At my job, I don't get weekends. It's a fair trade because I have a lot of flexibility, so with planning I'm able to work pretty much any kind of trip into my schedule. But not having two consecutive days off can make spontaneous adventures difficult to maneuver. Or so I thought.
Yesterday around 11, I was puttering around the store, frequently glancing at the windows and thinking about how badly I wanted to get out in the gorgeous sunshine. I only work til 2 most Wednesdays, and while that leaves plenty of daylight hours in which to recreate, I didn't want to repeat another short, local hike. I wanted to really be in the woods. I wanted to fall asleep snug against the cold ground and wake up to the silent sleepiness of sun-warmed trees.
So that's what I did.I have exactly 19 hours between my shifts on Wednesday and Thursday, and that was just enough time to pack up, pick up some supplies, drive to the adorably teensy Cole Hill State Forest, and hike in a few miles.
The trees don't even have leaves yet, and I still reveled in the simple and staggering beauty of them.
I also took my stove out for it's very first adventure! Ultimately, that was the most exciting part of this miniature adventure; I'd used my gear a fair amount, but never for real backpacking, nor had I ever gone true camping by myself before. This was my very first night in the woods without either my father or my trusty Subaru several feet away.
I would like to be able to proudly say that I was fearless and calm and the entire experience chockablock full of serenity. But that was only the case until about 10:00 pm. Truth be told, after falling asleep around 9:30, happy and cozy in my tent, I woke a mere half hour later, considerably chillier and suddenly aware of JUST how many more noises echoed in the woods now that the sun had set. For the first time in my life (one in which camping and hiking have always been a pretty common occurrence), I found myself afraid of the forest. Every rustle sounded ten times louder, and my robust imagination did a great job filling in lots of creepy possible perpetrators.
The worst was when the owls started calling. I've never witnessed a forest full of wide awake owls, and the sounds they make are eerie as all hell. Beautiful. But eerie.
After expending considerable effort to calm down, as well as keep warm, I exhausted myself enough to fall back asleep, and in the morning woke up to once again sunny and silent woods.
That's the wonderful thing about spending time in nature; it pushes you to uncomfortable places, and then rewards you with warm sun, cool water, and unfailing beauty. And it does all of that simply by allowing you to exist within it.