*Disclaimer: you may get to know me more than you care to after this post…*
All week I have been impatiently waiting for my first solo camping trip. All week I have been going over all of the possible scenarios in my head; of how I fall off of a bluff and die, get in a car accident on the way there and die, meet a rabid raccoongoing through my trash and die…slowly, get struck by rogue lightning and die, get lost off the trail and die, a psychopath that just so happens to be camping at the same place on the same weekend I am slices through my tent in the night and brutally murders me til I die, etc. But this is something that I had to do. If I want to be spending 2 or more nights in the backcountry alone, I need to trust myself and my intuitions and face my fears.
It’s Friday evening, 3 1/2 hours before dark and I pull into a familiar campground. I made a reservation the Monday prior so when I checked in the process was much quicker than previous stays. A friendly and pretty faced woman well into her 60’s was sitting in the small air conditioned check-in station. “Here’s your 2 day pass you need to keep in your dashboard sweetie. And here’s a list of events happening this weekend.” she said handing me a ‘Missouri State Parks’ pamphlet and some small flyers. I started to walk away while flipping through the papers, then turned back before she could shut her window.
“Do you by any chance have any hiking trail maps?” I asked her with a hopeful smile, squinting as the sun sank a little lower in the sky behind the small shack. “Sure do…but I only hand those out when they’re asked for.” She winked at me and handed me another folded brochure.
I headed back to the car, which I had left running for Bane. He whined, annoyed and impatient as I double checked the dashboard pass for the site number and drove to our spot.
It was pleasantly shaded and remote enough for just the two of us. I drove around the cul-de-sac to be nosy and found only one couple camping in the middle near the vault toilets.
I pulled back around and backed into our site.
I left the car on still as I got Bane’s runner and wrapped it around a huge tree trunk. The runner was long enough where he could reach the edge of our site near the street safely out of harms way, and long enough the opposite way so he could comfortably walk into the tent so I could let him out in the middle of the night if he needed to pee. (I am a mega enforcer of keeping pets leashed! My dogs are always connected to either me, B or a sturdy object on/off trail and campground.)
I set up my tent, chairs and some citronella candles. It was warm and muggy in the high 80’s, so after getting everything and myself situated I opened a well deserved beer. It went down too smooth; I immediately regretted not bringing more beer. I had only brought four with me along with two bottles of wine. I figured I could have two beers, wine with and post-dinner and then do the same thing for the following day after our hike.
The cons? Well, there really aren’t any except for
– You have to get up and get your own drinks when you need one.
The pros however, vastly outweighed the cons.
-You get to camp! Alone! Or with your dog friend.
– You aren’t being judged when you’re slightly buzzed and ready to retire to your tent at nightfall well before everyone else. My second night camping (last night) I was in my little sanctuary an hour before the sun went down with some snacks and a book. Excellent.
– There’s no rush to wake up. Nobody waiting for you to get up so breakfast can go on. Nobody waiting for you to roll out of bed so everyone can get to the trailhead. It’s all on your own time. And that is my cup of tea.
Nothing severely climactic happened all weekend. (Except for the drunk couple in a screaming match late last night across the campground…) And it was perfect. Exactly what I needed in the wake of the last crazy month at work, and in the coming crazy work weeks ahead.
If you’ve followed along thus far in my ramblings, you’re aware I suffer from severe anxiety. Anxiety that begins by being in busy public settings mostly. I have a fear of crowds and being suffocated in a sea of people. I have racing thoughts that people are looking at me (even though I KNOW they aren’t…) and judging me, thinking I look stupid or fat or ugly. Social gatherings outside of a very select few people send me in a mess of emotions and thoughts that are overwhelming. For someone that cannot even go to the grocery store alone at the age of 31 (going on 32 next week on the 20th!) or pump gas at a gas station, or make a simple phone call (thank you for the rising demand in Internet reservations/orders!) you would think that camping alone would be a nightmare for me. No.
I discovered it is quite the opposite in fact. I crave being alone. I desire it. I NEED it to function during the week at work when the mental and physical energy is sucked out of me while working with numerous (albeit wonderful) people all day long. I require the reset button that is being by myself for hours in order to rebuild the strength and the want to socialize like a normal functioning adult. Still, I close myself off from everyone sometimes.
I adore my husband. He is my absolute best friend. But I value our time apart as much as I do our time together, and we encourage each other to do things that we want or need to do to stay healthy and happy. We have an incredible relationship because of this. There’s no jealousy, there’s no controlling. We are fluid and natural and if your relationship isn’t 80% easy as hell, you’re doing it wrong.
This weekend I took my form of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The outdoors saved me. It’s given me a confidence and thought process I didn’t know I could ever have. It forces me to take care of myself and take things a step at a time. It pushed me to levels of fitness I didn’t think I could acquire.
I totally survived this weekend. I slept outside, hiked, sweat, snacked, drank, read a book. With no worries.
I lay in my tent and listened to the late campfire conversations at the sites around mine. I wondered if people made up stories on why I was alone. I dreaded having to drive home come Sunday because I HATE highway driving in Missouri. I missed B. I missed Cash. I missed re-watching Game of Thrones. But it would all be there when I got back. I needed to do this and I sure as hell will be making it a regular thing. My thing.