We paused at a Safeway in Fairfax, VA to meet up with an additional 10 people and stocked up on some extra food and such for the trip. This is where the strangeness began. For a trip that would turn out to be only about 17 total hours, we were sitting in that parking lot with enough gear for at LEAST a full week! No joke, here is a list of some of the stuff stuffed into the 5 cars:
2 x 8-person tents
4 x 2 person tents
A few other tents
1 full gas grill (yep, an actual gas grill)
3 large coolers filled with food
4-6 full shopping bags filled with food
1 fold-out table
A 2-stove gas stove
Um, a luger (like, the gun. Not only was it strange enough to bring a gun on a 1-night camping trip, but the fact that it was a luger was actually slightly frightening)
This is the short list. But after a bit of passive-aggressive conversation on what and what not to bring, we decided we would just bring it all (yep, 5 cars driving out to the woods...) and just get out there and set up. So, our organizer gathered us together and briefed us on the 2-hour drive ahead of us (Geez! We literally got a pre-written briefing on how we would all drive out to this location!)
So, all that aside, we hit the road, and immediately things started to loosen up. For those of you who have not driven out towards the Shanandoah's in Virginia, it is a breath-taking drive. JP and I talked and gazed at the scenery as we left the bustling city behind and disappeared into the dense forest and mountains. We set up camp about 100 yards of a gravel road in the mountains. The clearing was perfect and while most of the crew moved from another site we were thinking about using to this site, myself and another guy strung up a tarp and began clearing away some areas for our tents (almost forgot to mention, it was raining pretty hard at this point). Once the rest of the crew got there it began to clear up a little and we unpacked the mulitple car-loads of gear we had and set up our site before headed out, now in the wonderfully blazing sun light, for a hike down the path that split our site.
The rest of the trip was your basic camping experience: a long hike, a quick cool down in a near by creek (JP and I ran the 3.5 miles to it, making the cool down that much more rewarding), lots of grilled meat and snacks, and chilling by the camp fire until the wee hours of the night talking, singing songs and just chilling out. Then it was up bright and early for eggs and bacon and JP and I hit the road to get back to civilization in time for our scheduled doings (I had a double header I had to coach!).
A few moments stood out to me while out there this weekend. First, it was our little run down to the creek. Running in an area that is completely void of anything remotely human (besides the trail/path/road you are on), no houses, no cars, no planes, nothing, is an experience everyone should have at some point. When the only things you can hear are your feet, your breath and whatever nature has going on, you get overcome with a sense of security and peacefulness. It's awesome, it's exciting, and it's so calming. Second was a small walk I took, probably around midnight, out to a clearing that overlooked, well, everything it seemed. JP had walked out there and I went out to join him for a bit. While trudging down the thickly covered single-track, I decided to turn my light off for a little and just feel myself completely alone in the woods. The second the light went off I got scared. Not being able to see anything, and knowing there is basically endless mystery completely surrounding you is scary feeling. But after a few seconds that scared feeling dissipates as all your senses heighten. It is a natural high. Endorphins flood your body and you instantly recognize what it must have been like to be primal. For those handful of minutes before you snap your light back on and break the experience, it is just you and the rest of the world. Nothing in between. Just writing it gives me a little burst of energy! And third, it was the people. While it was a group that I generally would not go out of my way to hang out with (they were all from JP's church, and I am in no way an avid church goer) there is still something so wonderful about connecting with people like that. Even though it's in a totally different setting, and for totally different reasons, it feels very similar to when you are with a large group of people for a workout. The extreme aspect of the workout, and the for last night, the extreme aspect of being way out in the woods, adds a desire to connect with your fellow humans for comfort and to share in the experience. And while I do love being in the wilderness alone, AND, I do find it kind of sad that a group of people being out in the wilderness is considered an extreme in this day and age, I can not deny the warmth a group of good people brings you.
I look forward to many, many, yeah, many, many more wilderness excursions in the coming months!
Never Stop, GET FIT.