Many years ago, I was finally about to experience my first camping trip. I had always wanted to see what camping was all about. There are always fun stories being shared and so much to do, it was something that I wanted to try.
There was a group of us at work that were talking about taking a weekend trip to the mountains a couple of hours away. A few of them had been to this particular campground before, so they knew the ins and outs, which made me even more comfortable. We were all so excited and ready for an adventure in the mountains!
I am a very anxious person. I have been told time and time again that I hide it well because people are shocked to hear me say that I am always anxious. I feel like I am all over the place, but from outward appearance, I guess that is not the case.
Anyway, given me and my anxiety, I double, triple, and quadruple-checked where we would be staying the night on our camping trip. I was told by one of the gentlemen going on the trip that we had all chipped in to get a cabin.
I was relieved to hear the word cabin because you would never find me sleeping outdoors in just a tent, I would be terrified! We all made food and packed paper plates, napkins, and plastic utensils. We made sure to bring enough snacks, water bottles, and some delicious desserts.
The Day Had Come
The plan was for me to pick up one of my friends that I worked with, and we were going to drive down to the campground together. The other people in the group were all going to meet up and drive together and we would all meet there.
Excitement was all that you could see on my face as I drove to pick up my friend and head to the campground for my first camping experience. We had a blast together listening to music and talking. About two hours later, we made it to the camp!
Our Friend Gave Us a Tour
We unloaded most of our belongings. The view was breathtaking, we were deep into the woods, surrounded by large hills, a lake, and a little Visitor’s Center. Our friend, who we will call Dave, was the guy that knew this place like the back of his hand, so we let him tour us around.
Our first stop was the outhouse, I had never used one before, but that was about to change. It had a burning candle, smelled horrendous, and a small roll of toilet paper lay on top of the wooden board.
Next up was the cabin. As we approached the cabin, my jaw dropped in shock, and then the fear set in. Yes, this was a cabin, but it was not the type of cabin that I had in mind.
This cabin was completely open on both sides! The front and back had a wooden frame that you could walk through, there was no door. The windows had no glass. Technically, in my eyes, this was worse than a tent, because at least with a tent there is coverage all around. This was completely open!
Panic Set In
One of my worst fears is being outside in the dark, it never used to bother me, but it creeps me out to no end now that I am older. Maybe I have watched too much TV, but all that I can think about is wild animals attacking me, or even humans with bad intentions approaching me. There goes my anxiety again.
I tried to get myself together and I was determined to make the most out of my trip. I asked my friend if he would take us to explore the fun adventures that this campground had to offer, and I thought that maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as I pictured it in my mind. I can do this, I thought to myself.
We Got Our Feet Wet
There was so much to explore here! We went hiking up the large dirt hills and we found fossils. We couldn’t believe the shell prints that we found in some of the rocks. There was a lake nearby, we went out on the water in Dave’s boat. He did some fishing and we all just sat and enjoyed the sun, fresh air, and the beauty that surrounded us.
We got into some camping activities and Dave taught me how to use a slingshot, I had never used one before. It was just for fun, and I was aiming it at the lake, but I’ll never forget that. Also, one of the other people with us was showing us how to melt glass in the campfire. It would come out in the oddest shapes and reminded me of dried maple syrup.
After all of the fun, we were hungry and thirsty. We decided to unwind for the night with some good food. We sat around talking and laughing, sharing stories as we made s’mores by the campfire.
I had finished my dinner and I saw a bag full of plastic water bottles and I put my paper plate in that bag. I then heard one of my friends yell “stop!” I had never camped before, and I was completely unaware that even plates with no food left on them will attract bears, not to mention other animals because of their incredible sense of smell. Anything with a trace of food on it needed to be burned in the fire. I was mortified to hear that bears were even this close to us, I guess I shouldn’t have been, considering this was a mountain.
I Was Being Tested
My first trip to the outhouse was a memorable one. The smell was so foul, and I shared my little space there with flies and even a few spiders.
We had spent so much time enjoying the campground that I hadn’t even checked my phone, but nightfall was approaching. I went to get my phone out of the car and to my surprise, there was no service. We were so far into the mountains that our phones didn’t work. I started to worry, there was no way that we could reach out or have anyone reach us.
My heart was racing at the fact that we were all about to spend the night in a wide-open “cabin” and the thought of not having any service just made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. What if we needed help?
Night had come and it was time to lay down in our “beds” made of blankets. The campground was very dark, some lampposts were overlooking the lake which gave us some light and we had some very dim lighting around the cabin area itself, but the majority of the area was like looking out into a sea of darkness.
All that I could imagine was an animal coming down from the woods or out of the lake and stepping foot inside our cabin. After all, there was nothing there to stop them. We were fresh meat. The first part of the night was quiet. That was about to change.
I Will Never Forget the Noises
Sleeping on a campground, at least this one, was incredibly noisy. I was scared out of my mind and my heart was racing the entire night. I didn’t sleep a wink between hearing the bullfrogs in the lake, and the footsteps of animals that I couldn’t even see. I could hear some sort of animal trying to get into the trash can. I just kept praying for our safety. I kept hearing an animal make a grunting noise and I could hear heavy breathing.
The sounds still play in my head today, I was completely mortified. I felt so vulnerable, and I was truly afraid for my life. It is somewhat funny now looking back on it, but it sure was not funny at that moment.
This Trip Taught Me Something
I have gone on many camping trips during the day since this one, however, after that night I vowed to never spend the night again on a campground. Half the fun is missing when you don’t spend the night, but the fear that I felt that night will prevent me from ever doing it again.
I did learn a lot from this trip. I was forced to face my fears that night. Yes, I was completely uncomfortable, and as difficult as that was for me when the sun had risen the next morning, I felt like I had won. I faced a massive fear of mine.
I was upset at Dave for not being completely honest with me about the layout of the cabin, but I know that if he was, I would have never gone. All of the fun memories that we made during that trip wouldn’t have happened. I will cherish those memories for the rest of my life. Besides the experience at night, this camping trip was one of the most amazing experiences that I have ever had with an amazing group of people.
I Miss You, Dave
Sadly, Dave passed away a few years ago. My heart still breaks, I have so many memories of him and his passion for life. I will never forget the night that he pushed me to face my fears, the night that he showed me what I can learn about myself and life if I just live a little and not let my anxiety get the best of me. I will never forget the night that Dave believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself. I miss you, Dave. Thank you for all that you taught me.