When I lived in California (maaaany years ago), I got to attend Cowboy Camp. We learned how to herd horses, care for horses, rope cattle, and barrel race. The pinnacle of the week at Cowboy Camp was “horse packing.” We took bedrolls and strapped them to our saddles. Then we headed up, up, up into the Sierras for a night of sleeping under the stars.
On my ride home today, I was listening to a magnificent book (Vagabonding by Rolf Potts). He described how there are two kinds of travelers: those who travel expensively, with lots of fanfair and stuff and those who travel simply and sleep under the stars.
It took me right back to Cowboy Camp and sleeping on the ground in the forest.
Then I realized I didn’t actually sleep outside, under the stars, without a tent, until my 2013 rafting trip on the Colorado River! We slept outside, under the stars ever single night.
Don’t misunderstand: I camp a lot. I’ve backpacked a number of times. And I’m not afraid of “primitive conditions” (think no electricity, plumbing, or easy water source).
But sleeping outside, unprotected from the creepy-crawly bugs or inclement weather? Not so much.
And yet, in the Canyon, I would wake up in the middle of the night, slip my glasses on, and gaze at the Milky Way above my head. Towards dawn, I would watch the bats whirl and twirl above our heads, eager for one last meal before light drove them back to their caves.
For the last two or three years, we’ve camped less, mostly because we were caretaker’s for a friend’s hunting cabins in near Wilkesboro, NC. They were primitive – no electricity or running water – but they had an outhouse with the greatest view of the valley. There was also the two-mile 4×4 “road” you had to climb to get up to the cabins. Remote it certainly was!
We got used to sleeping with the door open. Practically outside, but not quite.
And now, we live in a 5th wheel camper. And we own a Sprinter Van. And every weekend we can, we go up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to watch the sunset. Then we drive over to our special spot where we like to park so we can hear the owls and coyotes, watch fireflies in the summer, and see the sun rise in all her glory each morning.