sleeping in a tent. She did not drive her SUV or even a Subaru here either. She rode her bike. There are also campers nearby who walked here from dog knows where.
But to live and work and dream there are a few essentials a person needs, it seems to me. Basic transportation. A comfortable bed. A small kitchen with a sink, hot and cold running water, a small refrigerator to keep a few basic items of food and drink handy, and of course a coffee pot. A flush toilet and a place to hang a few clothes. A computer with a power source and an Internet connection. How could we live in this world without that, right?
When I moved to the Washington, D.C. area the first time in 2004, I tried to do it without a car. I thought I could make it here with a mountain bike and a Metro Smart Card. But that was not so smart.
When Time magazine called back and asked how soon I could be in Cumberland, Maryland, to help with the coverage of the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq, I had to impose on my roommate to make the drive over the Pocono mountains through West Virginia. Then we had to share a hotel room for a few days and at some point it became imperative to pull out and head back for Alexandria, Virginia where I was renting a room for $650 a month.
For years I asked myself: What if I had had a camper van and could have stayed indefinitely?
Now I’m setup for whatever happens. I can go wherever and stay as long as it takes to get the story.
Hang on while I check out the amazing morning light outside and pour another cup of hazelnut.
After 10 days of scrambling around to find the perfect place to camp not far from D.C. where I could get into town to cover the news when the time is right, the muses led me to this place called the Patapsco Valley State Park. It lies about 40 miles north of Washington in the Maryland woods, extending along 32 miles of the Patapsco River.
In one of Maryland’s first state parks established in 1907, the valley and its natural resources have been enjoyed first by the Native Americans, then explorers, settlers and now new citizens from all over the world. With its source in Frederick and Carroll counties, the Patapsco River serves the Port of Baltimore and empties into the Chesapeake Bay.
The park is nationally known for its trail opportunities and scenery, according to the Maryland Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. There are about 170 miles of trails. In addition to hiking and camping, people come here to hunt and fish, ride horses or mountain bikes, canoe or kayak, or simply have a picnic.
While the National Park Service campground in Greenbelt Park is cheaper at $16 a night and much closer to Washington, and the private Cherry Hill campground is amazing in its amenities, if pricey at $53 a night with the Senior Citizens discount, this campsite in the Patapsco is the best thing I’ve found so far. Just $30 a night and you cannot hear the Washington Beltway traffic from here or see the city lights at night.
It offers a steady electrical connection, yet it’s not too far from civilization so the cell phone and Internet work. That’s what I need to be able to write these stories and tell you about them.
Now it is about time to get down to the business of figuring out what stories need to be tackled next. By being here in the so-called “District” of Columbia where the business of running our national government happens, I have access to local television and radio news as well to help me keep up with what’s going on. One of the new items in the camper van is a digital antennae that allows me to pick up local broadcast signals wherever I camp.
In between cooking some chicken thighs and Andouille sausage over the fire last night to add to the red beans and rice, I heard people talking about Jeb Bush running for president in 2016. I kid you not.
While there is much discussion of the fact that a majority of people in this country say they would never elect another Bush after the lousy job George W. did in his two terms in the White House, the possibility is still on the table, folks. I plan to turn my telescope toward that story very soon.
But not right this minute. It is about time to take the dog for a walk around the campground and see who else is stirring. I’m curious to know the story of the woman camping in a tent who got here on a bike : )
© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.