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After Marilyn and I came home from visiting with her family in Des Moines, Michael called me up and suggested that, since the weather was warm and clear through the weekend and his vacation time was running out, we should go camping and hiking.
I realized that, under most circumstances, I've developed a tendency to turn down spur-of-the-moment invitations to do social things. I get pretty sedentary, doing artwork, writing, reading, and so on, and when I get on a roll, I usually don't want to interrupt it. Obviously, it's not all quiet, solitary productivity - there's more than a fair share of laziness behind my motives. And sometimes I just prefer to spend time inside my own head rather than trying to have conversations with others.
This time, though, I decided to go. I had awakened that morning, looking out the window at the blue skies over the green forests of Crestline, and said to myself, "You know, I should go for a walk or something." I think being in Des Moines for ten days - most of it in a series of arctic-fueled snowstorms - encouraged me to better appreciate the weather we've been having here. Not that I didn't appreciate it before.
So Michael quickly gathered information and put together plans, and within two hours, we were driving down to Lake Silverwood with a Jeep full of camping equipment. Dan joined us as soon as we arrived, and the three of us set up camp in what the ranger we spoke to considered one of the best sites. After getting our camp in order, we went for a hike along a segment of the Pacific Crest Trail over the lake. By this time it was getting dark; the sun had set and the stars slowly emerged in the deepening indigo sky. As we walked along through the darkness, my imagination filled with images of Strider and the hobbits traversing the countryside east of Bree. We finally reached a promontory where we could see the orange sodium lights of the water treatment plant on the lake, and behind us the desert hills and constellations that we tried to identify. It struck me that this was precisely the sort of thing I'd been wanting to do for quite some time, and with precisely the people I wanted to do them.
We returned to camp and Michael set to cooking up a ton of the dehydrated camp food he'd bought on sale from REI. They weren't bad, overall. We discussed the fact that if you were to eat them at home, you'd think they were terrible; but if you ate them after a long hike, at a rather cold campsite, they were pretty good. And it was much warmer than you might expect for the middle of winter, but of course it was still cold. We huddled over our campfire as soon as we finished eating and talked about hiking and camping trips we'd done in the past, roleplaying games and ideas we had for our campaigns, the activities of our friends, and other subjects.
Finally, Dan drove home and Michael and I went to sleep. Note to self: find a decent pillow for camping. A wadded-up jacket in a stuff bag isn't a satisfying substitute.
The next morning, Michael and I went hiking in the opposite direction on the Trail. We made it as far as the summit between the Lake Silverwood area and the High Desert before my legs decided they could take no more; we could see the road to I-15 and Hesperia from our vantage point. We took a break, had some tangerines and energy bars, and then headed back. After that was a trip to a surprisingly busy McDonald's for lunch (people coming back from wherever they spent New Years', we figured) and back home for a shower and a nap (the latter of which, let it be a matter of record, my wife refused to allow me).
The muscles in my legs have finally stopped aching, and I can walk without looking like an old man. I'm ready to do it again. I'm looking forward to March and warming weather so that Michael, Dan and I can make another, similar outing. Aside from wanting the exercise, I really enjoy unplugging myself from the computer, getting out of the house, and spending time in the wilderness (or as close as we can get to it) with my friends and brothers in Christ.
Hey, I'm posting!