Two weeks ago, through another group, I was challenged to go on an adventure by myself, the only requirements were it had to be at least two hours away and be something I did by myself. My immediate reaction was fuck yeah, these kind of trips are my jam!
I’m very good at being by myself.
My second reaction was…camping! For the past two years I’ve been wanting to rediscover camping; for the better part of a year the mountains have been screaming my name. Excuses always come up: not enough money, car can’t travel, no gear. The biggest excuse has consistently been the lack of a partner because going to a strange isolated place and sleeping in the dark is scary! And there is safety in numbers. Coach was too busy handling life stuff, friends had their significant others or families to appease so I’ve just simply been waiting for a person to come along and love camping so much they want to be my trail friend.
Thanks to the journal challenge, I said fuck it and went to the mountains and woods all by myself. Chevy and I took our sleeping bags, packed a few things and set out for Smith Mountain Lake at 1600 on Saturday. Chevy didn’t relax much on the drive to the park, he knew we were on an adventure and he is not one to miss out on anything fun.
We arrived at Smith Mountain Lake just after 1900, checked the Late Arrival box for our tent site assignment and off we went to find it in the dark. An adventure in itself when the car you’re driving only has one headlight.
Deciding on a pull-in site because it was easier to identify as being empty, I unloaded our sleeping bags and pack from the car then got us settled with dinner. Chevy was excited to be in a new place with new sounds and smells. I was just excited to be in the woods surrounded by a community of campers, fires burning and lots of laughing. Instantly I felt like I was home.
After we ate dinner, we walked to the bathrooms and did our thing. Then I changed into comfy clothes because jeans are not worthy of sleeping inside a bag, or anywhere for that matter. We ended up chillin’ under the picnic table in case of rain. Chevy seemed to feel a little bit safer under there, too.
Ready to settle in for a bit, I climbed into my bag and Chevy sat next to me on his green blanket. I read The Summit Seeker or wrote in my journal. I remember once turning off the headlamp and looking straight up into the sky and the tops of the trees. The sky was filled with clouds, no stars were visible, and yet I felt like I could see everything.
Every once in a while Chevy would lay down but there was much going on so he was on alert the whole time. I let him be till he started growling at the guy getting into his hammock; even then I mostly let him do his part because I need him to be weary of strangers so he can alert me. I let him do the growling thing for a while till it was clear the guy wasn’t coming anywhere near us and only then did I try to get Chevy to settle a bit. I was unsuccessful. Once quiet time set in – rules stated it was 2200 – Chevy was at ease.
We went to sleep and I woke up a couple times sweating so it’s safe to say the 20F sleeping bag works. Chevy woke me up once with his shivering so I covered him with the blanket since he was all the way on the mat (my torso and head were on it, apparently I slept at a diagonal). We curled up in our usual position and once again fell fast asleep. The next time we woke up it was 0745 and I was so excited because I hadn’t been the least bit afraid to fall asleep in the dark completely exposed to the world!
I DID IT Y’ALL! I PUT ANOTHER NOTCH ON MY BADASS BELT!
After walking to the bathroom so we could do the morning potty thing, we ate breakfast. Chevy understands well the concept of second breakfast.
It was shortly after I had finished when the woman from the neighboring site came over to bring me breakfast. She said she saw me sleeping outside and thought I’d like something warm to eat. She shrugged saying it was only cinnamon strudel, I smiled and gladly accepted, thanking her a few times. I introduced her to Chevy because he was trying to get to the bowl. We made small talk for a bit, discovering she was from PA, then she walked back to her camper.
This is why I’m drawn to camping and trail running, y’all. Something about nature brings out the best in people. Everyone I’ve ever met has been kind and generous ready to give you the shirt off their back.
After breakfast, I read for a bit and journaled some more, making a Tip List for myself. Then we explored the park since I knew there were trails around the area. We call these peekaboo trail days.We came back to the car to get my phone (the above pictures where taken later). I decided to sit around for a while enjoying the quiet and serenity of the woods. I read a lot more of The Summit Seeker, Chevy napped, and we left the day unplanned, doing whatever felt we were called to do.
Beautiful colors, right? I ran down the slight decline seen in the picture on the left, arms waving overhead and shouting, “WEEEEEEEEEE!” Chevy didn’t even flinch. We walked/ran about six miles, I’m not sure because I didn’t track it via my watch and I’m okay with that. I didn’t do it for the watch or the training miles, I did it because we needed to explore somewhere new and wander. I did realize somewhere in the middle that I needed to be mindful of my steps so I’d know how we got there. It’s a lot harder to know where you are on a trail in the fall when the leaves cover everything.
I feel I need to brag about my trail dog for a minute. He loves being out in the woods as much as I do if not more. He is so used to trails and their general smell he had no trouble locating paths for us to follow. I’m a proponent of following your dog because we humans miss stuff with our insensitive noses and limited eyesight. I think Chevy knows I’ll follow him most anywhere, too, because we were walking on the road heading toward the cabins to see what was in that direction when I looked to the right to see why he wasn’t with me.
He was sitting here, just like this, waiting for me to notice. When I called him, telling him to “come on”, he still sat there looking at me like, “But you’re missing something!” Realizing what I was looking at, I chuckled and said to him, “Yep, you’re officially a trail dog now.” I took his picture and then I followed him down the path on the left. After about a mile it went dead, but how else would we have known if we hadn’t tried?
We got back to the road and continued our way to the cabins, my intuition proving correct about the possibility of more trails. We followed a blaze of ribbons tied to trees to discover another part of the lake. Chevy was a bit chicken at first but once I walked on the dirt, so did he.
Having my curiosity sated, we began our walk back to the campsite. Before we set out to explore, we had made plans with a friend to meet her and her family for a late lunch in Lynchburg which was on the way home. We got back to the car around 1430 and off we went, to beautiful downtown Lynchburg an hour away.After lunch, Chevy and I decided to go for a walk to look around. My friend and her family decided to join us and we ended up walking six miles on a really cool paved trail. It turned out to be a lovely fall day and we needed the girl time. I enjoyed getting to know her daughter, telling G I am more than happy to be her fun aunt since I’m really good at that. Next time we hang out we’re going to climb trees.
Then it was time to head home.
It’s so hard to say goodbye to yet another weekend of self-made epicness.