Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been fighting a lot of restlessness. One of my goals for the year was focusing more on travel before the next phase of my life. I started strong with a trip to San Francisco, then found myself in lockdown weeks later. It’s a privileged thing, really, and sadder things happened to me this year other than I CAN’T GO ANYWHERE. But it’s been a continuing frustration for me. I didn’t get hit by the travel bug until I was about 30, and as my fear of flying dissipated, my desire to travel has intensified every year.
Everyone has different risk tolerances. For various reasons, my husband’s and mine are fairly low. I go to the grocery store every week, and once a month pick a retail store to visit right when it opens. Otherwise, it’s been really low-key. But even if it’s just a walk around my neighborhood, I have to leave my house daily or else I feel depressed.
We started weekly hikes in April that were a big boost to my mental health. Eventually, the routine of a Saturday hike settled in, and I found myself wanting more. I began thinking of camping. At first it was a happy daydream – if I found myself feeling depressed about the uncertainty of being at home, or when I would be able to travel again, I envisioned being able to explore with a camping trip. Finding a destination, taking a road trip, and being able to see a new place while still keeping socially distant seemed really appealing to me. You could be self-reliant and not have to worry about staying in a hotel.
Eventually, I had the same realization that I did the morning I woke up in San Francisco, realizing I could just go see the Golden Gate Bridge myself instead of sitting there thinking about it. Instead of daydreaming about camping, what if we just…did it? Husband was on board, so I did some research on equipment and ordered the basics. I felt a little panic after booking our first camping trip, as I was about to step outside of my comfort zone.
I should add that I’ve never gone camping in my life.
I selected Hoosier National Forest for our first trip. I needed to get into a car for a couple of hours and drive away from this county for me to feel good about the trip. I selected a campsite near Celina Lake, and laughed at the Park’s website. I figured it was a foreboding sign that the website acknowledged that there weren’t any bears in the park, but to GET READY FOR TICKS!!!!!! So this park was going to be a tick fiesta. Got it.
Saturday morning we packed our tent and gear into my SUV. I dug out some pants with permethrin I’d worn during my field days. I’ve been bit by a tick once and would prefer not to repeat that experience. After a dicey experience at our local gas station, where NO ONE WAS WEARING A MASK and coughing/sneezing without covering their mouths (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), we started on our journey. The weather was beautiful and sunny. The fall foliage here is turning and it’s so beautiful. The two hours went by very quickly as we drove through quaint small towns dotted along the National Forest.
We got to camp around 12:30, packed our hiking backpacks with food and water, and started along our path. The forest was bright and sunny. It was 63 degrees but I felt warm.
Eventually, we hit a portion of the trail that was overgrown. I’d read reviews of the trail saying the ticks were particularly infested in this area, so we proceeded with caution. I started singing “Take Me Home Tonight” (from the tick’s point of view, OF COURSE), and Husband, being punny, decided to change the lyrics to “Tick Me Home Tonight.”
We were on a 15-mile loop, and we knew we’d have to turn around at some point since we weren’t going to hike the entire loop. In the end, a tick ended up being my forest guide. I looked down at my shoe and saw a tick chilling there. We decided it’d be a good idea to turn around now. We did a frantic tick check and didn’t find any stragglers. Of course, Apollo decided that this was an opportune time to flop on the grass and roll in it.
We turned around at a good time, thanks to our tick friend. We got back with just enough light to set up. We are camping noobs, so I had no idea that even though the sun would set at a certain time, we’d lose daylight way sooner given the tree canopy. Oh, and starting a fire – I’m embarrassed to tell you all that I thought I could just take a Bic lighter to some firewood and that WE’D BE GOOD.* I MEAN. I thought you had to worry about starting fires if you were in a primitive set-up without a Bic Lighter (???? I feel so dumb saying this), which we were not. BUT NO. STARTING A FIRE IS HARD REGARDLESS.
It took awhile, but we got one going.
That night, we went into our tent, exhausted. The cot I’d bought was alright, but I definitely need something a little comfier. My hips and back were mad at me by the morning.
In the morning, as the sun rose over the trees, I felt really happy. We actually did this!
Husband made coffee and eggs. We ate our breakfast, then packed our things.
We enjoyed a fun ride home, listening to songs I hadn’t heard in awhile on the radio and taking in the beautiful fall colors.
We got home, cleaned up, showered, and collapsed on our couch. As my eyes closed, I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time – peace.
*These are actual things that I, Jennifer Nicole, of sound mind and body, thought in 2020.