Monday, November 8, 2004

Walking Away - Chapter 6: Morning Breaks

The sun was a long time in rising from behind the bluff but its presence had been known for hours. The sky lightened and the traffic on the road below picked up as the commuters made their way into work. For now it was going to be a clear and warm but clouds were on the western horizon.

A blanket of warmth replaced morning chills, the sun shining on Jack’s back as he sat looking over the river valley to the west and contemplating what he wanted to do now that he was free. He figured he would be in Harrison, Arkansas a little after noon to buy enough supplies to last him for three or four weeks and another hour to the trailhead where he planned to shuttle his supplies into Buffalo River National Park and lose him self for a while. He figured it would be well into the wee hours of tomorrow morning before he got everything down but he had as long as he wanted to sleep in so it really didn’t matter.

Jack had been coming to the park for as long as he could remember and it was a perfect place to get lost. The park itself was 100,000+ acres that encompassed 130 miles of the Buffalo River but with surrounding land also owned by the government, that figure probably doubles or triples. The river etches its way through the Boston Mountains made of limestone and created numerous overhanging bluffs and caves used by the Indians and early settlers. Jack figured that one of these bluffs would serve his purposes too.

Although, he kept seeing more people every time he went there on a vacation, most of the people stayed on the trails and the river. Off the beaten path, he never had seen anyone but if he did, most likely they would be from out of town and not likely to report him. Even if they did, the worst case was some park ranger coming by to tell him to pack up and leave. There were hundreds if not thousands of other shelters scattered around the park, so moving to a new location wouldn’t be much of a problem.

A car door slammed in the distance up the hill in the vicinity of his car and after a couple minutes, footsteps approached through the brush. A police officer emerged from behind some scrubby red cedar trees and said howdy to Jack who politely shook his hand. The officer wasn’t one for words and merely told Jack to pack up and go. The irony of the whole thing was not lost on Jack as he packed up his gear and walked back to his car now flanked by a squad car. He put his gear in the trunk, started up the car and drove away as the officer leaned against his own car and watched.

A vehicle was always a calling card of someone’s presence nearby and thankfully Jack had a solution for it once he had reached his destination. His parents owned a small cabin and land just an eighth mile up the road from the trailhead where he was planning to enter the park. After he had shuttled all his gear to his new ‘home,’ he would just park it front of the cabin where nobody would question its presence. It also left him with a way to go for more supplies when the time came. Jack reached the highway again and turned toward the city. As he merged into the traffic, he was just another commuter heading towards work to the casual observer driving by. But if they looked close, they would have seen the gleam in the eye of someone who was truly free.

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