But no. This one isn’t sexy. Not sexy at all.
You see I’ve been on vacation for a week and using the time off to ignore Outlook, remember what its like to not sit with a headset on for 10 hours and generally enjoy myself. Part of which meant tackling a big of a fear of mine.. that is, to pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere and not wind up in a mental institution after 48 hours. aka Camping.. on my own.
I love to camp. Love it. It was the glue that attached me to my ex husband, and many of my best adventures in life have come by way of a smokey campfire, a ‘wet wipe’ shower and the joy of hitting the hay at dusk because you’re completely wiped. Camping gives you freedom from everything as life suddenly boils down to having something over your head to sleep in and preparing food to eat. Plus with the invention of really good coolers.. the beer stays cold for days now.
However since I’ve been single, I’ve rarely found a trustworthy camping buddy. I’ve tried. (and the stories are here if you want them), but I generally end up frustrated, exasperated and longing for my ex (the only time I ever miss him). You’d think in a state of 3 million self confessed ‘outdoorsy’ people, there would be a least few hundred dudes in my age range who’d enjoy slinging on a backpack, or packing up the truck with their dog, their bike and a cute chick… sadly, I’ve yet to locate this dude.
Now camping on my own isn’t something I won’t do. In fact I’ve tried it a couple of times.
The first time I drove up to Steamboat, pitched the tent, brewed up some tea and sat wondering what to do next. The sense of space, the complete silence, the aloneness and solitude. Just beautiful. How to savour it? The answer… apparently unpitch the tent, drive 4 hours home and decide camping alone wasn’t for me. Wayyyy too much time to think and realize how far I was from the nearest other person who could wrestle the bear who was bound to come along.
The second time I tried, I made it through the night, but only after the dog and I had clung to each other for 10 hours, jumping (me) and barking (him) at every snapped twig or rustle of a tree. By morning even he thought going home seemed like a less stressful idea than camping with me. I’m not sure what I was most frightened of.. bears? mountain lions? homecidal maniacs? weekend country rapists? All of the above apparently.
But as the summer cracks into high gear and the temps hit the 90s, I can either dedicate my next few months to loitering around REI in the hope that an outdoorsey dude picks me up or finally grab my ovaries in hand and just go camping on my own.
So at the age of 42 and with oodles of time on my hand I decided – fuck it. I’m going, I’m staying and if I pee my pants when a deer starts nosing around camp or I hear a voice in the distance with an Appalacian twang or some banjo music.. well, so be it. Armed with about 16 pairs of pants, my new bike and an empty Beretta (I don’t want to actually shoot anyone), I headed across the state line into Wyoming.
For a few nights of starry skies and days of mountain biking, I figured Wyoming was a good locale. Fewer bears, fewer people and I figured packing my Beretta would scare off anyone who thought a midnight raid on my tent a good idea. Plus there’s some good riding and I don’t mind falling off so much when there’s noone within a 5 mile vacinity to observe it.
The outcome? Well I think I’ve cracked the code to camping alone. Be active as fuck during the day so by the time night falls, you can’t help but pass out without a care in the world. I rode like a maniac (i.e. a mentally challenged person), fell off a bunch, road alongside creeks and up the sides of mountains. I rode through something called ‘Pinball’ which bounced me off a rock every other pedal stoke, and laughed my ass off when I almost rode into a deer in the middle of the trail. Finally something more terrified of ‘wild things’ than me.
Sure, I’m now brusied, scarred and I look like an extra from Fight Club, but I put some miles on my bike, I only needed a few pairs of pants and I even managed to lull myself into a relaxed state of being. It was amazing to be away from wifi, from tv, people and noise. I lay in my tent listening to the wind, owls and yes, rustling trees.. but no bears or midnight cowboys intruded on my buclolic evenings.
I was relaxed, at peace and totally utterly alone.
Why I decided to start reading the new Stephen King book right at that moment I don’t quite know. I guess I brought those extra pants for something.