This ain’t no Brad Pitt movie, but there is something to be said for a beautiful spot, complimented with a lush, clean body of water, trees, silence, and sunshine. If you had asked me up until the days I took to International Road, I would have told you I HATE CAMPING, I HATE HIKING, I HATE BEING OUTDOORS. No exaggeration there, either. I just wasn’t big into the natural feeling of it all when I wasn’t a granola, hippie, tree hugger, or nudist- all things I associated with the not-so-great outdoors. Mosquitos, sweat, heat, dirt, exercise….yah, no. I can still feel the disgust rush over me when I think of me BACK then. But now…
It all started with traveling and by force of life, I would live like a camper, only the slightly longer term kind. I flash to the South of India where I lived in huts on stilts over the water, sharing a hole in the ground as my toilet, showering out a bucket of freezing cold water, and doing laundry against the rocks with the sea as my television. I found myself LOVING the dirt, grim, sandaled feet lifestyle like I had always lived it. One of the most difficult things come back to the mainland after my travels was getting used to having everything I could want at my finger tips. I was used to living with less, and I felt the most comfortable with every possession I could need or want in two backpacks that were on my person all of the time. Suddenly being home meant that my stuff would have to spread out, and my comfort level shrank the further my junk moved from me.
And then I slowly evolved back into a semi-normal person who carries purses, has heels, leaves their crap all over different homes, and begins to forget what things I have and where they might have gone if I can no longer find them. Not that I ever shook off the feeling of tightly controlled freedom, but I acclimated back to a modern way of life. Then I landed a man. And then I got a dog. The sweetest and dirtiest of animals…the dog, I mean. And how could I leave two things I loved to be in the place where I belonged? I couldn’t. So, we had to meet in the middle. No Indian voyages, but suddenly there was camping.
Like opening a door I had forgotten I had the key for, I found myself flooded by joys and comfort almost forgotten in the last three years by just stepping my Rainbows on dirty soul with a pack strapped to my back, and nothing but a book, scrabble, and cards as my distractions. When all of your stuff suddenly becomes exact for a specific purpose, nothing extra necessary is necessary, and I know each and every article that is in my space. And I’m dirty. And I’m free. How awesome?! Now I get to do it with my Person and my Animal (the order is Roy, then Rusty…just in case) and life suddenly makes much more sense.
We went to a place called Lake Utica somewhat on the way to Yosemite (although I get lost when we disappear into the Eastern crevaces of the State). Surrounded by trees and rocks, suddenly you are met with a vast and gorgeous bright blue reservoir which is dotted with little islands where the sand is soft and trees grow out of the sides of smooth rock, seemingly impossible and dramatically stunning. Like Tahoe without…Tahoe. In order to reach our camping location, that was incidentally FREE OF CHARGE (love it!), we had to canoe out to an empty location, which was easy enough. Spotted and sporadically located, other families had come to this picturesque place to do the same, but no one dared to be near enough to another to feel commercial or canned. You could faintly hear other campers but not see them, which was fine with us. We located a serene spot with a huge fire pit, logs for sitting, sand for sleeping, water access for bathing, exercising, floating, sun spot slices, and trees for hammocks. Perfection. It was hot in the sun, burning hot actually (I never learn to put on sun screen), and with a cool breeze to keep the sun bearable. The sky was perfectly clear blue in the day or sateen black at nice, with waves of stars so close and bright you could swear the Milky Way was coming to eat your caramel and nougat insides. Lasting only 40 hours, there wasn’t enough time to really defrag into our environment, but the swimming, marshmallow roasting, tanning, napping, chili making, hot dog burning, scrabble defeating, and fire cuddling were all perfect. And to be there on my birthday was even more special.
I got home and slowly unpacked myself once again to lose my items in a haze of rooms, places, and spaces. But the feeling remained. Dirty, Sweet Freedom. How precious…how dear. So I might not be able to flee to Bali, but I certainly can take a 3 day adventure with my little family and feel the feeling of simplistic joy once again, reminding me that all is not wrong, bad or dissolved. Just different.