This weekend, my fiancé and I decided to go camping. At this point in our relationship, we had not actually “gone camping” in any real sense of the phrase. And by that, I mean, we had not strapped heavy bags to our backs and proceeded to hike over rock formations to get to our final destination. Chris wished to remedy this oversight on his part, and declared that Labor Day Weekend was THE BEST TIME EVAR! to fix this problem.
Now I have done a fair share of car camping in my day. Heck, I was a YMCA Indian Princess AND a Girl Scout. I even inherited a hiking backpack from my house. (Short story: I bought a house, and the previous owner gave up on clearing out all their junk, and didn’t want any of it afterwards. In that junk were some treasures, including a good quality hiking backpack. Also, a lawn mower.) What I had never done was use this wonderful treasure out in the wild (or really, ever), so I was relatively little assistance in getting everything that had piled up in the living room actually INTO the pack. I did, however, know how to make peanut butter sandwiches and how to pack them so they would not get squished.
After a lengthy packing process, 45-minutes of searching around the house for car keys (which we did not find), and running by the sporting goods store to buy a new sleeping bag, as mine was woefully too big to even consider hiking with, we started off on our 2 hour drive – in the dark- to start hiking – up a mountain – for the first time – with a hiking backpack strapped on my back.
The first realization that our trip might not be going according to the original plan, was getting lost in a rather backwoods area where we were greeted by the local Cujo. No signal to our phones meant that we were super-glad that Chris had the forethought to bring along a folding paper map. PSA: Kids- Learn to read an actual paper map. It could save you from Cujo and those guys from Deliverance.
Eventually, we made it up a winding, foggy, gravelly, almost fall off the side of the mountain, road that appeared to perhaps be leading to our proposed destination. At this point the clock is creeping on in towards midnight. We had reached a feeling between determination to get to the end of whatever road we have found ourselves on, and terror as to what might jump out of the foggy woods and murder us. We had seen a fox earlier; Also Cujo. Relief at finding ourselves on a paved road leading to the parking lot of the trail-head was great and exhilarating.
My exhilaration tamped itself down as the heavy realization of having to hike up the mountain before we could set up camp strapped itself onto my back along with my hiking backpack. The air was cool, and clammy with mist, and I thought to myself, “We wouldn’t be attempting TOO hard of a hike, especially as this is my very first hike with a pack, and it IS getting on towards 1AM.”
Around 2:30AM I started contemplating my life and the choices I had made in it. My headlamp cut a swath of eerie light through the dense fog, as I waited for Chris to return from searching out the correct trail. We had already retraced our steps, and this was a last ditch attempt to get up the damned mountain before the sun came up. The forest hummed and chattered, and every few minutes Mrs. Dog Dobalina would stand at attention and warn off whatever lurked in the fog and dark that coming any closer would not be in it’s best interest.
To my relief, Chris finally found the missing trail (it was there THE WHOLE TIME!) and I allowed myself to be pulled up the rock face by a very excited and energetic dog. (Truly, this is the only way to hike in an upward motion. Going back down is another risk entirely.) Remarkably, we made it to the top in one piece, and continued to stay in that state as we hopped over the jagged boulders that rose suddenly through the perpetual fog. I looked around, as the wind picked up and whipped through the shrubland, the misty-white fog lazily drifting past my head like whips of smoke. This was a realm that birthed fairytales and folklore. Looking up, I could catch a fleeting glimmer of the stars, starting in patches and then opening up wide enough to see the Milky Way.
(Side note- It was really, really dark and by this point I was not in a picture taking frame of mind, so you are just going to have to put on your Imagination Caps, people.)
Exhausted, we made camp; patting each other on the back for making it up to the top, and vowing to never do that again. (Say it with me now: I SWEAR! I will NEVER do that again!). Another round of recognition went out; I for thinking to make peanut butter sandwiches, and Chris for making sure they made it up the mountain. I must say, that peanut butter sandwich under the open (and occasionally) starlit sky was the most enjoyable wheat product and nut spread I had eaten. (Nutella- If you are reading this, I sincerely apologize. I will always love you.)
Morning broke excruciatingly early, at the sound of the dog protecting us and the tent from the danger of wayward hikers in search of the sunrise. OK, it was a bit after sunrise, and to be fair, it was a great spot to check out the morning view, so I don’t blame them in the slightest. And any hard feeling at being woken up so gosh-darn early, were replaced once I caught a glimpse of the now fog-less view all around me.
Looking out over the vast expanse of a forest bed just throwing off its covers of morning condensation, I realized that it had been completely worth it.
The late hours, the getting lost, the heavy bag, the aches and pains in muscles I didn’t even know I had used; All would have been for not, had I given up and refused to go any further, or worse yet, gone back to curl up in the car.
This was way, way better than waking up in a car after refusing to climb up a mountain in the dark with blinding fog.
And yes, we did find Chris’s keys. Eventually. After days of searching.
They were hanging on the back of the closet door.