I am a wannabe outsdoorswoman. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with outside in general. At least once a year, and usually twice, we go camping at Watoga State Park. No sissy camper, either–tent camping (in a campground with hot showers, laundry, a picnic table and a metal fire ring–let’s not get too crazy.) We’ve talked about real, rough, rugged tent camping. You know, the type where you hike so many miles then pitch a tent and dig a pit toilet. That’s where the love/hate thing comes in.
I love the idea of nature. Up where we go is arguably one of the most mountainous, rugged areas of West Virginia. It is also one of the most beautiful. There really isn’t any way to describe it. You can see forever from the tops of those mountains. It really is “getting away from it all,” and that’s what I needed. Did I mention my husband and I went alone? Sometimes the kids go, but I was ready for a break. A little time to just hang out, wander and do nothing. Anyone who knows me knows how hard that is for me to do (or not do, in this case.) We hiked, sat around a camp fire, and talked. It was a nice vacation for us. There isn’t a McDonald’s for fifty miles, and that’s just fine by me.
Anyway, back to the love/hate thing. Like I said, I love the beauty. Here are a few things to support my point:
I could post a million pictures of the views up there, but they don’t do it justice. What can I say? We hiked three miles out to an old fire tower that people carved their names into as far back as 1947 (that we could find.) We saw a bear on that hike. We sat around until the campground was quiet and talked about when we were kids and what our hopes are for the future. There is a quiet there that can’t be duplicated or explained. It’s a reminder of how small we are, how short our time is, and how precious.
It’s also a reminder that there are millions of species of insects in the world, and approximately 85% of them are apparently located in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. Here comes the hate part. My least favorite are the Eyeball Gnats. I’m sure that’s not their scientific name, but it serves. These are little kamikaze gnats that fly right into your eyeball, where of course they die, but they just keep right on doing it over and over. Also prevalent in that area are the infamous black flies (that really is their name) that buzz coyly by your ear every ten seconds or so. They can’t be killed. One thousand years from now, archaeologists will find the same black fly buzzing around up there that followed me all six miles of the trail we hiked. Incidentally, he is also quite impervious to swearing.
The place we camp is on the Greenbrier River, although the name should temporarily be changed to the Greenbrier Trickle. It’s dry up there, and the river is low. I generally prefer rivers and lakes to swimming pools. My mild OCD kicks in at swimming pools, what with all the chemicals and pee and various other bodily fluids in one tiny little concentrated place–kind of like swimming in a really big toilet bowl. So, imagine my shock to witness the following actual occurence as it happened, and which we were fortunate enough to capture on film:
Yes, this is an actual picture of an actual deer peeing in the Greenbrier River. So even the river isn’t safe. Then, as if that isn’t enough, here’s another thing I witnessed:
These beetles are copulating on a fencepost. Nature is nasty. Pictures don’t lie, folks.
So, some parts of nature aren’t so great. Also, I’m afraid of the dark. I try not to drink too much, because if I have to pee in the middle of the night, Matt has to get up and go with me. He doesn’t complain, but it still sort of sucks.
By far the high point of the trip happened during a short hike on Friday. We did an easy, two-mile loop trail, and sort of just meandered along and looked around rocks and took pictures of cool trees and stuff like that. At one point, we came upon a hole in the bank that had been dug out by some wilderness creature. Now, let me preface this for you. My husband walks with a fancy little adjustable aluminum hiking stick. It serves a couple of purposes. Firstly, it looks cool. Secondly, it helps him walk. Thirdly, he can bludgeon a bear if one gets too close. It also serves another, more obscure purpose which I did not know about until this weekend.
My husband, driven by some primal, testosterone-fueled instinct that dates back to the cavemen, had to take his fancy hiking stick, say, “I wonder what’s in there?” and vigorously jab the stick into the hole. I can’t criticize him, though. I, driven by apparent heat-induced brain damage and too much Smirnoff Ice the night before, stood right there beside him and mentally wondered the same thing he voiced aloud. Well, as it turns out, what was in there was a yellow jacket’s nest.
Have you ever had one of those moments when time sort of slows waaaayyyyyy down? It doesn’t really stop, it just sort of switches to a frame-by-frame action sequence that allows you to see everything very clearly and have very complex thoughts in the matter of the a fraction of a second. I saw the bees come out around the pole, and I even had time to think, “Huh, those are bees!” My husband, on the other hand, had a much more succinct verbalization which I will not repeat here, except to say that it was very cussy and it summed up our situation nicely. Then the frame-by-frame zipped right up into fast forward. You know, two slightly squidgey thirty-somethings can move pretty damn fast when the occasion calls for it. It called for it. I’ve never been much of a runner, and Matt has a bum knee, but I doubt if an Olympic sprinter could have bested our time. All I could think of was those cartoons when the bees make themselves into different shapes as they chase their prey en mass, like maybe a bow and arrow, or just the shape of one big, really pissed off bee.
They didn’t follow us, though, and eventually we had to stop running because we were laughing too hard to even breathe. No stings! Like I said, pretty impressive, and the highlight of my trip. From now until the end of time, the hiking stick is officially called the bee stick, just another little bit of vocabulary to be added to the inner language of our marriage. If you’re married, you know what language I’m talking about–the secret words and phrases, jokes and stories, that don’t mean anything to anyone else, but mean everything to you.
So all in all, it was a great weekend. I remembered for a little while who I really am, besides a mom and a sister and a wife. I remembered what it was like to escape a disaster and then laugh about it until I was breathless. Mostly I remembered who my best friend is.
Oh, and I remembered to shower after I swim.