I had a friend growing up who did all kinds of cool, adventurous, naturey, outward bound, scout things. I remember that he once went on a trip that involved solo camping, and I remember thinking how scary that sounded to be all alone in the woods and how brave he was to do that.
I’ve backpacked a few times with friends and I have solo camped a ton, but always in populated campgrounds. This weekend I went on my first solo backpacking trip to a primitive site potentially only populated by *rattle snakes #becauseTexas. I arrived late and hiked in most of the way by moonlight. I remember the moment about a mile in when I realized that I would never beat the setting sun. It was rapidly setting, and I would be hiking in the dark whether I continued on or turned back. So I kept going and thought, I’ll deal with being scared when I get scared. Because I was certain I would.
Before I knew it, it had grown dark and as I thought about reaching for my headlamp, my sun shadow was replaced by a moon shadow, and I hiked along by the glow of a half moon as stars began to join it in the sky. And I wasn’t afraid.
I found a spot in the designated primitive area, set up camp, and lay back in my tent looking up at the stars and thinking how I didn’t feel brave out here all alone. I didn’t feel scared either. I felt so perfectly content, like I was exactly where I belonged.
I breathed in the glow of the moon as a warm breeze blew through my tent. The stars at night are big in bright deep in the heart of Texas. I know because now I have seen them.
I watched the sun rise from my tent in the quiet of that morning and wondered how long I’ve been brave without ever knowing it. What other things I think will be scary and won’t be. I can’t wait to find out.
*Every single time I hike, I assume with every single step that I will encounter a rattlesnake. It hasn’t happened yet, but I know it’s only a matter of time.