I am sitting by a campfire in North Yellowstone, right on the Montana/Wyoming border. My family and I are waiting for dinner to be cooked and served to us. We have ridden approximately six hours covering nine miles of up and down. Now, the four hooved team of thirteen who were drafted to cart our gear and our bodies around for five days are filling their bellies with lush green grass. A wafting of the sweet smell of it blows my way. It distracts me momentarily from inhaling the scent of the sage bushes that surround us. The Gold Cache river runs along our camp site not yielding any secrets from the days of the gold rush before Yellowstone was a park.
These were not exactly my thought three hours ago.
Three hours ago, I was on a narrow (and I do mean NARROW) trail very near a steep ravine’s edge. When I could force myself to look, I was looking straight down about 700 feet to the river that is so innocently close to me now.
I kept chanting my spontaneous mantra, “I trust God and I trust this horse.”
I was praying the horse was not an atheist.
Why? Because momma don’t camp. That’s why.
These were not even my thoughts this morning as we drove into Yellowstone to meet the highly experienced expeditioners at the trailhead. I was, with growing apprehension, thinking, “How did I get myself into this one?” I knew there was no turning back from that moment until next Friday. Five days.
Momma don’t camp.
I used to. Really, I did. Two incidents did me in on the whole one-with-nature, finer adventures of camping.
The first was Camp Happy Hollow, which should be noted, was neither. Wisconsin. Girl Scout troop 239 in fourth grade. It was one of the longest weekends in my life, beginning with the lot of us trying to make sure all the spiders were exterminated. Scary stories around the campfire were not fun to me at all. I totally bought into whatever horror was being chronicled. This was due, in no small part to an older brother who had an especially twisted sense of humor and a hobby called scare the kid sister.
Then there was the latrine duty. We managed this by standing outside and spraying and entire can of disinfectant in the door. In the middle of the night, I had to walk my friend, Melanie, to this all natural commode because she was more scared than I was. The scout leader’s son, dragged along for the experience, accidentally walked in on Melanie, scarring her for life. The weekend ended with a “nature” hike in a swamp where we nearly died of exsanguination.
The second adventure was during college. I was allegedly in love with nature boy during the era of John Denver and the perpetual “Rocky Mountain High”. My friends still refer to him as “THAT loser”. He was going to teach me to camp and rock climb. My long dormant fear of heights became manifest and I got my hair tangled in the carabiner dangling about twenty feet below and drifting in the breeze. All Jerry could think to do was go run off and try to find a scissors! With what spare hand was I going to snip my locks?
Another fraternity brother, along on the trip and a champion wrestler to boot, calmly talked me back from hysteria as he winched me back up to solid ground. Jerry appeared at that moment with the scissors and proceeded to lecture me about what a disappointment I was.
I left him at the campsite.
There have been enough camp moves about these types of experiences. The basis in truth was enough for me.
Momma don’t camp.
However, my daughter was back from an amazing first year at college, where she is blazing a trail. My sons are about to be freshman in high school. The orbits around the sun are accelerating at an alarming rate. While planning and coordinating this summer’s schedule, my husband and I both realized that the number of opportunities for family vacations and outings were dwindling and empty nesting looms somewhere out on the horizon.
While we are okay with that next, impending phase of our life journey, we want this phase to go out with a bang. Last year, it was Disneyworld. This summer why not an adventure?
I believe in signs and the flow of things.
Our neighbors have saved this recovering band of city slickers from the perils of South Dakota winters and teenage hubris more than once. Kind souls that they are, they accept nothing in return but our gratitude and the odd bottle of libation.
During one gratitude delivery, it came up in our conversation. A cousin runs an expedition outfit during the summers. They guide, cook, set up camp and clean up.
Hmmm. Throw in a pedicure and we can call this spa camping.
Maybe this wasn’t camping. After all, I didn’t have to cook for a week as part of the bargain. We’ve lived here five years now and haven’t yet gotten around to Yellowstone.
Okay, maybe this once Momma WILL camp.
And get outfitted with a sleeping bag and pad.
And bear spray. Just a precaution, we were assured.
To be continued….