Monday, October 1, 2007

Into the Wild

Went camping last weekend--sort of. While I am always up for a bit of adventure, I am considerably less excited about having to rough it. Usually I point to Paul, who is a major princess, as my reason for avoiding such activities, but since he was away on a business trip this week, I was out of excuses.

after work on Friday, I dusted off my sleeping bag, lugged my bike into the car, and drove up to the campgrounds in Rosendale, N.Y., with Kenneth. We were driving up together because neither of us was staying the whole weekend. (I was watching the So You Think You Can Dance cast on tour at the Meadowlands on Saturday night. By the way, SYTYCD is an awesome show and not to be confused with Dancing with the Stars, which is drivel.)

I was determined to do camping lite, so I preemptively accounted for all the uncomfortable things I could think of. Take a shower at home so I wouldn’t have to at the campsite: check. Dress in layers so I could avoid changing: check. Invite Kenneth to ride with me so I wouldn’t have to drive: check. (You were also good company, Kenneth!) Moreover, I’d planned on sleeping in the car to avoid having to lie on the cold, hard ground. With a bit of planning, I figured I could elude all the negative aspects of camping and just focus on my favorite part: toasting marshmallows.

We arrived at the campsite, which was basically a creepy man’s backyard, at 10:30 p.m. Nora, Doug, and Doug’s brother Greg were already there, grilling hot dogs in the dark. In my next life, I want Nora and Doug to be my parents. They’d made all the arrangements, purchased all the food, and basically set the whole thing up for all of us. We just showed up and started eating.

For a couple of kids from Queens, it was really weird how great Doug and Greg were with the campfire. Paul and I still haven’t gotten the hang of using the fireplace in our home, despite having gone through a whole winter with it--building and tending a fire is really not as easy as it looks. But Doug and Greg were working the campfire like they were the sons of Prometheus. I was very impressed.

We waited around for Weijian and Kenny to arrive. They were supposed to get there at the same time as Kenneth and me, but ended up coming in two hours later. In the meantime, we traded stories about Weijian’s infamous tardiness.

Upon his arrival, Weijian declared that there was no way he was going to let me sleep in my car, grabbed my sleeping bag, and threw it into the largest tent. I was too tired to fight him, so I crawled into the tent and soon passed out wearing all my layers. With all that padding, sleeping on the ground isn’t too bad, actually.

I awoke sometime in the middle of the night with a message from my bladder: Get thee to a bathroom! What it didn’t know was that the bathroom was yards away and I wasn’t sure where the flashlights were. I decided to go back to sleep. A little while later, I awoke to the same dilemma. Nothing is worse than choosing between the discomfort of having to pee and the discomfort of poking blindly through a dew-drenched greensward. It was like playing a real-life game of “Would You Rather…?” I finally gave in to my bladder’s demands and headed outside.

Under normal circumstances, I would have been feeling scared about wandering around in a dark field, but since my bladder was issuing a red-alert warning, I couldn’t care less about all the ominous shadows and things going bump in the night. I stumbled into the bathroom, took care of business, stumbled back into my tent, and crawled into my sleeping bag. Heaven.

The next morning, a few more campers arrived: Brian, Sophia, and Patricia. All of us, minus Nora and Patricia, drove over to the Lake Minnewaska State Park Preserve to go mountain biking. The weather was perfect for this activity: mid-70s, sunny, clear. Things started off OK, with a fun little hill to coast down and a scenic overlook to pause at. The view was awesome.

Then it got tougher. We took the green trail, which largely consisted of riding uphill over long stretches of pebbles and rocks. My legs began to protest and my butt quickly joined in. We paused at various points meant to show off the view, but I appreciated them more as rest stops. We eventually reached the Lake Minnewaska.
Then it came time for Kenneth and me to head home. He and Weijian decided that the blue trail was the best and quickest way back, and so Kenneth and I set out on it. The blue trail is not the best way back. It was, quite possibly, the worst. It consisted of traveling farther up the mountain for at least 20 minutes (during which time I seriously thought about just laying down my bike and crying) then winding downhill for another 20 minutes. You’d think that going downhill would be easy, but there’s nothing easy about flying over various-sized rocks at full speed. I was doing tricks on my bike without meaning to--leaping over boulders and careening around cliff corners. My life flashed before my eyes at every bump--that is to say, at least a couple hundred times. Finally, finally we arrived at the parking lot. I was a sweaty, twitchy mess.

And I was happy that I had done it. Thanks, Nora, for planning; Weij, for inviting me (and strong-arming me into coming); Kenneth, for driving; and Kenny, for supplying the photos and making me my first ever peanut butter, honey, and Honey Bunches of Oats sandwich. It was odd but delicious.