Spiders, snakes, mosquitoes, and bats will be your neighbors. There is a possibility coyotes and bears might visit. Poisonous trees, shrubs with thorns, and brain-eating amoeba seem to be everywhere. I certainly understand why some people prefer to stay home or in a hotel rather than spend a weekend camping in the middle of nowhere.
However, April and I enjoyed the outdoors and decided to go camping. We checked the weather, picked a place to pitch tent, loaded our backpacks, and stopped to pick up food and water. It was a little later than we planned to leave, but we were still on the road before sunset.
By the time we pulled off the main road and parked at the sign that read “trespassers will be shot until dead,” it was unusually dark and we were very tired. We turned on our headlamps, shouldered our packs, and walked past the sign. After walking uphill for roughly 15 minutes, April suggested we stop and pitch tent before we too tired to carry our packs. I didn’t like the idea of pitching tent on a dirt road so we continued walking for a few more minutes until we saw a reasonably flat patch of land.
We pitched tent and fell asleep quickly.
Many hours later, I awoke to the distant sound of a bell. I quietly unzipped the tent because I did not want to wake April. When I popped my head out of the tent to see if I imagined the sound or actually heard it, I was greeted by a blanket of fog so thick I could not see anything further than a few inches from the tent. Knowing the fog would burn off in a few hours, I quietly crawled back into my bag and fell asleep again.
Sometime later, I awoke to the sight of April crawling back into her sleeping bag. She turned to me and said she thought she heard a “moo” in the distance, but the fog was so thick she couldn’t see a thing. We ignored the distant sounds and talked about making breakfast, visiting the property owners, and exploring the cave on the property we heard about but had never seen.
Suddenly, we heard the unmistakable sound of curious cattle. At that moment, we knew the most important plan was to escape without getting trampled or gored by a bull that was not thrilled by our invasion of his pasture. In only a few seconds we shed our sleeping bags, unzipped the tent, and ran barefooted through the fog to the fence we knew was only a few feet away – if we ran the right direction.
The good news about hearing an angry bull charge toward you from somewhere in the distance, is you know, or at least think you know,
- You are running away from the bull rather than toward it,
- The bull is not blocking your hasty retreat to the fence, and
- There is a possibility you will survive
When most of the fog dissipated, I felt confident (a.k.a. foolish) enough to quickly retrieve the tent and packs we left in the pasture during our retreat. I didn’t bother to disassemble the tent while in the pasture, I just threw the tent and our belonging over the fence, then left the pasture as quickly as possible.
The experience taught me three valuable lessons:
- Preparing for known and unknown problems is always beneficial.
- Eye contact and body language can be more effective than words.
- April will never talk to me again.
The events I shared in this post took place many years prior to my cancer, brain injury, strokes, ataxia, visual challenge, and auditory impairment were diagnosed, but the first two lessons are more important now than they were then.