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BY Amanda Jolman Journal Short Stories
BY Cameron Avery

I heard the birds light singing as the sun lazily rose at 5 am. I sat on my couch watching and listening as the foothills awoke with their normal celebrations. I live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. I can see the snow resting wearily on Pikes Peak on this late June morning. And It’s still suburbia. And so I was grateful for the beauty around me and yet I was haunted by a recent trip further west….

You never know what is going to await you when you plan a camping trip. Especially when you are trying a new location. Everything is new, unknown, unpredictable…you do a lot of work to prepare and then you just have to trust that everything will be ok or ok enough. But there’s always that hope for something truly beautiful, something deeply restful or magical to happen.

My breath leaped from my chest as we turned the bend. We were driving through Chalk Creek—a creek and valley nestled between two 14ers, Mt. Princeton and Mt. Antero. It was late afternoon and the sun was positioned so that as we turned, It shone directly through newly unfurled leaves.

I had forgotten the brightness, the freshness that came from those fresh spring leaves. They are still soft, still carry a layer of fuzz. They are the newborn children to the deciduous mothers who lie waiting in seeming barrenness through the winter. In reality the trees are gestating and waiting to announce the life that will soon release in vibrant green from her branches. And when the sun backlights them, those Quaking Aspen, shimmer with an other worldly movement. It struck me as a celebration, a dance of gratitude for their life. A gratitude for getting to wave in the sun, to receive it’s warmth and energy. It was as though I caught the Wild, Mama Creation herself—or her offspring—worshipping, celebrating. For a moment, I was given access to the song all of nature sings…something transcendent.

The remainder of the weekend was magical—swimming in the geologically warmed hot springs, feeding chipmunks sunflower seeds at a nearby ghost town, arriving at a new-to-us campground to discover we could see the snow-covered peaks of both 14ers, solid trees housed our hammock with provided endless giggles as my three boys swung and wrestled in it.

Now don’t get me wrong—I’ve had trips where I’ve worn my sick son’s vomit through the night, where I’ve sat on dusty trails while a nap-needing toddler slept on (and cut off circulation to) my legs as I helplessly and, ok, with some fascination, watched all forms of insects crawl on my body, I’ve had fellow hikers look at me with disdain and pity while I negotiated with a tantruming child who was stealing all the peace and serenity of everyone’s nature time.

There are some camping trips that are so tiring, exhausting, so much work, disappointment:

we forgot the vital thing, no one sleeps, everyone is tired, stop using that stick as a weapon, be careful not to push your brother in to the fire, did we forget the toilet paper, if his temperature climbs one more degree we’ll have to go back so just set the alarm for every hour to check on him…

But this trip was not that. At least, not mostly that.

And I find that the more times I surrender to the work of planning (6 months ahead of time for most campground reservations) and packing and buying food…the more times I just do the work and trust that something good, something sacred will meet me. The more I go into the wild, the more I am ambushed by something beautiful.

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