“I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” ~Henry David Thoreau
As the sun finally dropped behind some trees to the north and it actually begins to feel like autumn, I felt compelled to write. Not even sure about what. I haven’t written much lately because I got a book idea and gave my self a deadline to publish it at the end of this month. I apologize to my avid blog followers to which I am pretty sure, I have none.
This is day two of my most recent solo camping trip. I didn’t even know it was called solo camping until a friend and blogger, Jeff Sandquist published and essay that is no longer up on “Solo Camping.” I never even really planned on being a solo camper. I just hit the road one day and decided I was going to camp. I was on my way to a wedding on the east coast and had a night to burn. I looked at my map for the greenest spot on my way, pulled off the interstate and drove in that direction. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I did it again about a year later on a solo trip to Arches National Park.
I guess I have experience in solo camping but there has always been something that bothered me about those previous experiences. Something I wondered if I could do. Something I am doing right now, solo camping sober.
West Virginia– I found a ranger station and got directions to a camp ground. When I arrived, I saw that I had the place to myself. I set up camp and immediately went looking for wood. I found a bunch and put quite the effort into getting it all back to my camp. It rained off and on a bit and I found myself playing Angry Birds on my phone or something, for a while. In between showers I managed to get a fire started. Eventually, the clouds parted and made way for the stars. That’s whenI got out a bottle of red wine and started taking pulls. I don’t even remember what I ate that night, if I did at all. With a campfire and a bottle of wine, I found the night quite enjoyable. There was even singing around the campfire.
The next morning I went for a trail run, packed up my gear, checked my map and found the nearest coffee shop. Solo camping wasn’t such a biggie.
Arches National Park- I think it was November, regardless it was cold and no longer camping season for. I was sure I would have the place to myself. The campsites were easier to find at Arches even though they are 18 miles away from the entrance of the park. As soon as I got there I had to uses the toilet. On my way to the bathroom, I befriended another solo camper and we spent the next two nights getting drunk by the fire.
Solo camping is easy when you make friends.
For years I thought, “Yeah I go camping alone, what’s the big deal?” But, deep down inside I knew that the reason it wasn’t a big deal was because I was drunk. What would I do, if I didn’t actually numb myself? What would I think about? Would I be able to handle these thoughts? I knew that building a fire and getting shit-faced is not what solo camping is about but that was the only way I had done it. So, was I really even an actual solo camper?
It is now the morning after day two of this solo camping trip. I am at a little coffee shop I found on the side of a mountain. Electronics are charging and I am connected to WIFI. I am once again plugged in to society. But now, as I sip this cup of coffee and check out who’s god damn birthday it is on Facebook, I do it, finally, as a successful solo camper.
What did two days of sober camping, by myself, teach me?
- You do have a lot of time to think. It’s nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. Your mind is fairly occupied with camp related things.
- I feared boredom but there was very little of it. Downtime equaled time to read. Something I have very little of when I’m not camping.
- What do you do after it gets dark? You go to bed! It’s a lovely thing.
- You have a heightened sense of awareness. I never had trouble sleeping when I was passed out drunk but sober, I was often awoken by things moving around in the woods. Last night, some creature got close enough for me to actually hear it sniffing. From a security and safety perspective, being this light of a sleeper is a good thing.
- You feel 100% in the morning. Not only did I go bed when it got dark and woke up when the sun came up, I didn’t wake up hung over. Creatures waking me up periodically and all, this made for some the most restorative nights I’ve ever had.
Overall it was not that much different of an experience. I guess the biggest question was, could I actually do it. Now, I know I can.