When fear is the catalyst, you face your challenge… Walking camp solo was my challenge.
I was born and raised in Trenton, NJ. Although I am one of six children, I can probably count on one hand how many times I was completely alone in our house. All our neighbors were related to me, so there was little fear of being alone in the house or walking down the street after dark.
When I married my husband and moved to rural Columbia, it was a bit of a shock at how dark it gets at night and how few and far between the neighbors were. I tried multiple times (to no avail) to overcome my fear of walking alone after dark when one night, I felt I finally nailed it. This night I was walking camp solo!
I conquered my fear
Our quiet hours in the campground begin at 11 pm. In order to ensure everyone can sleep, we walk the campground and go into the noisy sites to remind persons unaware of how far their voices carry at night. That night my husband had already walked the camp for an hour and finally was able to come into bed. That’s when I heard loud raucous laughter and music from a campsite through the woods not far from my house. I decided to let him sleep and I would walk out to quiet them. This is my account of that night…Walking Camp Solo.
I stepped out of the pool of light emanating from my porch lamp and plunged head on into complete darkness. “You’ve come a long way baby” I muttered to myself and grinned. Not even moonlight to guide me, I thought, as I glanced up at the sky.
I remembered a time not so long ago when I wouldn’t venture out to the mailbox after dark. Yet, here I was walking into the woods, and without a flashlight!
What was I thinking?
I was doing quite well in fact – until I heard a twig snap behind me. My heart began to pound as if a switch had been thrown. The hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention. I glanced behind me only to see a black void instead of the road I had just walked on. My senses were propelled into overdrive – listening – trying to tell if the noise were a bear, or a human. What was I thinking, walking in the woods on a moonless night without a flashlight?! Straining to hear was no use. The wind blowing the leaves and snapping small branches from the trees as they swayed to and fro, forced visions of elephants stampeding toward me; or worse yet, murderous gangs looking for their next target.
I quickened my pace, adding a mental note – next time, nudge my husband and make him get up – who cares how hard he worked today or how tired he is. Walking camp solo is clearly a guy’s job!
As I neared the corner of the field, my pulse started to slow, and my breathing returned to normal. Whatever it was that was following me did not pick up on the scent of fear. I was still alive, getting angrier with every step that this outing was even necessary in the first place.
The glow up in the distance was my intended target. I knew it was wise of my husband to store the shells separate from the guns, because at this hour, I’d have been loaded for bear and not responsible for my actions. Taking slow deliberate breaths, I tried to regain control of my emotions. My family swears that I have multiple personality disorder and at that moment I couldn’t deny the possibility. The personality I was feeling emerge at this moment was the one they named Yolanda.
A battle within
The first instruction given to new employees is to not do anything that might awaken Yolanda, who lies dormant in the far corners of my subconscious. Going along with the free pass for behavior given with the MPD diagnosis, I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. I was hoping that Francine, another of the cast of characters that have been assigned to my persona would appear. Unlike Yolanda, Francine has been described as the businesswoman. She takes a more diplomatic and less dangerous approach to problem solving,.
The music and voices got louder as I approached, and I could see movement through the trees. A startled scream escaped from one of the women sitting to my left as my shadow cut into the circle of light from their campfire.
“It’s long after eleven” I said. “You should know better than this.” As I watched another camper jump up to turn off the radio, I scanned the group of inebriated campers sitting around the fire, trying to maintain an air of authority. My frown became a wince as my eyes settled on the seasonal camper who was the center of entertainment. Roger weighed about 350 lbs., and was bumping and gyrating to the music, wearing nothing but a Speedo. My speech became more rapid as I reminded them of the quiet hours and sent them all back to their individual campsites. I wanted to hurry home, back to bed before the image burned itself into my brain forever. I immediately realized it was wishful thinking – even a cheetah couldn’t move that fast! When I reached the house, I flipped off the porch light and tiptoed back upstairs.
Home at last
My body shuddered as I slipped under the covers. Recalling the suety flesh highlighted by the flickering light from the campfire was a vision I’d hoped to soon forget. Pulling the covers over my head must have awakened my sleeping husband. “Is it cold outside?” he asked, sounding exhausted. I shivered as I recounted my recent experience and told him the next time was his turn. I could see him smile as he rolled over, draped an arm over me, and whispered “welcome to the campground industry”.
It wasn’t till days later that I realized my accomplishment. Prior to that night I would not go out to the mailbox after dark! I have since walked every bit of the camp several times alone at night and without flashlights!
Prior to that night the only camping experience I had was with my husband. Our business now prohibits the luxury of both of us being gone at the same time. Luckily my husband is wiling to give me time off to camp without him. He has allowed me to see the camping industry from both sides of the counter. And never complains when I disappear for several days without him.
Joining a women’s camping group has not only given me friendships I would never have had, it has empowered me to face my fears and plunge head on into the unknown knowing they all have my back.