Hiking Community

My outdoor adventures have largely been solo – either with L or without L. I do occasionally convince people to join me – I have people that are up for the occasional hike or “camping cottage” camping weekend, but I do not have anyone that is as passionate about it as I am. I’ve known that for a lot of the things I want to do, I have to do them alone, or they won’t happen. And I’ve embraced the solo aspect of my journeys as a part of process. It has been part of the adventure – proving to myself what I am capable of, learning to be alone. A lot of the emotional work happens when you are alone as well – there have been many nights alone in my tent or a cabin after L goes to sleep that have been vital to mental health. To read, to journal, to think.

While exploring social media (I am new to Instagram and twitter), I came across a nation wide group with a local chapter of parents who hike with their children. I couldn’t make it to most of the hikes I saw posted – either during the workday or too far away. But! This past week, I saw one come up at one of the state parks that is close by, for a sunset hike on Friday. There was plenty of time for me to make it after work, and a convenient location. I signed up!

A big part of me wanted to have a quiet Friday night – literally crash after the week I had after returning from our big adventure on Sunday evening. But! I knew getting outside, being active and meeting new people would be just as relaxing and a great way to unwind. I also knew I might not have a chance to get outside the rest of the weekend due to other obligations. RSVPing also made it unlikely that I would end up not going because I didn’t “feel like it,” because I felt lazy or chickened out. It held me accountable to do this thing that I really wanted to do.

It was so worth it. I kept thinking of it during the day – something to look forward to. And I was also proud of myself for doing it (it is not easy to meet up with people you don’t know!), and for giving L that experience. The view was truly incredible, the atmosphere of the hike was perfect (handful of moms with young kids), and it was a new experience for L and for me (night hike).

I had a headlamp for myself and for L (it was dark for most of the hike down), and I used my camelback – so I could be hands free to help L and it was hot enough I thought we would need water on the hike (L drank a lot). I did end up carrying L for a small portion of the hike down, but he was so tired since it was way past his bedtime. He had done this hike on his own before, but it was much cooler and not close to bedtime 🙂 One of the moms brought glow sticks, which was a great idea.

I also realized there was another night hike going on at the same state park that same day, organized by the organization that supports to the park. This experience just made me realize the community that is out there. It is easy for me to do these things alone, and my instinct is not to make the effort, but, so much comes from joining others and getting involved. It brings new experiences, makes me happy and teaches me new things.

 

 

 

 

My Tent

I was a little hesitant about camping for three nights in a tent with L. We have done it before – but only one night, back in January 2016, on the Florida Keys. I typical book rustic cabins, camping cottages, yurts, or (as of recently!) tentiks, when traveling with L. It makes sense to do this while he is young – especially for naps, but also, just to have a place to have quiet time OR hang out if the weather is not cooperating (he can paint, color, read, play legos, eat, etc). Camping, adventuring, being outside, all can wear him out – one morning on our recent trip he asked if we could stay inside all day! (Don’t worry, he changed his mind a couple hours later 😉

I also camp alone in my tent often enough (and I love it!), but, I have to be honest – I do get a little scared at night sometimes! It usually takes at least the first night to adjust, to get used to the noises, the darkness.

So, I was worried about the tight space (keeping a small kid confined that way!), that he (we) would get scared – he is somewhat afraid of the dark, that napping wouldn’t happen, that he wouldn’t sleep well at night, etc. I actually wondered if we’d end up in a hotel at some point, if things really went badly. I worried about how long it would take for me to set up – the sun would set less than an hour after we arrived.

BUT, I was so pleasantly surprised. Setting the tent up was a piece of cake (I know it so well now), and L even helped! He helped unfold and straighten out the tent, tent footprint and rain fly, and put the tent poles together. He also insisted on pumping up the air mattresses (by hand)…which was not exactly helpful, but it was adorable. When I walked in the tent, the familiarity, the smell…a feeling of “home” washed over me. I suppose I have been through so much with that tent…

Our set up was comfortable – our pillows, sleeping bags and air mattresses, and we both slept very well. I had replaced his Thomas the Train kids sleeping bag with a “real” sleeping bag, since the weather was going to be low 50s. Other than L asking occasionally “what was that?!” at someone walking by, or a bird making a unique sound, neither of us felt scared. It really was the perfect tent camping spot – there was plenty of space and privacy, we were truly in a fairly remote location, but there were plenty of families close by that made me feel safe. We stayed at Lamoine State Park – about a 30 minute drive from Acadia National Park. More on that later.

In the mornings, L would start rolling closer and closer to me, until he was pretty much on my air mattress, arms wrapped around my neck. It was sweet. Overall, super successful tent camping with L – I can’t wait to do it again. I’m thrilled to discover the confidence and comfort I have with tent camping now, how being inside that tent felt this time around.

The Return

It is Wednesday. We just got home from our big adventure Sunday evening (Cape Breton Highlands National Park and Acadia National Park/Lamoine State Park – more to come on details of the trip). I am really struggling with adjusting back to “normal, day-to-day” life. To be sitting at my cubicle, to be inside all day. Forcing myself through tasks, going through the motions.

Today I kept thinking about this one morning in 2014, waking up at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon (Leonard Harrison State Park). It had been a cold night – where you are zipped up tightly in your sleeping bag, with your hat on, and your nose is cold. The air was crisp, but the sun was bright. The view, the trees, the calm. I headed into town to grab some hot coffee. Typically I would make coffee at the campsite, but, I was alone, and it was cold, so I decided to treat myself. These are little magic moments for me while camping – finding the closest store (if you’re lucky, a Sheetz, maybe a gas station, or a tiny “grocery store” that sells camping odds and ends. Sometimes we go for treats (chocolate milk for L, Mountain Dew for me – depending on how strict I’m being on eating healthy), maybe a snack, maybe just cheese to make grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, maybe a small item I forgot…maybe for Benadryl after I break out in hives from a bug bite! 😉 I love the small towns, the rural areas, the people. By the time I return to camp, but the sun has warmed the air, and the chill is gone. It is time to hike.

These are the moments I am craving while I sit inside at my desk – the moments that call me, that I long for. I feel it so strongly this week. There is almost a desperation to it.

Typically, I fill this need by planning the next big adventure. But I have planned it already – my sister and I have signed up for REI Outessa in New Hampshire in September. And while I am SO EXCITED for that, and will eagerly anticipate it, it does not seem to be the remedy this time. The longing is still there. So I suppose I am just struggling to readjust, to settle back in.

I spent the entire lunch hour outside – walking, dreaming, feeling alive.