For this camping trip, I wanted to try a first-come-first-served campsite. Being without a reservation, I had really no idea where I would end up. I had a general area where I wanted to look and a short list of campgrounds to check. Making these plans led me to think a lot about my comfort zones. I’m comfortable when camping and in the woods. But this was going to be different. I’ve been stuck at home a lot with the pandemic and it’s been easy to use that as an excuse to not venture out. Sure, there’s the safety and medical reasons to stay home, but I’ve also felt the mental excuses. What if something bad happens? Am I experienced enough to do this correctly? In the past, I’ve had the familiarity of someone with me, and the security of a reserved site that I knew would be available when I needed it. Will it be too scary to be out there alone? This adventure would prove to be a HUGE mental switch for me.
Day One: I drove through the sites on my list, but all were full. With the help of Google and Davis, who was working from home, I found a site further inland from the lake and was able to secure the very last spot.
I spent time getting to know my new home for the next few days. The Temperance River was burbling away right behind my tent. I knew this would help me sleep; I tend to hear all the tiniest little sounds and imagine a giant animal is making them. I once read someone say that the largest sounds are made by the smallest animals, so I tried to keep that in mind. Needless to say, that night I barely slept.
Day Two: I made my breakfast right away. I geared myself up to head out of my site for a few hours and do some exploring. I decided I could either go into town, closer to the state parks and people, or I could head the other direction on the road I was on and explore the area I didn’t know. I chose the safer option and went into Tofte. My first stop was Temperance River State Park where I spent some time along the lake. The sun was really hot, so I appreciated the cool lake breezes.
I then tried to go further down the shore to find other beaches or areas I hadn’t been before. Without the convenience of actually camping in the state park (as my sister and I do when we’re in Tettegouche) there were a lot of areas I couldn’t access because they were blocked off for campers with reservations. I had no luck finding places to explore, so I decided to head back to my campsite for lunch.
I spent the rest of the afternoon lazily reading and napping in my hammock. I was glad for the extra rest because my lizard brain still couldn’t relax. Even above the river sounds, every snap of a twig and crunch of gravel kept me up, and I didn’t sleep much better that night.
Day Three: I woke up feeling cranky, but I knew it would take a couple days to really get used to the campsite, and I always have some kind of adjustment period, especially when sleeping in the woods. I decided to push my crankiness aside and use it to drive myself a little further out of my comfort zone. After I got ready for the day, I headed out going the opposite way from town, towards parts unknown. From my campsite, I could hear traffic going this way all day long. Not a lot of cars, but enough to know that there was something out there. I was seeing a lot of boats, canoes, and kayaks so I was excited about finding some tranquil hidden lake. I drove down the dirt road for about 20 minutes until I came to a sign indicating the closest lake to me was 5 miles down the road. I hadn’t passed anyone on my way there, and no one was coming the opposite way, but I decided to try my luck. I think I made it 2 miles down that road before I fell off of Google Maps entirely. I also STILL hadn’t encountered other cars. I was starting to worry. I decided to abandon my pursuit of the hidden lake and head back to where I came from.
I wound up near my campsite (again, never once passing anyone on the road) and found there was another dirt path with a sign indicating a lake a few miles away. This road was hugged by gigantic pine and birch trees and was SO quiet I could have heard a pin drop. I started down in my car, but quickly realized that if I did happen across anyone coming the opposite way, there would have been no way to pull my car over enough to let them pass. I managed to turn around and abandon my pursuit once again.
I felt I had not just put my foot out of my comfort zone that day, but an entire leg. I was able to get a ton of photos (which was the ultimate goal) and I tried new paths I wouldn’t have imagined trying before. I got back to my campsite feeling pretty darn proud of myself. I also slept like a log that night.
I learned a lot of lessons about myself during this trip. I’ve been used to camping with just my sister. I know that I love the secluded and rustic version of camping. But what I didn’t realize before was that our trips were actually quite comfortable. We have the luxury of a cart to help with our supplies, there’s a park office within walking distance of us should we need anything, and we’re not far from the daily outdoor activities that we enjoy. I also really love the safety of knowing that there are people around. At the end of the day I was able to go back to my campsite and enjoy the sounds of a family cooking over an open fire on my left, and the crack of the occasional beer can from the elderly gentleman on my right. The trees around us provided enough of a barrier to feel that I had privacy, but I knew should anything happen in the middle of the night, there were other sites close by that would help. For this first solo trip, that was my comfort zone. I’m looking forward to pushing a little further past it in the future.