We want to be the kind of people who go camping, but we don't actually want to go camping. That's the only way I can describe this cognitive dissonance that recently caused Skylar to spend all of the money we were saving for you guys to go to college on camping gear I had never heard of before.
I think he pitched the avalanche of purchases at me one night when I was halfway through a bottle of wine and screaming obscenities at the season of Survivor currently on my screen. He saw his opportunity to catch me distracted, tipsy, and caught in the dream of being on the show and he went for it. I call this the Manipulation Trifecta. If you ever want anything from me, you should approach me in the state just described. I'll give you whatever you want. Well, except for money, since Skylar just spent all of that.
Suddenly over the next two months, multiple boxes started showing up on our porch on a daily basis. I'd open them to find some tarp large enough to cover our house, or a hatchet sharp enough to cut glass and I'd scream, "what the hell is this!?"
"Remember? You told me to buy all of this stuff." Skylar would respond.
Then this weekend he finally declared we had sufficient supplies to make a go at it, and the next thing I knew we were jamming enough gear into two backpacks to support a full Apollo mission.
I was anxious to spend time with this husband of mine whom I have not seen in basically two months since he's been doing his hospital rotations or affairs or something at all hours of the day and night. I had to admit that 24 hours deep in the woods and far away from any cell service might do us some good.
An hour or so later we arrived in the Uintas, elevation 10,149 feet.
I'm sure this is somehow nonsensical but it makes sense in my mind: I hate camping for all of the obvious reasons a good person should and could hate camping. But if I'm going to go and do it, I might as well really do it. I don't understand the appeal of car camping at designated camp sites. If you're going to have your car right there, you might as well just drive home and sleep in a bed. If you're going to sleep in the wilderness and be miserable, at least trek off to some untouched place where you can't see any semblance of civilization.
That's what we did, hiking several miles around some mountains and lakes and into a very secluded and remote spot.
I admit it was lovely. We cleared an area just next to a lake. We could see a couple of small tents across the lake from us, but otherwise the place was totally quiet.
Sky and I spent the afternoon and evening chopping wood, building a fire pit, gathering and purifying water from a small stream, hiking up to neighboring cliffs, and doing anything and everything besides talk about work.
By nightfall we had gathered around the fire, having a lovely time, when suddenly a man camping 100 or so yards away from us suddenly decided it was a great time to start using what must have been one of those location spotlights they use to show where a new car dealership has opened on State Street.
We had picked a spot a little closer to someone than we otherwise would have preferred, but it still seemed far away enough to us.
I don't know what this guy was doing. It was like he was searching for bodies. He just kept swinging this light around in every direction, periodically shining it directly into our eyes, holding it steady there for 10 or so seconds at a time. We'd block our eyes until he turned it away to shine onto something else. Then he'd turn it back to us. Over and over and over.
It was about 10:30 at this point and we were just trying to star gaze and otherwise get ready for bed. Eventually this man moved in very close to us and again shined the spotlight directly into our eyes and just held it there.
I'm not kidding you about this light. You are still thinking it was just a bright flashlight. I honestly think it must have been created in a top-secret government mission. You could probably see it from the moon. It was painfully bright.
After another ten seconds of just pointing this thing directly at us, Skylar finally snapped and yelled, "dude! Can you please turn that thing away from us?!"
It was the most angry I've ever seen him. His brow was practically furrowed.
FURROWED, you guys!
The man turned the light off and walked back to his tent. It was odd, but the issue seemed to be resolved.
I can only imagine he sat at his site, stewing and wondering how to respond. He finally came up with a plan and marched back over to where we were. "I'm sorry about the flashlight," he said.
We went into auto-mode, almost subconsciously and very politely calling back "no problem! It was just blinding us a bit! You're special just the way you are!"
But then he finished: "it's just that, I guess it's really hard to avoid something like that . . . WHEN PEOPLE DECIDE TO CAMP SO CLOSELY TO YOU."
There was a split second where we both opened our mouths to respond to what was possibly the most passive aggressive thing I've witnessed from a middle-aged grownup this year. But then he turned and started marching triumphantly back to his camp and it just seemed like maybe we should let him have this win.
We got in our tent where we lay all night, staring wide-eyed and remembering why camping is terrible. Skylar rolled over repeatedly on his blow-up mattress that I'm positive must be made from firecrackers.
The moment the light pierced the sky in the morning, we bundled all of our gear up and departed. The angry man from the night before stood off in the distance, watching us, his hands on his hips, still looking angry, but surely convinced he had successfully pushed us out.
I think the thing we'll remember the most was all the friends we made along the way.
And now, please enjoy my favorite ever Meg story:
This time in Strangerville, we’re stressed out by social media attention, Eli has no patience for fad jokes, and Meg takes us on a truly wild journey of a time an internet troll threatened to murder her.
Meghart, by Meg Walter (music by Jason Shaw)
Production by Eli McCann & Meg Walter
~It Just Gets Stranger