If life were a movie…

I was looking back through some old files in my note app (I oftentimes will write up an idea, story, or start a blog entry there and forget about it, as was the case here) and cleaning out some old stuff I don’t need any more when I came across a note just called “vent.” Uh-oh. I read it and thought, “eh, why not share this random, old note for funsies while I sit here, waiting, caffeinated and procrastinating because I should be doing my daily squats instead?” And here we are.

If life were a movie, this would be foreshadowing, I think. Right? It’s dated January 1, 2020. I mean, it wasn’t the end of the world kind of stuff, but a frustrating work day that I felt I needed to write down to feel better about it (I do this a lot, just to “vent,” as the write-up was titled, and then I’m able to move on easier). Anyway, I thought I’d share it because, to be honest, with the way things have gone this year it’s almost funny now. “Almost funny” because it’s still frustrating to think back on days like that, and they still happen sometimes because… well… life. But compared to the rest of 2020? Funny.

So below is something I wrote on January 1, 2020. And I’m just gonna smile and be glad today is a better day than that one, and now I’ve got that someone that loves me sleeping in the bunk about five feet behind me, and I can go cuddle with him right now if I want (I’m sitting in a dock door waiting to get unloaded). In fact…

copy, paste, post, cuddle…

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1/1/20

So I’m venting. Don’t read it if you don’t want to be a part of my pity party. I won’t be at all offended if you don’t wanna get in on my dumps! And yeah, I know it’s dramatic and petty and dumb, and there’s much worse things I could be dealing with, but dammit, it’s January 1st – the day I’m supposed to feel fresh, and new, and invigorated, and ready to tackle good ol’ 2020. But yuck. I’m not!

Well, f*** today. I went to bed last night (New Year’s Eve), alone but not feeling social either, at 11:30pm because I had to get up in the morning to start a very scheduled-out day where everything kinda had to go right for it to all work. I woke up at midnight to fireworks (I was staying at the Pilot in Gary, IN). I don’t blame anybody for that. It was a New Year celebration and for anyone that’s stayed at this Pilot or the TA across the street, you know there’s also a fireworks shop like practically next door. But I get it. Celebrate, fine. I fell back asleep once they were done.

Morning came. I was ready to start my day. And my new year. I put a big, partially fake smile on my face and it lifted me up a bit. It was all gonna be just fine. I had my schedule all written out. Took a shower, did my pre-trip and pulled up to fuel up my reefer. The stupid pump wouldn’t work right. Here we go – I could pump a trickle to keep it going and that took foooorever – and then I had to do it twice to get it topped off because it reset halfway in. Whatever. Pain in the butt, but okay. Move on.

I drove a little over an hour to my delivery location where I was just gonna drop my loaded trailer and hook to an empty one like we do a million times at this place and move on to my next thing for the day. I pulled in at about 10:15 and was turned away because they don’t open until 4pm. This was unusual for this place, even it being New Year’s Day. Drove to a closed Sam’s Club down the road where I could park my beast of a truck out of everyone’s way in freakin’ Chicagoland while I made the phone call to our weekend dispatch and wait for instructions as to ‘what the hell now?’ I had a loaded trailer waiting for me in Fond Du Lac that needed to be live unloaded in Milwaukee at 7pm, and if I was able to stick to my schedule I so proudly came up with, I’d even make it home for the night where I could sleep in my own bed and remember I have someone waiting there for me that loves me and wants to cuddle with me. But now my pretty little schedule was out the window (as what almost always happens with schedules and plans, right?).

Thankfully on-call was great and came up with a plan. I dropped my trailer right there where a co-worker met me, took my bills and was going to drop it for me after he dropped his own trailer – after 4pm when the damn place reopened (seriously – they never close, not even holidays usually – for real). This way I could still get my Milwaukee load delivered on time. Yay. And the silver lining? Because that first place was closed, I couldn’t hook to an empty trailer and bring it to Plymouth, so that saved me some time – so it actually put me a little ahead of schedule. I bobtailed to where my pre-loaded trailer was, hooked up and all went well. Whew.

Got to my delivery location and walked up as they were unlocking their doors. Perfect timing. I was even 1-1/2 hours early for my appointment. They called me with a dock door assignment sometime after 6pm, giving me high hopes because now I was a whole hour ahead of schedule – I was going to have time for a run (that I wanted to do ALL DAY but just didn’t have a good window of time to do yet) AND I was gonna get home!

But then I sat. And sat. And sat. I watched my elog time clock tick, tick, tick down. If I got going by 9pm I miiiiiight still make it. Nope. At 9:30 I got my signed bills and could go. I had 90 minutes to drive 45 miles, fuel my reefer, clean it out, check it in, post-trip it, and drop it. Getting another 60 miles beyond that towards home wasn’t happening. So I settled.

“I’ll drop my trailer, bobtail to Walmart, park there and run the rec trail that’s there.” I was going to go for my run. Finally.

By the time I arrived at the drop location, I had 18 minutes left on my 14-hour clock. Nobody was around to check me in, so I dropped the trailer, left a message to let them know and took the hell off so I could at least get to the truck stop down the road to park for the night. By the time I rolled in and parked I had 3 minutes left of my 14 hour day. I post-tripped, changed into my jammies and crawled right into my bunk without even brushing my teeth or taking my vitamins. Or going for my run.

F*** it. Tomorrow is my New Year.


Today I love team driving. I miss some things about being solo, but… Today I also love cuddles. It’s a two-fer today. 😊

Newport State Park, Wisconsin

Sunday, November 8 – Tuesday, November 10

A three-day, two-night solo trip to Newport State Park in Door County, Wisconsin.

Newport State Park. Door County, Wisconsin.

Sunday:

I’ve been going on quite a few shorter trips lately, and it’s felt really, really good to get back into doing these things I love so much. I’ve missed hiking into the woods with a backpack on my back. I mean, I literally, just a minute ago, stared into the pitch black sky above me and admired the thousands of twinkling stars through treetops faintly aglow from my campfire light. Yup, just did it again. I’m alone out here. The air around me is cool, and if the relentless waves of Lake Michigan weren’t softly crashing along the shoreline just thirty feet away, it would be completely silent. I keep spotting little mice scattering around looking for morsels of food they hoped I dropped. Those tiny critters and my campfire are my entertainment tonight. And it’s perfect.

The stars were so bright I caught a few with my phone camera! That’s nuts!!

These types of trips haven’t really been possible in the past few years – at least not without taking vacation time and planning it in around the other things that happen in life that also require the use of my precious vacation time – like family events, getaways with Adam, holiday things… and so I would rarely go through the trouble of all the planning and work it took to just take a night or two in the woods. I was burning out a little. I needed to get a little of “me” back. I needed the woods. I needed them more often.

So Adam and I changed things up at work. We were able to work out a new schedule where we team drive for two weeks, take a week off, and then repeat that three-week schedule. We’ll miss out on that week of pay every third week, so we’ll have to adjust a bit for that, but these weeks off have been allowing me to take these little mini excursions, and so far, I really like it. I mean, those stars above me right now! It’s just starting to feel like I’m slowly building something back up inside that’s been missing. It’s deep down in my bones, and I can’t describe it quite yet, but I know it’s good.

Soaking in campfire light. Happy Toots.

On my first week off of this new work arrangement I went to the Porkies in Upper Michigan. My second week I took a quick one-nighter in Kettle Moraine. This time, I’m at Newport State Park. It’s hard to get reservations here during peak seasons, but since it’s early November, and it’s Sunday, I was able to grab a site for two nights just a couple of days in advance. So I’m pretty happy.

My goal is to do something outdoors on each of my weeks off. It might not always be overnighters, as winter is on the way (even though I DO plan on doing some winter camping!). I’ll at least get out for some snowshoeing, day hiking, trail running, and I might even buy a pulk sled to play with (because I also dream of doing some winter ultras!). So anyway, lots of adventures are in my future. And maybe I can sprinkle in a few bigger trips once spring rolls around (like maybe the Timberline Trail? 😉).

So back to the here and now. I got here to Newport State Park about 14:00 and backpacked a mile into my site (#4) and set up my tent, trail ran the same mile back to my car, loaded a second backpack full of firewood and packed back to my site (that firewood was HEAVY, by the way!). I made a fire, ate some ramen, drank some hot cocoa, toasted a few marshmallows (the mice stole one or I’d have eaten four. Jerks) and now I’m soaking in the last waves of warmth from my dying campfire. And the stars seem to get better every time I look up.

Home for two nights.
Firewood is HEAVY!

Soon I’ll crawl into my doubled-up sleeping bags in my tiny little tent and hopefully get some restful sleep. The plan is to leave camp set up in the morning and take the whole day to hike around the park. I’ve never been here before, so I’m going to hike around and explore as much as I have daylight for. Then I’ll have one more night of camping and eating some new backpacking foods I’m excited to try, play with some mice and head home the next day, on Tuesday.

So off I go to finish my fire and go to bed. I’ll check back in tomorrow. Good night, friends. And don’t forget to look at those stars whenever you get the chance.

Cozy!

Monday:

I woke up just a little after light this morning. I was planning on getting up just before light so I could maybe catch the sunrise, but when my alarm went off I heard a light rain sprinkling on my tent. So I cuddled myself back into my downy sleeping bag and went back to sleep. I think I finally rolled out of the tent around 06:30. I didn’t have any more rain after that.

Good morning, Lake Michigan!!

I made breakfast and coffee, packed my daypack and hit the trails. I hiked pretty much the whole park and peeked in on all of the campsites except for two that had people in them. They’ve all got a couple of benches, a fire ring, a metal food storage box (which I tested with a cashew and a mini marshmallow – mine, at least, is rodent-free) and there’s access to a pit toilet from each site. They’re all really nice sites, but I got lucky, I guess, because I think the one I picked is one of my favorites!

One of the campsites in the early morning sun and misty, fall air. Pretty magical, hey?

The trails in the park are great. They’re all well-marked with a map at each junction. Some of the trails are shared between bikers and hikers and those paths are pretty flat and wide and easy-hiking. I’ve even heard of people using carts on those trails to get gear to their campsite. Then there are some hiking-only trails, and those are more single-track trail with some more rugged terrain in spots like roots and rocks. Overall the trails here are pretty flat, with the exception of the trail along Europe Lake – for a short section there’s a few little rolling climbs, but not very tough or anything.

All the trails in the park were very well-marked.

I enjoyed the day. My favorite trail was the Lynd Point trail. It went right up next to the Lake Michigan shoreline, and in true Door County fashion, there were large rock outcroppings for the waves to crash up against and splash up into the air. Tree roots grew around the rocks, clinging on for life, and the water rolling in was so clear you could see the smooth white rocks underneath. Beautiful! I didn’t see much for wildlife – a bunch of squirrels and some birds. The highlight was a pileated woodpecker that fluttered through the group campsite as I sat and ate my lunch. Those guys are so cool!

The Lake Michigan shoreline in Door County is absolutely amazing!!

I ate things, too! I love snacks! I ate my favorite trail mix of organic, raw, unsalted cashews and organic m&ms. It’s simple, it’s clean and it tastes SO good! I tried a new organic fruit bar that was also very good. For lunch I mixed an avocado with some tuna, drizzled some olive oil over it and sprinkled some pink salt and everything bagel seasoning on top. Super-gourmet trail food! Also on the menu for the day was a new protein bar made from sprouted watermelon seeds (lemon flavored and pretty good for a protein bar!), string cheese, coffee, and a small packet of chicken soup.

Dinner will be interesting. I ran out of fuel for my stove while trying to make up an appetizer of decaf coffee with heavy whipping cream powder, so I had to heat the water on the fire in my small cooking cup. It works, just takes a little patience. So I plan to make a Wild Zora backpacking dinner (just add hot water) that my friend Charisse recommended (thanks, Charisse!!) and a hot cocoa for dessert. But my fire’s nice and hot and I have lots of wood to burn, so I’ll be just fine. Speaking of which… I’ll shout at ya tomorrow. Gotta stoke the fire and enjoy the rest of night! Sleep well tonight, friends!

These are really tasty, and have good ingredients. There’s also a grass-fed beef stew one that I’m excited to try.

Tuesday

Last night’s dinner went just fine. My fire got really hot, so boiling water actually went quite quickly. My Wild Zora dinner was really good, although I think I’d want to bring a hot sauce or something to spice it up a little – I mean, it had lots of flavor, but I like spicy. I made a hot cocoa mixed with peppermint schnapps and peppermint marshmallows for dessert and it was almost too rich, if you can believe it! Yum! I roasted a few marshmallows, watched my fire die down, then crawled into my tent for bed.

Marshmallows!! They don’t weigh much – always bring marshmallows!

I didn’t sleep great again. I’m not sure if it’s just that I’m getting old or what, but I need to figure out what’s going on with my back at night when I’m sleeping in my tent. My middle back seems to get sore, so I toss and turn a lot through the night. I’m actually going to try just sleeping with my simple Z-lite sleeping pad instead of the my blow-up mattress next time. I think I might actually need a harder surface. I don’t know. Guess I just need more nights in the woods to find out.

It rained early morning again just like the previous morning, so my fire was cold with no hot coals left in it, and since I was out of fuel for my stove, I mixed up a cold coffee and ate a protein cookie for breakfast. The protein cookie was a brand called “Munk Pack” and doesn’t have chicory root fiber or inulin in it (which makes you poop yourself), and it made a really good, quick breakfast. I packed up camp and hiked the mile back out to my car.

A drizzly morning.

I didn’t want to be done yet, though. It was rainy outside, but I didn’t care. I put on my rain jacket, drove to parking lot 1 by the entrance and hiked two more small trail loops that I didn’t get to yesterday. The first one, the Monarch Trail, was just what you’d expect with a name like the Monarch Trail. It wound through some wide, open meadows and a few short jaunts in some forest. After that I crossed the road and jumped on the lollipop-shaped trail called the Upland Trail. The highlight of that trail was an old root cellar still intact, and there’s a little peeping window in the door so you can look inside. Very cool spot to check out! I will have to come back and trail run on this loop because the trail itself was very nice – single track with lots of big rocks to navigate, it was kind of twisty and winding through some beautiful forested landscape. And with the rain and all the leaves fallen onto the forest floor, it was almost glowing.

The old root cellar! So cool!

Then I got back to my car, grabbed my bag of warm, dry clothes and changed in the warm bathroom of the entrance building (it was closed, but they left the bathrooms open – so nice!). I head towards home, stopped at Brew Coffeehouse in Ellison Bay and the gentleman there made me a delicious breve cappuccino, and I was on my way home.

That was a really nice time in the woods. I highly recommend checking out the park if you get the chance, just make sure you make reservations well in advance if you’re going on a weekend or during a peak season. And mind the direction of the wind forecast when picking your campsite. I can’t wait to go back in the winter to see how different it looks!

Until next time… until the next little adventure… stay happy, friends, and get outside for some fresh air!

Just another boring view from the trail in Newport State Park. No big thing. ;)

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Tonight I love Dandies marshmallows. I’m not vegan, but these vegan marshmallows are THE BEST. Skip the cheap Jet-Puffs and spend the extra cash on these. They toast up SO nice – crunchy and brown on the outside, creamy and gooey on the inside. Seriously. They are so good.

As always, here’s a few more pics (you can always see more on my Instagram feed if you’re interested: @_toots_magoots_ )

The tiny little beach at my campsite.
Clear water!!
Evening sky.
I found this mylar balloon on the beach at one of the campsites. Let’s stop buying these, right? They always seem to end up in the wilderness somewhere. I admit I enjoyed it for a minute before puncturing it and stuffing it into my garbage bag.
Boiling water over the campfire when your fuel runs out. Oops.
I never get enough of the upside-down forests you can find in water droplets.
A happy place.