First of the Month

Last evening, I went a half hour out of my way to stop at one of the local state parks on my way home from work.

L was with his dad for the night, my last free night for awhile. That free time comes with so much weight.

It is always a dilemma for a parent – do I use my down time to relax (read, watch tv, etc), to GO TO BED and finally catch up on sleep, to be productive (heck, even how to be productive is a question – do I finish the laundry or do I get groceries?). I think some moms struggle with taking time for themselves, and that is not me. I think I have a healthy balanace of trying to stay on top of things, but also knowing my needs and paying attention to them. It is not easy – it is never easy. I don’t always draw the line correctly. Sometimes I regret having taken an evening to myself, because I know I would have felt so much better and less stressed if I had just got that shit DONE. I often find myself sacrificing sleep as well! I HEAVILY rely on coffee. No shame there – we do what we gotta do.

Anyway. Last night I felt the call to get outside. It was a beautiful day that I had spent inside – I couldn’t walk at lunch. The start of August has a way of making you want to make the most of the summer. I was exhausted. I probably could have gone home and fallen asleep almost immediately at 7pm. I could have gotten groceries and meal prepped. I could have gone home and watch mindless TV. I could have paid the bills and finished the laundry. All valid choices!

I  knew it was the right choice as soon as I got out of town. Those back roads, the mountains, the green, the state park signs. The sky was beautiful, the sun shining from behind a large cloud, reflecting on the lake. You could hear kids playing. There were many fishing boats out on the water, and some runners on the trail. I wasn’t the only one trying to soak up the summer.

I was in my work clothes, but I didn’t care. I walked the trail. I sat by the water. I breathed in the forest air and felt the sun on my face. I listened to the sounds of the birds and the bugs. I felt alive. I felt free.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.