I drove north today, all by myself, towards the woods. I left around 10 pm so I shared the dark, tree-lined country roads with no one besides one raccoon, one skunk, three or four deer and a farm cat. I arrived at the trailhead, folded and tucked a ten dollar bill into the pay envelope, dropped it into the steel pipe with a slot in it, lifted my pack onto my back and followed the lit circle of light emanating from my headlamp down the path through the trees.
I needed this.
I am alone, and I thought I’d be afraid of the dark, as I usually am in the woods when I am by myself. Because, you know, there’s animals with long claws and sharp teeth behind curled lips, dripping with saliva. And there’s weird men in ripped jeans, flannel shirts, the overwhelming scent of whiskey on their breath and a shotgun in the crook of their arm, just waiting for some girl to come out here all by herself.
I had a nightmare once that I was camping, laying in my tent, heard a noise outside, and when I opened my eyes I saw the moonlight glow around the silhouette of a man… holding a hand gun. I woke up with a jolt, scared as hell. That image is forever burned into my brain, even though I know it’s not real and will most likely never happen.
Ahh, cheery thoughts as I lay here in the dark. However, my reality at this very moment overrides my nightmares and vivid imagination conjuring up demon bears and rabid, blood-thirsty raccoons. My reality is this:
I have a view of eighty bazillion stars above me. No rain fly is needed on such a clear night. There is a small, glassy lake on the north end of my campsite, gray and still with sparkling reflections of the moon glittering on its surface. The temperature is cool with a small bite of chill just enough for a good sleep. The air smells of fresh leaves, pines and clean lake air. Bullfrogs croak, glug and gulp around the lake, their echoes fading in an instant. And then there’s the loons. They’ve quieted now, but just a while ago they were cooing and singing so loud I wondered how far away they could be heard. Seems like miles.
I hear critters in the leaves and branches around me. Small or big, I don’t know. But I’m a critter, too, living amongst them all for a day or two, so I may as well enjoy their company. I hung my food in a tree. I almost didn’t and probably wouldn’t have to, but I had a perfect branch to toss the rope over and the challenge of food bag hanging is always good fun. I hit it perfect on my first try. Success.
It’s now 1:36 am and I’m usually starting my day about this time. I think I’ll read my book for a while and take a nap, hopefully waking up in time to see the sun come up. Tomorrow I hike, eat, read, relax, and soak in as much of these these woods as I can.
Tonight I love these bullfrogs as they sing to me in their perfectly broken beat.
Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!