Scabbed Knees and Starry Nights

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I had my first tent camping experience in over a decade about a week ago. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a little bit of apprehension over how it would pan out.

On one hand, I’d be back to doing something I greatly enjoyed. On the other hand, would I be comfortable? Would it be this great weird reminder of a life gone by? Lastly would I be too damn lazy to do the work involved in setting up and tearing down? Tearing down camp for me previously had consisted of being the house bitch, and furiously cleaning a tiny kitchen, bedroom and bathroom of a toy hauler, all the while ice-cold air-conditioning blew down on me. This time it would be me, and me alone responsible for breaking down a tent, air-mattress and any other accoutrement I brought along, and no batting eyelashes was going to get me out of that.

I had been invited on this annual trip a handful of times before, and each time I really wanted to go, but either equipment or timing stopped me. This time I cleared the schedule, and invested in some pretty top of the line items to make the trip as successful as possible. My only foreseeable drawback would be heat. I get along with heat about as well as oil gets along with water.

As as life would have it, it was about as hot as it could be, but you know what? Not only did I soldier on, it surprisingly didn’t have too much of a negative effect on me. Unless you count the first full day of camping, where our hero mistakenly decides that tequila is a fantastic hydrator, only to pass-out by 6PM, and not only miss a fantastic night of surf and turf (steak and lobster), but all the evening festivities. Fortunately by day two I had my sea legs and recalled this other clear stuff called WATER which hydrated me much better. I’m a novice everywhere I go, no matter how many times learned.

The same night I missed out on grilled lobster, I woke about 2am to complete silence and an unquenchable thirst. I lumbered up from my still firmly inflated mattress (I had bought a tent I could stand in, and a top of the line air mattress, thankfully) collected my bearings and headed out to find the coldest bottle of water possible. I grabbed my flashlight, and unzipped my tent, and realized that my light would directly affect any number of tents surrounding me. Not wanting to wake my fellow campers, I decided to traverse the very short distance by moonlight. Easy peasy, as it was a very short distance.

My bearings were probably not all there, and my brain was probably a tad more tequila soaked than it would be a few hours later, but that wasn’t what befell me. No, it was a three inch rocky little birm about a two feet left of my tent. Walking around a chair, my footing completely left me, and BAM! I slipped, landing with a skid and crunch. In the fiercest whisper ever, I spit out every curse word I knew before limping back to my tent, sans water. I could tell by the wetness I was bleeding pretty bad, so I pulled out some wet wipes and cleaned my leg and arm up as best as I could and hoped I wouldn’t bleed all over my newly purchased mattress and sleeping bag.

I woke the next morning to now scabbed over knee gash that looked like I had gone toe to toe with a very angry bear cub. The arm wasn’t so bad. For the remainder of the trip I had to recount my incident while people looked at the small little ledge (which I now described as a cliff — because it felt that way when I fell) and my knee and probably wondered how the two went hand in hand. To know me is to know how dangerous I can be to myself, with even a shopping cart.

The knee only hindered me for about a day. I kept it iced in the cold water of the Kern River and by day two I felt much better than I looked. So — in less than 36 hours I have managed to pass out cold from over imbibing and tripping down something that was smaller than anthill. Have I mentioned that I only knew two people out of this group of about 15?

I DO know how to make a lasting impression. 😉

Honestly the remainder of the trip was fantastic. As were the precedent moments before these things happened. There was something that seemed to — I don’t know, gel with me I guess. My normal abhorrence to any insect that flew seemed to just dissipate about 95%. Maybe BECAUSE I didn’t know all these people and I didn’t want to come across as “that girl” who gets freaked out over a bee, forced me to behave. Maybe it was just finding that balance, but sitting in a muddy pool, getting a bit sloshed with two old friends and now a new one, while pulling crayfish inches away from my ass, just made me laugh.

I had to traverse down rocky downward paths, which is usually excuse enough for me with my depth perception issues, to say “No I’ll stay here” — but I didn’t. And while I never found myself skipping or running down this path, the fear left me after the first time. I would almost say that a newer, calmer, nature loving me had immersed, but no — in the end while trying to stuff a sleeping bag into a now too small bag, or a tent, or mattress into their also shrunken bags, the very hungry, very hot me, got very whiney. (Heat and hunger go hand in hand, and both at the same time is tantamount to a volcanic eruption.) Fortunately the experts helped out the novice as best as possible.

There were so many high points of the trip, it’s really hard to list them all. The people were this wonderful mix of humour from all sides of the coin. I don’t recall being so completely entertained for as long of a period as I was then. I both learned what camp cake was, and was delightfully surprised when a group of new friends all sang me happy birthday. That touched me beyond belief. The fact that I was the only female in a group of six tents was actually something I preferred, because in new groups, I sort of gravitate towards men anyway. Waking up to these breathtaking views above me (I didn’t install the rain fly, so it was just screens all around me, with nature watching me from above) was absolutely indescribable.

I think my only drawback was a personal one. I caught myself the first night, the quietest of all nights because only a few of us had arrived — sharing my stories with those of other campers in a plural sense. Everything was a “Oh yeah, WE used to ….” I could not seem to stop using the damn WE word, as if I had just ended a relationship six weeks ago. I am sure no one was as cognizant of it as I was, but I mentally kicked myself in the ass every time I said it. I get it. This was my time dipping back into the camping pool — something that once was a vey large part of my life in the We sense, and it’s probably a little bit natural to want to compare my latest memories of it, but why not ME instead of WE? It just made me feel like there hadn’t been a lot of growth, and damnit there has!!

Minor issues, I am aware. But nevertheless.

I love the memories I will have of this trip, even the physical scarred one on my knee. I conquered something, and came up a personal winner. My love for camping is still there. This is something I can enjoyably do without a partner. I didn’t get the chance to bring my camera, but there will be other times. But for the first time, I’m using a picture *I* took. It’s not so much a good picture as a great memory, because that is what I woke up looking at for four mornings running.

In the end I’m back to the me that jumps as fast as lightening from a flying bug, but I came back so refreshed and so relaxed that even work is doable once again. I think I have re-realized that camping just sort of recharges my battery. ☺️

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