I don't know what happened. I really, really don't. I have started to like camping. I used to hate it, but would agree to it as a necessary evil. If you like to be on a trail early in the morning, sometimes you have to camp. Although, I have to admit that I prefer to camp away from a campground. You have to be aware of where you are so that you are not on private property or property where that is not allowed, but it's nicer than all of the noise, in my opinion.
I am quickly coming to see the best kind of camping as being backpacking. It hurts in a way, because those packs can get heavy. I'm not an ultralight packer, and I'm not likely to become one soon, but the weight is work going up a hill in high elevation.
The thing about backpacking, though, is that it allows a person to experience nature in a whole different way than we typically do. So much of our lives are spend running from one thing to the next with constant electronic distraction. Even on a trail, I often feel the pressure a bit. You have to drive to the trail, try to get to your destination before the storms come, then drive home, often in heavy traffic. Backpacking is different. Even just an overnighter. Once you are on the trail, that's where you are. If the rain comes, you don't race back to your car because you're usually too far in. In fact, you don't see a car for at least 24 hours and you certainly don't have to fight traffic. It's enough work to do that even the foot traffic is typically lighter.
This last trip was interesting. We weren't able to make our destination because the storms rolled in. You can't go sit in your tent in a storm, because it isn't safe. You pull out the rain gear and stand outside in the rain. But not close enough for easy conversation, because if lightning strikes, you don't want it to take out the whole group. (It wasn't that close, but we'll take any safety measure we can get!) Then we had a short break, then another storm. Then we didn't have quite enough time to hike anywhere, so we sat in a high meadow surrounded by waterfalls.
I had a love/hate relationship with standing in the rain. I wanted to go to some mountain lakes. Or I was tired, and would have been happy to take a nap. Really, just about anything sounded like a good idea. Instead there was nothing to do and nowhere for me to go. I just had to be there in that moment. There was no escaping the discomfort, only going through it (and it wasn't that uncomfortable; it's amazing what good gear will do for you). I stood in the rain and watched the way the water made the leaves dance. I had to start to learn to be okay with being still and not turning to the next distraction.
What was really nice, though, is that by the evening, when my friend had gone to bed early, I sat in a high mountain meadow. It was a little daunting to have over an hour before sunset and absolutely nothing to do. I'm not used to that at all. In the quiet, surrounded by the sound of waterfalls and birds and amazing mountain air, I started thinking about the way that we were moving away from the sun. Though everything seemed perfectly still, we were barreling away from the sun. I don't know why I think what I do out there, but it was something that I was very aware of in the stillness of that moment.
I can also tell you that I was able to chat with God in a way that I haven't been able to for a long time. I think I have too many distractions, and I'm not quite sure what I'm going to have to be doing about that, but in that moment, I didn't worry about fixing anything. I just took that moment to breathe in and breathe out, to reach out to God and let Him reach back to me through the stillness.
I can tell you that every storm in the last couple of weeks has made me extremely grateful to be indoors, but as crazy as it sounds, being outside having to deal with the realities that we often run from (like rain is wet) was pretty amazing as well.