So I decided to test out the gear I’ve bought after researching and comparing for hours on end. I looked for a nice forest with a stream or river on Google earth (by the way, when was the last time you used that? If you’re like me and the answer is “when I was a kid” you should check it out, the quality is astounding) to spend a night in. Pretty quickly I stumbled upon a suitable spot near Bernhardzell.
Fast forward a couple of days and I find myself taking out the trash at 2 PM and setting up my tent for the first time on the lawn next to my block. It went ok. Although I did almost break it immediately by putting the pole straight on the delicate fabric instead of putting it inside the pocket which protects the fabric. Oh well, I’ll learn.
After having taken it down, I went on my way. Initially I thought I’d walk to my destination but the backpack felt heavy, so I helplessly stuck my thumb out a few times. There weren’t many cars around, but after having made an old lady look really uncomfortable (which is weird isn’t it? I’m the one basically begging by the side of the road, she’s not the one that’s supposed to be uncomfortable) I managed to get a nice looking SUV Mercedes to stop. The owner was a middle-aged woman with a thick eastern European accent and unnaturally blonde hair: “Wo muust du chin?” “ÄÄh Wittäbach oder St. Gallä?” “Oh nein, ich gehe St. Margrethen” A slightly awkward paused ensued while I was thinking about where St. Margrethen is. After a few long-feeling seconds I finally remembered and said: “Ah okey schad, aber danke fürs ahalte!”
I stopped trying to hitchhike and surrendered to my fate of walking. It sort of reminded me of my treks in Nepal. Just you, with your legs, backpack and thoughts. It felt weird to think that in less than a couple of weeks I’ll be doing the same, only that time I won’t be coming back home. Instead, I won’t have a clue where exactly I’ll be the next day. Exciting and frightening at the same time.
Some time passed. I walked past little groups of schoolkids going home after class. Their yellow “Schüelerstreife” giving them away as first graders. I smiled at them and offered a friendly “Hallo”. They didn’t seem too happy to encounter this tall stranger carrying a big backpack though as none of them smiled and barely a few muttered a “Grüetzi”. Well, I rate the first graders of Roggwil 1/10. That’s what you get, kids.
Eventually I reached a forest between Roggwil and Watt, which, after walking around in it, I realized that I’ve been there before. I recognized it from back when I was a kid. We used to take our dogs for walks here. I tried to remember the last time I was in a forest, by which I mean actually inside a forest, not on the path. Apart from many memories as a kid, I couldn’t come up with anything.
I briefly thought about my situation and decided that I was going to spend the night here. Who cares about Bernhardzell, right? There were countless spots to set up my tent and I even heard the faint sounds of a stream rippling its way through the forest somewhere nearby, which meant there was a source of water. I lay down satisfied with myself and spent a long time looking up at the trees, not doing anything. My mind went quiet all by itself and just simply being in nature felt more than enough. No traffic noises, no construction sites, no people hurrying from one place to another.
After I noticed that it started to get darker, I got up and went looking for a spot to set up my tent. I stumbled across tiny houses on the forest floor made out of bark and wood. They reminded me of the dolls in the Blair Witch Project (in case you haven’t seen that movie, it’s about three teenagers that get lost in the woods and some spooky stuff happens. I can recommend it for fans of the shaky-cam found footage type of film.) Not letting me get deterred by something as trivial as witchcraft, I soon found a fitting space and went about setting up the tent. It went a bit better this time.
Just after I had finished setting up, it started drizzling. I made myself comfortable inside the tent and started preparing my dinner. It consisted of green lentils with, well, to be honest it was just that, green lentils. Nothing fancy, I’m afraid. However, it soon became apparent that those lentils were not going to be eaten by anyone tonight. The problem being the fact that, try as I might, my gas stove burner didn’t fit on the gas canister I bought. At first, I tried to take the path of least resistance by simply going to sleep pretending I wasn’t hungry. Needless to say, that didn’t work. After accepting defeat by my stomach, I thought about the options available to me, which didn’t take long because there weren’t many. I ended up postponing the problem to tomorrow by soaking the oats I had with me (which were supposed to be my breakfast for the next day) for an hour or so before hastily gobbling them down. I did have some doubts about only soaking them for an hour (which manifested themselves in my mothers voice telling me I need to soak them for much longer, or they are certainly going to make me horrifically sick), but it turned out to be fine. Take that, mother. A small victory to end the day.
I spent the night in reasonable comfort. The sleeping pad and the inflatable pillow were surprisingly comfy and the sleeping bag was cozy and kept me warm all throughout the night. I did wake up once by a rustling sound nearby, thinking that’s it, someone’s coming to murder me. After a few tense moments, I relaxed. It was just the wind. Once I had to get up to pee, which was startling because let me tell you, the forest gets real dark at night. My jokes earlier in the day about the Blair Witch Project took on a more sinister note.
I got up the next morning at dawn, broke camp and went down to the stream to get water. First I filled up a pouch, attached it to the filter and squeezed it through the filter into my bottle. This gets rid of almost everything nasty except for viruses. Then I used the steripen (which even neutralizes viruses by the use of ultraviolet light), mostly just to try it out, since viruses apparently aren’t a threat in our waters. Everything worked the way it should, no surprises here.
On the way home I got myself a little treat from the Roggwiler bakery: A Roggen-Sauerteigbrot. My brother recommended it to me. Knowing him to be quite the bread connoisseur, I was excited to try it. My first impressions were its unique smell and how small it was for its weight. I couldn’t quite get myself to like the smell, the taste was better though. And the consistency was amazing. I rate it 7/10.
All in all, I deem this expedition a success, despite some failures. My main goal was to familiarize myself with the equipment and check if everything works the way it’s supposed to. I hope you enjoyed reading about this little trip to the forest.