Tuesday, December 6, 2005

A walk in the dark, a pleasant evening

Tuesday, December 06, 2005 9:26:12 PM

An interesting evening. Two whole days at work that I am working under regular pressure and regular hours. I take off today at 5. Ironic, we had a false fire alarm earlier in the day, and another at 4:55. So I just shut it down and split. Got back to camp and in my room right at 5:30. Changed shirts, put on some wool socks, and went walking.

Put on my fox sharka - the stereotypical Russian fur hat that makes a body look like a mushroom. It is HUGE in the mirror, but it is also deliciously WARM when you wear it! It has ear flaps. You tie these over the top of the hat for the coolest position, you pull them down around the back for the second position - warmer. And, for warmest, you would untie the ear flaps and tie them under your chin. This hat is a marvel of non-techno luxury all by itself. Most that you see are mink - very nice, presents a tighter profile and smoother appearance, and mink is renowned for it's smooth and warm quality. Mine is fox - bushier, more color. I looked for one with a good undercoat, and found one that is pretty good. But man, is it WARM. It is great when it is cold out, really cold, but once I get warm from walking, I have to open my coat entirely to vent enough not to sweat too much. And I still work up a good sweat!

Also put on my wool coat. I didn't wear my winter goose down coat - that would have been way overkill with the sharka - I would have cooked. So I put on my lovely wool coat that I really love. It is such a great coat. It only lacks one thing to perfection - its color. It should be red, or at the worst navy blue, but it for some reason it is royal blue. it is just so hard to find perfection. Hehe. Even in royal blue, this is one of my all-time favorite coats. I've had a couple that I have been attached to in the various stages of my life. The denim jacket with the Dartmouth protest fir tree stencil on back, and the embroidered dawn on the front. The red wool cycling jacket with the patches. The replacement for the red cycling jacket with patches that became almost as good as the first. And now my blue Woolrich.

So I was dressed for walking. I picked up my walking stick and headed downstairs. My timing was perfection. I arrived at 5:38. Tomas teased me about looking like the camp sheperd. I laughed and joked back. At 5:42 a bunch of guys came in from the site, and joked "Wow, now that is real road kill!" (the hat), etc. A couple comments about the stick. Tomas wandered off purposefully. It was fun. I waited until 5:45, then I split. Oh, in case you didn't know, 5:40 is the semi-official "walk" time for some people. So I was waiting to see if anybody showed. I had told one of the other walkers that I was going. I was tired of waiting, though, so I didn't waste any more time. I booked right on out of there.

I told the folks - meaning the counter attendant, and the guards at the entry gate, one hour. I set out in back of the camp - walking the field and river trail/road. Went north until I almost hit the woods. That took about 20 or 25 minutes, so I calculated a about a mile. Instead of turning back, I thought to familiarize myself with these roads a little, and took the next road right. This heads back to the west towards the dirt road, and just south of a small forest copse. Fields on my left, the river behind me as I headed west. The moon was out - just better than a crescent, and I think it is in the growth cycle. It was very bright. When I first left there was plenty of cloud cover, but it cleared some as I walked, revealing Cassiopiea, and then the Big Dipper and the North Star. The stars were fantastically beautiful. The quiet was wonderful, and for the first time in many many years, it was so quiet that when I stopped, the ringing in my ears was almost deafening.

It is a bit scary, walking at night. And here I was out in the middle of a set of big fields and woods, in the middle of winter, all alone. So I had a couple of nervous thoughts, or more than a couple, but nothing that paniced me badly enough to turn around. My feet crunched and squeaked through the snow. The snow was mostly fresh. A car had been by, probably during daylight. Somebody had walked here, probably yesterday. Lots of animal track, probably a day and half or two days old.

I check my phone for the time. I've been gone a half hour, then about 45 minutes, and, while I have been setting a track to loop me back towards my start, I think I am still about 30 minutes out. Hmmm. I said one hour, and now it looks like an hour and a quarter.

Regardless, I begin to pick up the pace a little. I have turned away from the river trail back towards the village Sovyetskaya, over the field roads. It is beautiful. After some time I reach a landmark I recognize - a single tree. I have no trouble at any time picking out the lights of the camp, so there is no question of being lost. I keep following the road, and it occurs to me that there is one weakness in my defense. I have based my defense on a few strategies - my departure days are not predictable, nor is my route, exactly. If I am cornered by a vehicle while on the river road, I can retreat across the river on the ice, or hide along the folds and trees of its banks. But now I am out in the fields. No one will come at me on foot, and if they do, I can handle a lot of people - most people - in a one-on-one. Don't forget I have my stick, and I know something about using it. But in the fields, if a car came out here and came after me, they could just drive anywhere I could run, and my footprints are as obvious as they could possibly be in this snow. Ironically, on realizing this, there is more auto traffic around Sovyetskaya than at any time since I have been walking. The village is still a half to three-quarter of a mile away, but I can see the car lights easily. One or two of the cars actually seem like they are using the edges of these field roads, and not the main road to Chumlyak. So I am a little more nervous, and I pick up the pace quite a bit.

This section of the road takes longer than I remember, and has a couple of turns that I had forgotten. I will have to explore better on a future walk. I finally get to the footbridge. From here it is only a short distance to the hill behind the camp, and then I will be at the entry gate. The clouds are covering the stars again. I throw some practice strikes and blocks with the stick against a defenseless roadside post. Then I am walking up the hill to the guard's building at the entry gate. I enter, and pass through. As I exit, several of the guards are standing around, chatting, smoking, generally having a nice evening. I stop and pull out my phone - the only time-keeping device I have on me. I look at the time and say "Ahdeen chas, pyaht minut." They understand, and one of the guys says something about "sportif" something, but also whirls his hands like pedaling a bicycle. I think he recognizes me from when I was riding my bike. I say "da, da", and continue to say just "kholodna" (cold), then "dobre vecher" (good evening), as I walk back to the camp building.

I change shirts and pants, and hit the weight room to do some weighted squats for sprinting capacity. I do a few other exrecises, as well. Situps, a few weighted punches, not much more. Dinner is next, then I have signed up to use the sauna at 8. We chat a bit at dinner, and then I hit the sauna. This sauna was designed by a Swede - it is HOT. Hot, and dry. Nice fittings, very very nice - luxurious. But also coed, and I have already gotten accustomed to doing the banya nude. Fortunately there is no one else there at all.

I can't spend much time in this sauna - way too hot. Unlike the saunas in the public baths I've gone too, it is much hotter. The public banyas have had very nice saunas, just not quite the heat I learned to seek when I was a youth in the upper peninsula of Michigan. This sauna has every bit of that heat, and a touch more. It is damn good and hot.

I have difficultly lasting ten minutes the first time before I have to shower. I use this first shower to cleanse, then head back to the sauna. I am more comfortable, but I am by now also bored. I last for something between 5 and ten minutes, then add some water to the rocks. I lie down for another minute or two, but then I am absolutely bored and tired of it. So I leave the sauna. There is a Moscow Times and I read that as I sit and cool off for another ten minutes or so.

I head upstairs, and my legs are righteously tired. I think I will sleep well tonight.

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