A fifteen minute hike over a windy, hilly moss-covered path- weighed down pack straining my shoulder blades, tautly rolled sleeping bag slug around my front, and an insulated blue bag of cheese, wine and silver chalices- this was my initiation to camping. Now, I don’t know about you, but I had the notion in my head that most children, or even teens would embark on this journey either with their parents or with their friends, typically year after year and would find it an exhilarating adventure. (Minus the wine of course). Whether my mental construction is true or not, I can say that I had never before had the pleasure of heading deep into the woods to do this…camping thing. Once, when I was little, my dad and I pitched our nifty largish tent with a little front porch on it in the backyard, just so I could at least experience what it’d feel like sleeping outside all night. Back then, I remember liking it, being mildly freaked out, and then becoming absolutely annoyed at the early sunrise, so when my dad got up at five in the morning to go to work, I headed out of the tent and back into the safety of my warm bed. Since then, until the other night I’ve never been in a tent.
Since being with Dave, he’s often talked about camping, showed me pictures and explained thoroughly that he loved it. Of course he offered to take me early on in our relationship, yet, to be unashamedly honest, I was terrified. Black night, a decent distance from the house, deep woods immediately behind the tent, potential threat for a 300 lb. bear to come stomping by…otherwise creepy rustling leaves in this blackness. Nope. Wasn’t having it. To make a long story short, in order to go camping, I had to overcome all of these fears. I guess the biggest one was feeling vulnerable. Spending the night in a seemingly flimsy tent completely isolated from civilization didn’t feel too reassuring to me.
Well, needless to say my fears were erased as time went on. We have hiked many times since my first encounter with the camping thought, and I’ve seen the exact location many times as well. Finally, I realized I could just trust Dave and that it would be fun. He assured me there were no bears on his camping experiences, no threats, nothing bad, nothing to worry about at all. I took his word. We planned the trip.
The campsite we stayed at was right on his mountain, so it’s completely private. To get to the woods, we take a short drive about half a mile down the road if that, and then get out and hike up the mountain for about fifteen minutes. In that short of a time, we arrive near the top of the mountain, the view- astounding. The entire valley below, far in the distance. Beyond the wide-spread valley, more hazy mountain ranges that appeared to be delicately layered on top of one another. You can see eye to eye with these far off mountains at least 60 miles. Thankfully, we’re not staying right in the heart of the woods, we’re in a nice open area, the ground made of huge, flat slabs of stone that probably were born out of the glaciers that once inhabited the space. There’s a small fire pit that Dave built out of loose, large rocks on one side of the flat rock surface. And at the back of this space, opposite of where we emerged out of the woods, there’s a flat, grassy patch where we placed the tent.
Pitching the tent wasn’t as tedious as I had imaged. I couldn’t be happier we tested out the whole tent-putting-up method before we set out as I had no idea how to put a tent up. Before doing so, I had crazy, cartoon images in my mind, you know, where a group or couple gets to their desired camping spot that stumble, trip and fall over each other attempting to erect a temporary shelter made out of fabric and metal. And of course that classic image came to mind of the tent being finished then as someone walks away looking all smug and satisfied with hands on their hips, comes crashing down with a puff of dust arising from beneath it. These were all of course folly. I learned quickly that tent setup was like nothing. For this, I was grateful.
The next step was gathering some wood and kindling for a fire. That wasn’t too painstaking either as there was an abundance of dried out sticks, twigs and logs to choose from. What I was dying for was the euphoria of placing a warm, crusty and browned-on-the-outside and gooey-on-the-inside marshmallow on top of a decadent Hershey bar piece in between two sweet, crunchy graham crackers. UGH. I could NOT for the life of me remember the last time I had this God-given delicacy that someone dubbed as a “s’more”. Soon after the fire was crackling and dancing towards the darkening, golden sky, Dave and I found perfect marshmallow sticks and engaged in the art of roasting.
Too soon, the spectacular sunset that set the sky ablaze with profound depth and beauty of gold, red orange, mixed with wispy white clouds melted into the horizon. The transition of day to night was breathtaking. Stars began to reveal themselves against the dark blue blanket and the moon slowly arose to the south illuminating the landscape with a surreal glow. Dave and I stargazed through binoculars and he pointed out constellations and single stars that were remarkable. After, we turned in to our tent for some late night, outdoor Yahtzee playing accompanied by Asti sparkling wine, Adams Reserve Cheese, and Chex Mix.
When it was time to sleep, I had the most difficult time finding a comfy spot amongst the lumpy grass clods beneath. I managed to wiggle myself into a decent space with my butt resting in a dip and my head against my pack. It was a rough sleep, but it worked out. In the morning, I couldn’t wait to get up, actually, I was hoping I was going to be able to move since my back felt like it was completely locked up a few times. Around 7 o’clock an extraordinarily loud bird began repetitively chirping a distinctive chirp. Over and over again it called out to the mountains and valley below. I had forgotten my earplugs and most certainly was not ready to get up yet. I carefully rolled over to Dave who was half asleep. He asked it I wanted to see the sun, which replaced the moon behind us, and cast a magical glow all around, but I was still in my half slumber, and declined.
When I finally did arise out of the tent that following morning I felt refreshed. Not because of a good night’s sleep, but because of being in the purity of nature. Dave and I took a short walk to a small adjacent meadow to look around, then headed back to pack up and make the hike downhill. I was a little sad leaving, as my first camping experience was truly wonderful and beautiful. I am thankful for my Love who owns the property and who was excited to take me. I am grateful for nature and what it told me while spending the night. It told me to relax, to feel safe and not to worry. The sky and full moon comforted me and the trees stood guard and held us tight. Even the birds we heard taught us something. When we were building the fire, Dave decided he wanted to call for a whippoorwill since they were around still, (he has an amazing ability to mimic these tiny creatures) and alas, when he did there were two of them that called back almost immediately. Their energies were blended with ours. What a magical, fun experience! I cannot wait to go camping again to feel the seclusion, closeness to nature and overall magic. 🙂