Sixty-one days after we drove away from the Sunderlin Hall dorms and the campus of our youngest child’s college home, the child returned home and she and I were sitting in camp chairs beside a fire that took far too long to build and stoke. We roasted hotdogs and talked about all that has transpired in the sixty-one days since we last sat down to eat dinner together. There was no wait staff, no noise from the kitchen, I wasn’t busy running back and forth between the stove and the table. Serenaded by the crackle and pop of the fire, we marveled at the sizzle of the grease droplets as the hot dogs oozed down to the burning wood and anticipated the much looked forward to ceremony of The Blowing Out of the Fiery Marshmallows. We needed this because sometimes in our hustle and bustle world it’s necessary to stop and listen to nothing more than the crackle of the fire and to each other. We were hoping to find a piece of peace in our busy lives. What better place to find it than under the stars?
We were only an hour from home, surrounded by the rich Ouachita National Forest and the Flatside Wilderness Area. Being the first weekend of muzzleloader season we were concerned enough to find a place to camp that is far off the Ouachita Trail, hoping to avoid most of the hunters.
The other girl of the house, our dog Hobo, was with us too. Luckily Hobo is not much of a barker. Most of her intrusions on the peace were due to us calling her back when she wandered a bit too far for comfort. We talked about school, studying, bonfires, creek swimming, classes, fear, roommates, jealousy, rats, bus schedules, the future, and cafeteria food. Just the normal conversations one has with a new college student.
Hammocks were hung, dog beds were made, fire was roaring, and it was just us girls with a few bugs, crawly critters, probably a few hunters not far away, and one scary something that half barked half screamed in the wee hours of the morning resulting in a barking dog with her fur up. She tried to crawl into the hammock with each of us in turn, but eventually the scaredy-dog went back to sleep in between her protectors.
We woke to a crisp fall morning. I made hot cocoa in no time with our trusty Jet-Boil. Then I got the bright idea to heat up our now stale donut holes in it. It worked. Hot stale donut holes were much better than cold stale donut holes.
We took our time packing up, planning to attempt a hike on the OT with an orange vest at the ready for the dog and orange flags for our backpacks. Alas, as we traveled down closer to the trailheads near Lake Sylvia we could tell by the number of vehicles and full campsites that the woods were full. We chose instead to follow the Flatside Wilderness Scenic Drive, much of which is familiar to me from the Full Moon 25/50K Trail Run and from our mountain bike forays in the area. The roads are rough, the hills are steep, and driving can be a challenge. I let the small one take the driver’s seat and we drove on, stopping at the overlooks to check out the views. We talked about “going off the grid” and living a less hectic lifestyle. I doubt that will ever be in the cards for me, but for my kids, I hope they find a way to escape if not as a full-time lifestyle, at least on occasion. How else will they find peace?