Woman on a Misadventure in Joshua Tree
I love WoA. Anybody who is Facebook friends with me knows it’s almost the only thing I ever post about. I joined about a year ago because I’ve worked at the same job for 20 years and my kids are grown and out of the house. How does a middle-aged single woman make new friends or figure out what she wants to do with all of her free time? I’ve never been an outdoorsy-type. I am definitely a city girl, but, when invited by WoA, I joined a hike, then another and another. I was often asked if I liked it and always replied, “I don’t know,” but I showed up for the next one. After a year, I can answer a resounding, YES!
When the opportunity to try new things pops up, I quickly check my calendar and, if available, say YES. My knee-jerk reaction to anything new is “no.” I am definitely a creature of habit and routine. When the WoA trips posted this year, I was so excited. I haven’t camped since I was a teenager and I love taking pictures. Joshua Tree? YES. I haven’t soaked in hot springs and haven’t been on a horse since 3rd grade. Colorado? YES. I’ve never been in a kayak or repelled. Utah? YES. I had one 10-mile hike under my belt, but walk 65 miles in 5 days in Europe? YES. Yes, I am definitely all-in when it comes to new things.
As the date of the camping trip got closer, I got a little nervous. I camped when I was a kid (we’re a middle-class family of 7—not affordable to fly and stay in hotels) and HATED it. I swore I was never ever going to do it if someone didn’t make me, but I was 13, 14, 15. And there were no showers. Or curling irons. Or make-up. Or boys. 40 years later, those were all in the plus column for camping!
I was supposed to drive to someone’s house and carpool. The night before, I was up for most of the night with gastrointestinal distress. I texted my carpool to let her know if I was going to make it, it would be alone. I laid down again and easily fell asleep. I awakened a couple of hours later feeling pretty good and like a weight had been lifted. Aha! I was afraid of carpooling. I was afraid I wouldn’t like camping and I’d be stuck there for the entire weekend. With control firmly in my grasp again (my own car), I was good to go. Fortunately, the lovely ladies of WoA offered to lend me everything. I did not want to spend a fortune unless I knew I liked camping. Turns out the sleeping bag and air mattress I thought I had did not exist and/or required an electric pump to inflate. Off to REI I went to buy a sleeping bag and air mattress. $325 later, I was ready to rock this camping thing.
The drive to JT was uneventful. I was a few hours behind my carpool mates and anxious to get there and pull my weight setting up camp. I arrived and there were plastic bins and boxes marked “tents,” etc., but that was it. I had no idea what to do with anything in the boxes, so I waited, without cell service. I got out of my car to walk around and it was chilly. I needed a jacket at 3:00 p.m. Even I knew this did not bode well for overnight temperatures. Did I want to spend the night in the cold, laying on the ground? After waiting for a couple of hours, I decided this was not the adventure for me and left. Except as I almost always do, I turned the wrong way and got lost. I had to drive past the campsite for a second time and saw that everyone had arrived. I couldn’t just leave, so I stopped and proceeded to voice my apprehension. I was met with acceptance, warmth and encouragement. The ladies helped me set up a tent and unload my car. The whole time I was crying. I was so far out of my comfort zone, I had no idea who I was or what I was doing, but I was determined to try and really thought I’d enjoy it. I love hiking and that’s outside.
Friday night was cold, windy and noisy. Nobody got much sleep. It took me forever to get into the tent and my sleeping bag. My body just isn’t that agile any more, especially when bundled up and fumbling for zippers. A 6:00 a.m. photography session was scheduled to capture the majestic dawn’s light. I awakened at 5:45, but could not wrestle my way out of that sleeping bag. I was flummoxed by the zipper again. I was then overwhelmed with trying to get on all fours when I can’t kneel. If I could accomplish all of that, I then had to crawl out of the little hole called a tent door. So, I waited until I heard “them” pull off. It wasn’t pretty, but I flopped myself out of the tent only to find out that one stayed behind to wait for me. I felt terrible. I was ruining the trip. Not only was I fairly miserable, but now somebody else was missing dawn pictures because of me. I stunk like campfire (in fact, I think I still do—the stench is burned into my nostrils); I was cold; there were no sinks and soap and I am a bit of a germaphobe; I was in one of the most beautiful places and I couldn’t see it. I was consumed by the need to get out. This adventure was not for me.
I left Saturday morning and beat myself up the whole way home. I failed. I couldn’t do it. I was a loser. After moping around for a day or so, I realized (1) I know camping is not my thing because I actually tried it and found out firsthand; (2) I replaced the old childhood memories of kids and parents fighting (part of the reason I hated camping) with good memories of women who were warm, caring, compassionate, smart, funny and enthusiastic; and (3) REI has an awesome return policy, so I got my money back for the sleeping bag and air mattress I’ll never use again!
Seriously, WoA gives us all a chance to do things we love with others who love it too or to try things we never would have dreamed of on our own. I never would have taken an archery class, decorated cookies or hiked but for WoA. Those are not activities my friends do. And isn’t that the point…to get us off the couch and out of our comfort zones? I went to JT. I showed up. I tried it. I didn’t like it and that’s OK. Camping isn’t for everyone; hiking isn’t for everyone; SUP isn’t for everyone, but we get the opportunity to try it and speak from experience, not fear of trying something new. I guess my camping trip was a success after all.
Phoenix Outpost Member