Camping on the fly

Life is all about the way you see it. Experience is subjective; it is personal and thus it may be shaped. You can shape your experiences and thus your life.

This has been the theme of this past week.

Although it’s been challenging, somehow it’s led me to be sitting on an unbelievably comfortable chair outside the EverBean Cafe in Evergreen, Colorado with Lacey sprawled across her dog pad by my feet and David across from me, coding. I’ll try to describe the events which led to this:

Our lease ended last Sunday and since then David and I have been temporarily homeless; we stayed at Brittany’s house for a few days then ended up leaving with a vague idea that we would camp for our remaining time in Colorado. We last-minute drove to Colorado Springs to drop most of our stuff off with Ryan, who graciously agreed to store it in his basement until we head back to Florida. This was after a work day so by the time we had moved everything into Ryan’s it was almost 10 pm. We drove back to Boulder (now nearly midnight) and, too exhausted to find somewhere to camp, parked and hit the sack (aka the back seat of the car). That was a new experience for me ~ I’d never had to car camp in a city before ~ and it put into perspective how hard it is to be homeless in a city. There was nowhere to go to the bathroom ~ no public restrooms are open after sunset. I slept like a baby, though, and woke up as the sun sent its gold-pink rays through the windshield. David and I then brought Lacey to a park so she could do her business and found the public restroom open to our great relief, then headed toward Cafe Sole for some much-needed caffeine. A few minutes later, we dropped Lacey off with someone we’d found via the DogVacay app and headed to work.

Notes: The above took trust. I’ve found that this summer has stretched my ability to trust already, but the last few days have truly challenged me. I had to trust that we would be safe in our car in the city, and trust the woman I’d met through DogVacay to treat Lacey well… and it worked out. It truly worked out.

After work (this was yesterday ~ Friday) David and I picked a very happy Lacey up then headed toward Brittany’s house to pick up the rest of our stuff. Once we’d piled it into the car we drove toward the mountains ~ we didn’t really know where we wanted to go, but the last few days left us desperate for a new place for a while. More than that, I yearned for the mountains to swallow me and drown my problems in the smell of pine and birdsong.

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After hours of driving, we pulled off the highway toward signs reading “Idaho Springs.” We were looking for somewhere to camp and didn’t have a clue where to go except for something my friend Kate told me: “just head toward a road that leads deep into the mountains.” David manned the GPS, looking for such a road, as I drove onward. We found ourselves winding higher and higher, darkness quickly descending. The temperature dropped to 65 degrees then below 50. After a long time debating over potential camping spots but not being able to see enough in the darkness to set up there, we rose high enough that the road was suddenly covered in a dense fog ~ we had driven into a cloud. We crawled at below 15 mph and I leaned over the steering wheel, trying to see in front of us. I stopped often to check out potential camping spots but none of them felt safe enough.

Finally we wound around a bend to see a few cars, some with RV trailers, parked along a fence line. When I saw a tent pitched just beyond the fence I immediately turned around. We parked. It was around 10:30~ we’d been driving for a long time, seeking somewhere to sleep, and at this point we couldn’t see 10 feet in front of us. When we stepped out it was as if the world had altered completely, a dome of fog spread above me and seemed to descend ever so slowly into my chilly skin. We quickly set up camp inside the fence like the other tent, dragging our foam mattress into the tent and our pillows and blankets. We let Lacey sniff around for a minute or two, then burrowed into the warmth as the fog turned to rain, and steadily increased to a downpour. We slept, happy to be safe in the cocoon of our tent.

In the morning, I woke up as the sun barely lit the sky. I tramped outside and looked around; we had camped in an old ranger campground turned picnic area. I walked Lacey to the left of our tent, exploring ~ as soon as we passed the line of bushes and small trees I stopped. The wide expanse of a lake spread in front of me. Lacey was overjoyed, jumping and chasing small animals as I slowly followed her.

I let David sleep as Lacey and I wandered around the lake and grounds. After a while the other campers awoke and began packing. I woke David up and we began to pack up the tent, then set the stove up on a nearby picnic table. We quickly realized we hadn’t packed a lighter, so I walked around searching for someone who looked both like they’d have a lighter, and like they’d be willing to share it.

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I found Syd sitting in a camping chair reading a book about economics while nursing a mostly-empty cup of coffee. I immediately liked him, and asked him if he had a lighter. He nodded and handed it to me ~ I offered him a cup of coffee in exchange. “Naw, but thanks,” he said. I asked about his book and we chatted a bit, then I left to light the stove. As I walked away he called, “Do you have creamer?”

5 minutes later Syd, David and I stood around the stove, waiting for the water to boil and chatting amiably. Syd’s a high school history teacher, so we discussed working with kids for a while. After the coffee was ready we talked a bit more as the steam from our drinks rose.

Syd left a few minutes later and David and I finished making oatmeal, ate it, then packed up and prepared to walk into the woods. I’d met a few climbers as David slept, who’d given me general directions toward bouldering sites. We set off, David carrying the crash pad and me toting a backpack filled with our water, food, sunscreen, bugspray, and other random items.

We walked for hours, through the pines and across a winding creek. We reached Echo Lake and sat there, eating part of our lunches. There was a house a few hundred feet up the trail, and as we made our way toward it we found a sign near a twisting formation of small stones and blocks of wood. “Labyrinth,” it said, and underneath the title were directions on how to walk forward mindfully. First David then I walked, taking our time among the stones. Lacey meanwhile hopped about, chasing chipmunks and barging through the path ~ somehow that made it all the more beautiful.

We found a boulder to attempt after a while and stayed there, Lacey curling up in the grass. We followed the climbers’ directions, taking a smaller leftward path in a meadow on the trail and found a veritable oasis of boulders with chalk marks where climbers’ hands had been. We looked for a route easy enough for us but didn’t find one before the sky began to drip, slowly then more quickly, the air like mist. In a break David, Lacey and I sat in a high meadow, looking out over the mountains and the path before and behind.

We turned around then, making our way back home. We hadn’t packed enough food, not expecting to be out for so long ~ somehow our journey had taken over 5 hours. But we slowly descended and found ourselves back at the picnic area before too long, quickly pulling the stove and food out of the car and making the weirdest dish ever with the food that needed to be refrigerated (and thus would quickly go bad with our new lifestyle). Lacey loved it though, gobbling up the leftovers happily.

Then we drove onward, finding ourselves in Evergreen and then here at the coffee shop. We don’t know where we will sleep tonight; we’ve called a few campsites but they’re all full. But I know we will find somewhere. Somehow, it always works out.

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