Enjoy this piece from Tenx9 vet Brittany who tells of “roughing it” on a camping trip – her first and only one.
How many of you have been camping? Well, I know that this will surprise some of you by looking at me, but I have not been camping very many times. Actually, I have been real camping one time to date, and even though my friend Josh says that it was “glamping” because there were bathrooms and showers on the site, I slept on the ground. I felt dirty all weekend, I could hear people snoring in the nearby tents….this was my interpretation of “roughing it”.
Now, this day does not begin at the beginning of one day, but rather, the end of the day before. We get there after the gate is closed on the campsite area, park illegally, and walk over to where the sites were. I asked Josh to hold my dog Rugby while I went into the bathroom and left with “He might miss me, so you will have to love on him a little.” While washing my hands, I could hear my precious puppy howling like I was never coming back. It was then I decided he was going to have to go with me everywhere, including the bathroom, to eat, to talk to people, etc. and so began our weekend.
These nice people helped us get all of our gear to the campsite of our choice and we set everything up. We were pretty exhausted, so after a little sitting around, we hit the hay. The next morning, the majority of us woke up relatively early in order to cook (or watch others cook) breakfast and/or pout because we were up much earlier than a normal Saturday morning. After breakfast, we stood around and looked at each other for a solid 30 minutes until someone took the initiative to get started on our 13 mile hike. We drove around looking for maps and deciding on which direction we should be going for much longer than anticipated when we finally found the trailhead, sometime close to 1pm. We get started and the hike was beautiful. There was a gorgeous little river/creek thing that ran alongside the path and it was very pleasant. This was the time when I thought, “13 miles is going to be cake”.
During the first mile or so, one of the people hiking fell and busted up her knee a little bit. This prompted her and two others to turn around and head back to the campsite, leaving five of us to continue on our journey. This might be a good time to mention that on this hike, I brought with me my backpack with water, lunch, and other things for the hike, and I also had my dog tethered to my waist. After a mile and a half into our hike, I realized that I was going to be jumping from rock to rock with my backpack and dog while my friend, who is practically a gazelle, ran ahead.
Sometime during the beginning of the hike, a big brown dog joined us. He didn’t have a collar, but he was friendly, so I named him Cricket (because I have a dog named Rugby and it felt right). Cricket stayed with us and kept us company. Somewhere along the way, Cricket runs through a yellow jacket nest, and I was the lucky soul right behind him. We run away, but not before I get stung three times and Cricket has to lay in the river to get the yellow jackets off of him.
On numerous occasions during this entire hike, we lost sight of the trail markers and ventured off the path unintentionally. On all of those occasions, one of us realized we hadn’t seen a marker in a long time. So that encouraged everyone to walk around and back from where we came in order to find one, which probably added quite a bit more distance to the measly 13 miles we thought we were hiking.
After what feels like forever, we come to this hill…and when I say hill, in my mind it was a mountain, because I’m 5’4. So while a couple people jogged up the hill/mountain, the remaining three of us took our time.
I don’t know if you noticed this about me, but I don’t have extremely long legs, so for some, walking up these rocks wouldn’t be a problem. For me, it was like rock climbing, and then I have my dog attached to me…and a backpack… Safe to say, it was less than glamorous. The shameful part of this is that I hike all the time! Rugby and I will go to Percy Warner almost every weekend and hike 7 and a half-ish miles, so I definitely thought I was bringing more to the table than I did. But I didn’t feel so bad, because other than the gazelle and hyperactive girl in front of me, there were a couple other people that were climbing too.
When we reached the top, relief was an understatement. After taking a small break, we hike a little further to the lookout point. Now, all of us had thought we had hiked at least 6 or 7 miles, because for everyone, that hill was intense and it definitely felt that far. We reached a sign by the lookout point that told us we were 4 and a half miles in..four…and…a half…of a 13 mile trek. Then we hiked another half a mile to the lookout, which was completely worth it, but decided this was a great time to stop for a while and take in the scenery.
Cricket decided to leave us and travel with a couple of guys that were hiking as well, and we missed him, but I had no interest in getting stung again. We started on our adventure again refreshed and excited, we didn’t quite realize how much longer it was going to be, but we were starting to realize that we should have started much earlier in the day.
The next few miles were much like the first few, except without the river. We encountered very few people the entire hike, and enjoyed the time getting to know each other. All the while, it was getting darker and darker. We noticed a little too late, that the sun is looking low in the sky and we take a look at our map (which we failed to look at before this moment for some reason) and realize that we still had about 5 or 6miles left in our trip, which would have been fine, except there were 5 of us and 3 flashlights. Another discovery we made was that, in the event of an emergency, we only had one cell phone with service, so instead of using it as a flashlight, I had to conserve the battery.
I noticed the sun going down at an alarming rate and began “speed walking” down the trail. My friends thought, “Oh Brittany is just setting the pace” and kept up as best they could. When it got dark, I stayed closer to the group and everyone got to learn a fun fact about me…. I am slightly afraid of outside dark… which is related to but not a result of my irrational fear of being kidnapped. Needless to say, once it got dark, I was not leading by any means, because I know, if any sort of wild animal jumps out at us, I don’t necessarily have to be the fastest… I just can’t be the slowest.
We continue and this is when miles seem much longer than the first few miles, or perhaps the fact that it was nighttime that was making me feel this way. When we are close to the last 2-2 and a half miles, we know that this is the part of the hike that is going to be complicated.
You see, there is a point on the Fiery Gizzard trail where you essentially climb down into a ravine and then climb back out of it. We knew about this before we started, but it was definitely not our intention to go through it in the dark. It was entirely too late to turn back even if we wanted to, so we just accepted this as something we were going to have to do. We reach the ravine and come up with a strategic plan so that everyone’s steps can be guided with the flashlight. Up until this moment, I had let Rugby off of his leash, because he has an unhealthy attachment to me and I wasn’t worried about him going very far. I reattached him to my waist and we prepared. Climbing down the rocky hill, cliff, slope, whatever you would like to call it, was interesting. We walked down this very narrow rock with only a steel cable and the rock wall on one side to keep us balanced. I’m sure you can imagine the challenge here to be able to keep up with the flashlight and not kill myself or the dog.
We get into the ravine and think, okay this is good, except, we are hopping from rock to rock and cannot find any markers, so it takes about 10 minutes to find one and figure out where we climb out. When we finally do, we allow ourselves to realize how dangerous that really was and speed down the trail. We get almost to the end of the trail when we finally see signs of life when two girls are headed in our direction. We ask them how far from the trailhead we are and are relieved when they say only about 10 minutes.
Now Tuan is setting the pace for the group and we can barely keep up. We walk/jog to the end of the trail and we see the parking lot. I’m sure someone kissed the ground at this point, but if you didn’t remember, it was still dark, and we were still not at our campsite, so I hurried the group along until we got back.
When we returned, one of the people who set out on the hike, but ended up going back already had the hamburgers ready and we were famished. We sat around the campfire exhausted, but proud of ourselves. The five of us told our stories about the near death experiences and made him very thankful he did not complete the hike. We ate s’mores and hamburgers and then everyone realized how exhausted and we all said good night.
That was my first, and so far, only camping trip I have taken so far, and I’m not sure if the daredevil in me is ready to tackle another one, but we will see.