Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Camp Vol. 4

We all know an adventurer, the person whose life seems exciting at every turn. She’s always traveling, always making the mundane seem anything but, and seems entirely unfettered by discomfort or money or time constraints. Okay, maybe this person doesn’t actually exist? Appearances can be deceiving. But if she does, I am decidedly not this person. It might look like I am, however, at least according to Instagram, and if I’m not careful, I might even begin to think that I’m that person, too.

Those people are great, don’t get me wrong, but you do not have to be that type in order to embrace adventure. I am setting the record straight and coming out as the dyed-in-the-wool reluctant adventurer that I am. As such, there are a few things that I’ve learned about adventures and why they’re important to me.

All my life I’ve been risk-averse. I’ve lived by the philosophy that if you don’t rock the boat, and amass a certain level of comforts around you as a hedge of protection, things will be more or less alright. The problem is, I’ve also lived most of my life feeling suffocated. Not by people, or my parents, or my childhood, or my hometown or my marriage, but by myself. I’ve literally been suffocating myself slowly. It wasn’t and isn’t entirely intentional. Like many, I tend to have a pretty low opinion of myself. I worked for a couple hours this afternoon on a new blog design and had to combat words and thoughts springing up like weeds that told me I wasn’t even worth the time. My new blog was going to look like sh** and isn’t that peachy, because my words were going to be sh**, too. And don’t even get me started on my photography. I don’t typically cuss out loud, but there are no rules with self-hate, are there?  I’m realizing that my risk-aversion plays out in a lot of other areas of life, like launching yet another blog.  It’s funny how things connect when you put a magnifying glass to them.

Our camping adventures have not been without really ugly moments. After our Savannah trip, I was so hangry. It was noon, and I hadn’t had any coffee yet. Additionally, sleep the night before had been illusive, and the kids really struggled that morning as we packed up camp. And then as Cody and I are driving out of Savannah having a passive aggressive fight, he tells me, “This is why I didn’t want to go camping again. You make it so difficult!” I share this not to show you what a jerk Cody is (because he’s not, and he didn’t even mean what he said), but I share this to show you that I’m not great at adventures.  I make things difficult sometimes. I told Cody how much I hated that he said that to me, and pointed out that even the most perfect adventurer has bad moments and bad moods, but also that I was and am really desperately trying to be a patient adventurer. And I’ve improved leaps and bounds. I used to be deeply bothered by humidity, but was okay and didn’t complain about it in Savannah where it was 91 degrees and 91% sticky. I took a shower after a trail run and our towels didn’t absorb any water. So I dressed wet, and sticky, in a public state park shower. I was okay with that, too.  

The difference for me has been recognizing what I need and keeping it separate from ideas of what I think I can handle.

Camping has been a really aggressive form of self-care.

It has been really painful learning to camp, but also completely addictive, because I feel so alive when I do it. There’s a span of time during each camping trip when I say, “Can we just live here?” I love the way our kids are when we’re camping. They spend 30 minutes picking up twigs and building little twig teepees in the fire ring before it’s lit. They actually had a quiet time in our tent in the Smokies. coloring and drawing pictures of our campsite and bugs they’d seen. When it starts to get dark, they tell us they’re tired and ready to sleep. They wake with the sun shining on their cherubic faces. Their feet are covered in dirt, their fingernails too long, and they have marshmallow smeared on their cheeks. They learn about plants, and wrestle with discomfort when one of them turns out to be a stinging nettle. A foot slips into the water; fingers press plush moss.  Sebastian says “Bye, Daddy!” with a giggle as he leaves the bathroom and the resident Daddy Long Legs up in the corner.

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Our children’s brains seem to be bursting with creativity and imagination. And mine feels that way, too. I feel rest when there’s a canopy of trees above me. I was thirsty for this kind of nature-shower, and it fills my cup in a way that I desperately needed. We’re learning to set up some boundaries for ourselves to make camping more streamlined and eliminate the unnecessary difficulties. Packing up camp is the most challenging for us, so in the Smokies we decided that we we’ll have granola bars for breakfast on the mornings we pack up. It’s a simple, and maybe obvious change, but very helpful for us to recognize.  The Smoky Mountains are bear country, and we found it really energizing having to clean our site thoroughly and be careful about food storage each night.  Every night we were nearly packed up and ready for the road, even if we weren’t headed out the next morning.

We stayed two nights at Cosby Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When we arrived, Cody said, “I know I’m really going to like this.” For the rest of our stay in the Smokies we playfully bantered about which type of moss is superior. I loved Savannah and her Spanish Moss, while Cody prefers the plush carpet of green found in the mountains. To each his own! After a rough drive from Savannah to the Smokies, I was relieved that Cody was feeling at home in these woods. The temperature was 20 to 30 degrees cooler in the Smokies, and although it was a bit of shock, we embraced it quickly and enjoyed getting out the last of our clean clothes. Thankfully we hadn’t had any use for long sleeves and pants in South Carolina or Georgia, so they were fresh and ready to keep us comfortable.

A funny realization hit me as we watched another young family camping in a spot near us. I was looking at them thinking, “That looks so boring! And uncomfortable!” But of course, they were only doing the exact things I was doing. And that was the moment I realized that it was this very reason that most of my life I’ve never had a desire to camp.  But as it turns out, doing nothing very slowly with very few comforts is one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done.  It even still looks boring when I watch other people do it, and yet doing it myself is magical.

Appearances can be deceiving.

The Smoky Mountains were good to us. They filled our nature tank, helped Cody and I heal from our cranky-camper fight, and refreshed our family in a very deep way. On the morning of our departure, Cody and I awoke, alternately watching Cosmas, getting ready, and packing up. Bruno eventually joined our ranks, but Seb kept on sleeping like a hibernating bear in our empty tent—the last thing left to pack! There are few things as sweet as children worn out by nature.

Fellow Anti-Adventurers, Unite! Go forth, and camp.

Sincerely, your fearful leader,

Mary

Baby bear is up!

Baby bear is up!

Mary StreckerComment