Sunday, October 21, 2018

Like Coming Home

Have you ever arrived in a new place and thought "This is what I've always imagined heaven to be"?

I think I'm blessed to say I have.

It's a calming sensation. It's like the emotion that resolves as "this is where I was meant to be."

As you can probably tell from my last two posts, I was on vacation last week. I took my first vacation (unemployment doesn't count) in close to a decade. And I went to Shawnee National Forest.

The first night, I didn't have any luck. I arrived late in the day, discovered the place I had intended on spending the night didn't actually have a campground or permit dispersed camping. I slept in my car, which is not as uncomfortable as it sounds, but is still fairly uncomfortable. That was Saturday night.

I took the second day to hike the trail, only to find I'd grossly overestimated my fitness level. But I weathered through it, I enjoyed the sights... and then I left, and spent the night in a hotel. That was Sunday night.

Monday, I went online and looked for advice in a camping forum targeting the sort of camping that I do. I found two recommendations, picked the easier of the choices, and headed over to Garden of the Gods (no, not the one in Colorado Springs, the one in Herod).

After the somewhat frightening and somewhat worrying trip up the hills on Rt 34, I got to the top and felt this... peace.


I'd found what I was looking for.

I did not go hiking on Monday, still exhausted from my trials on the day before. Instead, I set up camp, and then pulled out my spare hammock and enjoyed the fresh air and watching the world go by.

I slept well that night, and on the morrow, I went down to see the observation trail.

All I can say is that the views were stunning and the bluffs were beautiful.

I had the joy of waking relatively soon after the rising of the sun, though it did not penetrate into my sleeping quarters. I got down to the trail before it was inundated with children (I wasn't entirely expecting it, being a weekday, forgetting that it was a holiday), and had a soothing hike around the loop.

And then I hiked it backwards, found a semi-secluded place to sit, and watched the day grow.

I spent Tuesday there, sitting, meditating, watching the people who seemed more entertained by the views than the formations they stood upon.

On Wednesday I got rained out.

I didn't actually get rained upon though. My anchor ropes soaked through and drained into my hammock. The storm had started around 0400 and I didn't start getting wet until about 0700.

I packed up in the rain, drove back down out of the hills in the rian, returned to the hotel I'd spent Sunday night in, dried out my gear, and then packed it up Thursday morning before checking out, and heading back home via St Louis.

But I will return. Come spring and a three or four day weekend, I will return the place that looks so much like the pictures in my head of heaven. I will sit in peace, meditate, and let the world flow by.

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