Spoon Carving For Dinner
He was rummaging through his little green ditty bag and I knew something was amiss. Still I didn’t say anything. He is a veteran hiker and if he forgot a needed item then he would mention it all in good time.
I sat near the cook pot preparing dinner of vegetarian chili with rice and a cup of cheese nips thrown in for good measure. The sun was beginning to set over the western horizon and occasionally the breeze would pick up and toss around the small granules of dirt and rock which embed into hair and jacket. Other than the breeze there existed no sound; just a quiet where only your own thoughts could penetrate the beautiful moment.
Sipping hot cider from an insulated mug I muttered to myself about the water sources we had chosen from today. A cattle tank, an ice coffined creek-let, a mud puddle and a snow bank. All worthy choices during a hike where we went further and longer simply because we wanted to explore what was around the next bend. Our reward is this little protruding finger on the eastern side of a mesa that is still abundant with snow. Climbing up amongst the pinyon pine and cactus the question of turning around and putting a tent up amongst the ponderosa pine and its pine needled base was always an option. But first, I had to climb a little bit higher.
He returned with a stick and pulled out his knife. Smugly I giggled (I don’t know why, I once forgot the fuel bottle – and, there was the time I forgot the can opener) as he whittled away forming a smooth oval shape with a minor indention in the center. Picking off the splinters the entire creation was dipped into water, edges re-checked and then set on the flattop of the rock we were going to use for our table.
Long hikes, short hikes. Doesn’t really matter, dinner is always delicious in the field. I don’t know if it is because we intentionally pack food that is more nutritious or because we pay additional attention to the seasonings necessary for the perfect flavoring. Maybe it is because dinner is relished and uninterrupted. The gulps and slurping are real enjoyment as the creation slides down into the belly and warms and nourishes the muscles that have exerted throughout the day. Never have I had a bad meal in the field. I think we respect our food more when backpacking – we’ve carried it, we’ve prepared it – not like heading to McDonald’s for a big mac. By the time I’m ready to prepare dinner on a backcountry stove I know my food intimately.
He stuck his newly carved spoon into the colorless glop and transferred the heaping spoonful into his mouth. The temperature heat momentarily burned the tongue and seconds later a warming of spice transferred across the palate. We alternated taking turns for spoonful dips until the last bite remained.
I washed the pot with snow and tucked all away with a rock on top for the night. Standing up to stretch the darkness was empowering and the wind had ceased its rocking of the smaller trees. As the last light fell away into the night we made our way to our tent on the finger ridge and crawled inside to sleep, anxiously waiting for morning light.
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