Bikepacking in the Flint Hills
Click, click . . . clickety, click, . . click. Night three of a Flint Hills bikepacking trip. Two days and night previous had rain, lots of rain but tonight was a clear, warm evening. A two-days-past-full moon was gazing at earth. Watching to see if anyone noticed. The hills were settling into autumn. Big bluestem and Indian grass had their red on. Golden Rod was fading, milo ready to cut, birds gathering. Sharp hill beyond sharp hill, always enticing you to peddle on to see what is over the horizon. Through it all the sky and land. How do you not get drawn in? How do you not feel gratitude while watching the drama of hawk and snake? Gratitude for the promise of green, June grass and the completed cycle of red, October grass. Gratitude for the brittle, sharp Chert that has cursed the plow and blessed the tall grass.
I will have it this way, biking through the Flint Hills, putting up a borrowed tarp at night to keep sleep. Tonight though I’m restless and mingled in my sleep is the sound of click, click . . . clickety, click . . click. Sometime closer to sunrise than midnight I submit to bladder’s urging, just outside the tarp when I hear again click, click . . . clickety, click . . click. For the first time I realize I have been hearing that sound for much of the night and the sound is close by and the creator of the sound is close by. As these thoughts labor sluggishly from synapse to synapse a voice behind me calls out, a voice greets me. At 4am, while I pee in the park of a small Flint Hill town someone wants to talk to me. A generous soul, he didn’t comment on my embarrassing situation but offered me his homemade necklace. He urged me to take it. He urged me to take his 4am, I want to sleep but I’m peeing, homemade necklace. What could I say? What would you say? He handed it to me, turned and left without another word.
And so, and so I was reminded that while I will always look first to the sky and raptors, hills and ravine, forb and grass for solace, inspiration and beauty even humans can astound and mystify.
I never really slept again that night as I lay wondering exactly who hangs out in a small town’s park at 4am offering a neckless to peeing bicyclist. At first light I went in the direction of the previous night’s noise and saw a rock dam under construction in the park’s ravine. Chert, pulled from the ravine’s side was being laid up to hold back any water flow. An all night dam construction, a homemade necklace offered. Such peculiar acts with only the moon to watch, and my ears to hear, and a necklace to wear.