Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sleeping Under The Stars

One thing I am really looking forward to on the Continental Divide Trail, is to sleep under the stars again. This morning I attempted to begin reading a book about Gnosticism. The opening paragraph started out describing the stars. My mind quickly jumped to nights along the trail gazing up into the mass sea of silver spots complete with satellites and meteors. Usually on the trail, it doesn't take long to fall asleep because you are so dog tired. Sometimes on the PCT, I had to force myself to stay awake for a few minutes in the middle of the night after taking a piss to enjoy the view of the stars. Usually after a couple minutes of star gazing, I'd become completely knocked into unconsciousness again due to exhaustion.  After my mind filtered through a few of these memories, I was reminded about the first time I ever slept under the stars. (As you can tell, I didn't get very far in the book today.)

I was probably 15 years old believe it or not. It occurred at my buddy John's house in the suburbs of Maryland. John's room was the ultimate "man cave." He had a kick ass stereo, it was always dark, but lit up by the soft light of a neon Budweiser sign. We played guitars, in fact John was my inspiration for learning the instrument. He had a sweet effects processor and a brand new Fender amplifier. I remember him playing the opening riff to "Back in Black" by ACDC, and "Spirit of the Radio" by Rush on his red Les Paul guitar. I was completely blown away. "I've got to learn how to do that!" I told him. John's older sister would buy us beer, and John always had a stash of pot to smoke. I was never a big pot smoker, but I had a lot to learn about life.

That night, John invited Jason, one of his neighborhood friends, over to the house. Jason was our age and he looked and played guitar like a rockstar. He already had tattoos covering his arms and his guitar playing was way above our level. Jason introduced us to some new music. The three of us grabbed our guitars and jammed while we drank our beers and passed the bowl around. One of the unique things about John's house  was that he had a fire pit in his backyard. After we had our fill with music, we went out to the backyard. John threw a few logs into the firepit and lit it ablaze. This was a new experience, a campfire in the suburbs.

We were all feeling pretty good at this point. John had some nice reclining lawn chairs. We each grabbed one. John and Jason were talking about something I can't remember, and I was looking up at the stars. I was coherent enough to realize that I was getting ready to fall asleep and that I'd better get inside under a roof. Before I knew it, John and Jason were both asleep on their chairs, under the stars, out in the open air. Whoa, it occurred to me in that moment that I had never slept directly under the stars before without some kind of roof over my head. I also realized that I was probably missing out on some sort of spritual experience that somehow seemed to be ingrained in my DNA somewhere. I grabbed a blanket and a pillow and stared at the stars as the fire burned down into glowing coals. I fell asleep and woke up in the morning to a cold damp sunrise. I felt rejuvinated, ALIVE! Somehow, I knew this was probably the first night of many I hoped to spend under the stars...


  1. I slept in my car during my recent Mojave National Preserve trip. I fold the backseats down and sleep, halfway in the trunk and halfway on the back of the backseats. This gives me a "big screen" view out the rear window, where I got to look at the stars.

    The first night out, it was kind of cloudy in the early evening and I was too lazy to set up my telescope. But I did wake up a few times during the night, and soaked in the view of the middle of our home galaxy, passing overhead in the early morning hours. It's convenient that we get the Milky Way high in the sky during our summer nights, when it's nice and warm and perfect for camping (or, in my case, literally, car-camping).

  2. That's great Skyhiker. A few nights in Joshua Tree were some of my favorite star gazing nights. Your car set up sounds pretty sweet!