Yesterday morning we returned to Deb’s cousin’s mountain, intent on doing a little more exploring. We were joined for a while by a local fellow who’s worked that rocky, unlevel ground before, and we listened carefully to his advice.

We poked around the place while he offered counsel. He and Deb’s cousin eventually left us to ourselves, and we started wandering. We’d brought flagging tape, bright yellow, to mark our path. And even though deer season didn’t start ’til today, both of us wore stocking caps in blaze orange.

I’d picked up a made-in-USA machete this week, sharpening it with a flat file and wrapping the slippery handle in adhesive tape, and I put the new tool to good use yesterday on briars and tangle. Even so, at one point a thorny vine wrapped itself around my ankles like a snare and put me on my ass. It’s not easy terrain for my aging frame to negotiate, even with the aid of a walking stick, and admittedly I’m pretty rusty at the whole bushwhackin’ thang.

It’s impossible to exaggerate how remote and removed this piece of property feels. Just a hundred feet off the narrow dirt road, we were swallowed up by dense growth. Wind whispered in the cedars. Tall oaks wore their best fall colors. The sky was the deepest blue imaginable.

Picking our way upslope we came across a number of rock outcroppings, craggy and decked in mosses and lichens. This region’s geology is complex, I’ve discovered, and it thoroughly fascinates me. I want to learn more.

Amidst the trees and ledges we did find one actual clearing. I suspect it was man-made long ago, but that’s only a guess. The spot grabbed my imagination — I thought about pitching a tent there or, in a more permanent way, siting a natural-stone fire pit in the center of the open space, maybe building a couple of benches from native oak logs.

When we’d finished the day’s woodswalking, we drove up to the cabin for beer and conversation before heading back west. I guided Mercy through the swoops and whoops of US 62, an hour-long drive that’s becoming very familiar.

Deb and I talked about our time on the mountain, unpacking the experience as we often do. It always strikes me how synchronized we are about such things — many things, actually, most things. We see the world in the same way, almost always finding ourselves on the same intellectual and emotional page, while remaining independent and different enough to be healthy.

That compatibility, naturally, has been a big part of why we’ve had such an incredible time on this odyssey of ours — it’s been quite the success. Despite some challenges and a complication or two, the important stuff’s been easy.

Whether walking in the woods or walking through our American Life, we’re in step. And as we move forward into what’s next for us, that synchrony will be essential.

Nature slipped us a cold one overnight. The mercury was flirting with the 20s by this morning, taking Ernie’s heat pumps to the edge of what they can do and, for a few hours, threatening to cross it. We saw the snap coming, however, and everything’s fine.

Getting the rear LP furnace repaired can’t happen soon enough, though. That’s scheduled for Wednesday.

I rarely battle insomnia now like I did when I was younger, but last night I couldn’t sleep for shit. Fortunately, Deb and I have no plans for our Saturday, so I expect to take full advantage of the empty calendar and kick right back.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon #FJB

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