I find myself going on adventures for all sorts of reasons. There are a couple constants in all my adventures; I finish the adventure feeling better, and I always have pre-adventure anxiety. This particular adventure I had more anxiety than usual. Enough so that I had put off planning or packing...I almost didn't want to go. I had a couple days off from NASCAR and Ty, Moose, Billy, and myself put together a harebrained plan to kayak to a island we had never been to, and camp for the night.
I had an upcoming trip to southern California which meant more to me than the adventure, and the ‘what-ifs’ kept running through my mind. My friend Ty always seems to know what my soul needs more than I do, and kept on me. Just before bed the night before the adventure I had gotten enough heckling from Ty that I went upstairs and grabbed my backpacking pack (which stays ¾ stocked for any adventure). A quick restock of toilet paper, and some heavier items that I normally wouldn’t hike with, and my pack was in the back of the car ready for tomorrow.
I worked a full day at the racecar shop, then set off to Tys where the all the kayaks were. I stopped at the grocery store on the way for some brats and beer (essentials of camping), and before I knew it I was standing in Ty’s garage trying to figure out how we were going to fit 100 lbs of crap in 10 lbs of kayaks.
Billy had something come up last minute and another friend, Jeremy, became a last minute fill in. Moose, Ty, and I packed the kayaks as we heckled Jeremy through text to hurry up so we could leave. Jeremy finally arrived and we were off. We launched the kayaks and headed west one paddle stroke at a time.
Immediately I knew it was going to be a tiring paddle. My kayaks are 9 ft Old Town Otters. Perfect in size for the creeks and rivers I paddle in, not so perfect for crossing open water lakes. With my heavy pack jammed in the nose of the kayak I plowed water. My kayak wouldn't track straight, and I paddled twice for everyone else's one stroke. The paddle wasn’t much more than a mile or two, and no longer than an hour, but it was hell on my shoulders. The last couple hundred yards had large chop and a stiff cross wind making it all that much worse as I stared at the island we were headed to.
Finally arriving, we beached the kayaks and stretched our legs. There wasn’t much daylight left so we started scouting at higher elevation for a campsite. Finding a good cluster of trees for our hammocks, we trekked back to the kayaks to grab our gear. Once back at the campsite we immediately started setting up our hammocks. Half way through set up Jeremy let out a pronounced, “SHIT! I forgot my hammock.” He had been in such a rush to leave he had remembered his tree straps and bug net, but forgotten the hammock itself. The laughter began there.
He attempted to string up his bug net as a makeshift hammock. Crawling in to test it resounded in a THUD as the net ripped, and he hit the ground. More laughter. On the verge of packing his gear and aborting the trip Ty offered a final solution, his bed sheet. Never thinking this plan would working, but appreciating Ty’s good nature to salvage Jeremys trip, I stood back as the boys folded the sheet once and tied the ends to the trees. The bed sheet was so short the trees had to be close together. To avoid his butt rubbing the ground at night, the sheet had to be tied so high Jeremy used the cooler to hop up and into the hammock. To my amazement the test run was a success and he decided not to push his luck any longer until bed.
The rest of the night I would find myself in debilitating laughter as I would scan our campsite admiring the hundreds of dollars of camping gear, then Jeremy’s borrowed pin striped bed sheet tied haphazardly between the trees.
We all grabbed a beer and went down to the water for a sunset swim to wash off the sweat and dirt that had accumulated on our bodies. We terrified some boaters as we came piling out of the trees from seemingly nowhere. They couldn’t believe we were going to sleep on the island, if people only knew how relaxing it truely was.
A makeshift stone fire ring and dinner fit for a king was cooking over the coals. Brats, corn on the cob, chicken and beef shishka-bobs, and beers were passed around as the light faded. We discussed everything under the sun; work, women, Montana, high school, past and future loves. The fired died down, the cooler was empty, so we crawled into our hammocks. In Jeremys case hopped into his hammock. I’m not sure how his back wasn't’ on fire in the morning as he slept so bent in a ‘U’ he kissed his knees all night.
It’s a fact that I sleep better in the woods than in my house. I didn’t even blink awake until 9:00 am as the Carolina humidity started to set in. We all woke up, peed behind trees, and packed our gear. As silently as we came we were gone leaving no trace. We paddled back, still just as tough of a paddle. I loaded my car back at Ty’s smiling from ear to ear. Every time I go into the woods I get different fulfillment. This particular trip it was as simple as joy and relaxation. Smiles are more important at this point in my life than ever, and for the 18 hours we were out there I had a constant smile.