Monday, May 6, 2013

Check Mark for the Great Outdoors

Small Town Life
by Chris Bridges

What's funny is how a gentle slope and a few pebbles can turn into the side of a cliff full of boulders.  Deciding to sleep in this particular location wasn't by choice. It was the only spot other than a deck just a few feet away. Why would anyone trying to camp out opt for a level wooden deck? That would defeat the purpose of "camping." 

Late in the fall, with Wedowee's leaves turning golden and discount camping spots available, we guys seized a weekend away from business to slip away from the ladies and act like gross human beings; reconnecting with our deprived manly selves, like God made us. 

We really didn't need a discounted camping spot at Wedowee.  I had invited several good friends down for a guys' trip to the lake house and someone - me - came up with a grandiose idea...let's camp!

Why would we do this?  Well, it's real simple, and ladies you might not get this at all, but houses stink.  I don't mean that in a literal sense.  I understand the comforts of a homestead, but for thousands of years - before McDonalds was invented - we set out pillaging hillsides, providing for family; banged rocks together and made flips from sinew and rawhide.  This is inside the ropes for me.  If I am planning a guys' night out, camping and poking a fire with a stick helps us reconnect with our knuckle dragging ancestral past. 

Wedowee or bust! We made it! A half dozen of us pulled in at late dusk driving three separate vehicles.  Only one of the other guys had been to the lake before.  I've camped all over the southeast and on rivers and lakes.  There is something more special than I can describe about pulling in somewhere at dark and making camp.  Your imagination goes to work.  You have a good time, do crazy stuff or whatever, then the next morning you are anxious to compare the images you created with reality.  It is always different than you envisioned.  Anyway,  I was excited about that excitement. 

Plans will work but need preparation.  I noticed what we would eat and how we would sleep was a severe afterthought.  Everyone focused on their new gear.  We had plenty of fishing tackle, extra sleeping bags and I happened to have a toothbrush but only because my wife keeps one in the house for me. We laid out marinated steaks like two aces in a hot hand.  We managed. Paper plates and sheath knives became the world's finest China and blue jeans five star cloth napkins.  Camping at its finest had commenced.  

We dug worms out of dirt and hooks out of shirts. We caught fish from a pontoon boat most of the night.  Quiet noises get very loud, and paranoia over what makes them is extremely funny so verbal poking brought 4am along in a flash. 

A fold out chair held me well. I was tired, but not the only one. It's hard to stop having a good time. I knew better,  but also knew times like those are not every day. In the wee hours of a Wedowee morning, while we passed around "remember when" stories, I had time to reflect.  I recounted my own good times.  I listened to the voices of men, who I could still picture as kids at recess. I got caught smiling and had to give my own "Remember when you..." story.  

It's hilarious how a bunch of guys turn in for the night.  No goodnights.  Instead, we make excuses like, "I got a lot to do tomorrow" or "Oh gosh, my back is sore."  One after the other dropped a little one-line hint that they had had enough, eased over to the edge of the trees for a minute, and then slipped into a bag under the stars.  I wasn't far behind.  I gave camp the once over, pushed up the coals so the firemen could also get some rest and waged war on those pesky rocks between me and a few hours of sleep.
Soon, we answered  "When will you be home?" texts.  We had time to sit around, re-stoke a fire and rub tired, smoke-irritated eyes.  I watched while those boys who had not seen Wedowee in the daylight walked down and look at night's playground.   It was a great time and a great trip. I can't divulge anything admitted to that night or re-tell tales told, but what I can say is that it was totally worth it.  

Friends drift apart and bump into one another years later and our adventure at Wedowee still makes headlines in hellos. 

When we spend time in the great outdoors, the walls of life expand.  In flickers from a fire, bonds are made stronger and laughs last forever.  We put a check mark next to it and say "I was there."


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