As the sun peaked over the eastern horizon and began to fill my camp with a warming light, I couldn’t help but feel a desire to somehow make a change that would allow me to be here more.
After purchasing a few new modifications for my rig, I started feeling that itch and my toys just intensified it. What I mean is I started feeling a strong, somewhat primal, desire to go camping. I start to get that itch at a consistent time each year. Typically what happens is we get a series of days that peak into warmer weather. Weather that allows me to walk outside and feel warm enough to maintain a comfortable temperature with only a t-shirt on.
Somehow that event creates a physiological change within me (okay, I’m willing to bet that’s not the right term, but it sounds good!) and I start to yearn to leave the comfort of electricity, a spacious and soft bed, indoor plumbing, and many other modern conveniences and flee to the outdoors where I can smell like smoke, cook simple meals, and pee in the bushes.
I had to go!
So I picked a weekend and a general location and loaded up to hit the hills. I hit the grocery store for some basic, easy to make food, and get on the road by about 3:30pm. When I arrived in the general area I started running some roads until I found the perfect spot.
The sand was soft at base camp and it ran into beautiful red slick rock that bordered the site to the north. A large, dead ponderosa tree stood tall behind as a sentinel standing as an overwatch to my camp. There was a slight breeze, but it was still t-shirt weather. As I jumped out and gave Toner, my chocolate lab, the okay come out also, you could tell there was an electric energy in both of us.
I leveled the rig and began setting up camp.
The cover was unzipped, slid out, and laid over the hood of the rig. The rooftop tent was then easily unfolded and the annex room connected creating my two-story penthouse for the night. I then deployed the canopy over the tailgate and set up the old Coleman cook stove in preparation to cook dinner.
By now the breeze had died down as the sun sunk to the west. Toner and I went for a little stroll to explore our surroundings as the low light made the red rocks glow only to be exaggerated by the deep shadows that hid behind each contour, crevice, and character adding feature. I’m sure if anyone could have seen me they would note that I had a grin ear to ear. The landscape was beautiful and quiet, almost in a meditative state.
I needed this
Back at camp I started a fire and just stood and enjoyed the smoke that filled the air accompanied by the crackling of the wood as the flames began to spread. I had two rainbow trout that I caught a few months ago in a pan frying over the blue flame of the Coleman stove in some butter and seasoned with salt and pepper. The other pan would be used to cook the boxed pasta.
I continued to turn and face a new direction at camp. Each turn would bring a new view, a new scene to take in, a new remedy for my ailing soul. My mind felt so invigorated, so alive, the relief so ready to me.
I pulled my sleeping bag out and climbed the ladder to my loft on the roof. Laying it out, and fluffing it so that it would be ready to protect me in the cold of the night, I could begin to smell the fish cooking below. As I set up Toner’s kennel and fluffed her bed, laying a blanket over top to help keep her warm, I knew my dinner was nearing being ready. A final stir, and then one fish was laid on top of the pasta.
Holding the pan in one hand (I mean, why dirty another dish?) and my fork in the other, I stood by the fire enjoying my meal. The temperature outside was cooling off quickly, so I would rotate front-to-back, somewhat like a rotisserie to keep both sides of me warm. I could see my breath and my fingertips were a bit cold. But the meal and the entertainment of the flames lapping at the wood and the sparks drifting into the sky were unbeatable!
The dark of night came quickly.
The stars were so vibrant and only intensified by the lack of a moon and the absence of clouds. I continued to rotisserie myself by the fire as the temperature dropped quickly. But my gaze kept being drawn to the heavens.
My mind seemed to just flow even though it would keep changing course. But it wasn’t the frantic thought process my mind would typically follow. This was different. This was calmer, more comfortable, more meditative. I even took several notes in my phone as some solutions and points I had been pondering on became clear.
The warmth of the fire continued to sooth my body as I stood in silence simply soaking in the solitude. I had no time limits, no chores to do, no tasks to carry out. My phone was not buzzing with text messages and alerts, reminding me of what was continually demanded of me. I had no preparations that needed my attention in anticipation the duties of the following day.
With the fire buried and the coals safely put to bed, it was my turn to cozy up for the night.
I decided to wander out into the night before climbing into bed just to enjoy how vibrant the night sky was with no light impeding on it’s beauty. The night was still enough to hear my footsteps even in the soft sand of the landscape. A bird here, a chipmunk or field mouse stirring in a bush there. They sky overhead witnessing it all. I climbed the rock steps to gain elevation in order to get a broader scope of the landscape. And there I just stood. Breathing. Soaking it all in.
My sleeping bag was cold, but I grew up climbing into a cold bed and have come to enjoy the feeling of letting a shiver out a couple of times as my body slowly warms the covers around me. Eventually I settled, snuggled into the cozy cocoon of my sleeping bag. Sleep came quickly and in the comfort of my roof top tent, the sleep was really quite good!
I also grew up with a fan blowing on the hot summer nights and have come to need some noise as I sleep. For whatever reason my noisemaker on my phone quit at 6am bringing my mind out of it’s restful state. I fumbled for my phone to see plenty of battery life. My plan was to sleep until the sun hit the tent so that I could wander out into a world that was starting to warm up rather than one that would be at it’s coldest. I turned the noisemaker back on and rolled over to doze in the warmth and comfort I was laying in.
But sleep wouldn’t come. Toner stirred below in her crate and whined a little. I think she was having the same struggle as I was. My mind turned to the excitement of hot chocolate and more of the camping experience. The cold kept me at bay, but the urge to arise and take part of what I was in the middle of was stronger.
Now fully dressed and Toner beating the side of the tent with her happy tail, I unzipped the tent and stepped out into my new playground. The cool air was crisp against my nose and filled my lungs with adrenaline. I stretched as I walked to the nearest tree and, yes, took my morning pee.
Just as a man will never understand what dark chocolate can do for the soul of a woman. A woman will never understand what peeing outdoors does for the soul of a man.
I poured some water into a bowl for Toner and she began lapping it up as I poured my pan full and set it on the flame of the old Coleman stove. I stood and stared with a smile on my face as I wondered at how many meals that stove had seen. My mom or dad at the controls just reveling at the adventure they were currently apart of. I like that I can keep those traditions going.
There was a definite sadness in me as I packed up camp that morning. I had soaked in the sun, explored my surroundings, and just enjoyed being there…..and just being in general. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to have to go. I didn’t want to return to a life of demand, deadlines, and duties. I wanted to just set up a permanent residence in this current life I was living.
I did find solace as I started driving down the dusty road that would link me back to the pavement of civilization.
It’s right here. It’s been here this whole time and it’s not going anywhere. I’ve been lucky enough to find myself in a location and in a position to be right here in the middle of what other’s come to visit on once-in-a-lifetime vacations. Why am I not doing this more?
I need to. For myself and for my well-being.
I need to.