66. Last Outing

66. Last Outing

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Happily Ever After

Last Outing

We love because it’s the only true adventure.

~Nikki Giovanni

I looked out of my tent, and the snow was coming down so hard that I couldn’t see a thing. It was blowing sideways and had already drifted up one side of my tent. It was cold, very cold. It must have been twenty or thirty degrees below zero. Why was I out there?

Snow in Michigan by the first of November is not unheard of, but this was a downright blizzard. I was sure this would be an all-time record. Thirty-two degrees and a foot of snow can be a beautiful, pleasant experience. This was not!

What is it about me that makes me do these things? Why do I take these chances? I love the outdoors, the sounds of the wild, the sunrises and sunsets, everything that you can only experience by getting outdoors and camping. I have all of the equipment to stay warm and dry in any weather, but this was ridiculous.

I was wishing that I had not ventured out that weekend, but there I was, and I was going to have to survive! The wind was making my tent snap and flap so hard and so loud that sleep was totally out of the question. My goosedown sleeping bag was supposed to be good to minus ten degrees, but I was already shivering quite a bit.

My last meal had been the night before, and it was going on 11 A.M. I hadn’t eaten any breakfast, and I didn’t have anything with me in the tent. My energy wouldn’t last much longer.

My wife, Amy, was probably worried about me, too. She had warned me last night that it was going to be cold and windy. She is so loving that I know she would have joined me if I had asked her to. But I told her not to bother, that I just wanted to get this one last outing out of my system. She was probably snuggled up in front of the fireplace with a good book. I wished I were with her. I had carried a couple of my magazines along thinking I would read by flashlight, but I was too cold to enjoy reading about bass fishing.

With that thought, I knew I had to get out of there. My original plan was to try to wait out the blizzard, but I realized that wouldn’t work. I was cold, and I was hungry. I would freeze or starve to death before this one was over. But how should I do it?

Should I try to take everything with me? I hated to abandon my equipment, but it would have taken too long to break down the tent, and the sleeping bag is too bulky if it isn’t rolled up tight and stuffed in its bag. My hands were too cold to do that, and it’s almost impossible to do with gloves on. I was sure my things would be all right here for a while. I would carry what I could and leave the rest behind.

I took another peek out the flap, and a blast of wind with tiny ice darts smacked me in the face. This wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. At thirty below your skin can freeze in a matter of minutes. Once that happens, well, I wasn’t going to think about that. I was ready to make a run for it. I wasn’t in great shape, and I couldn’t run far, but I was afraid that if I walked I would freeze before I got there. I looked around inside the tent one last time to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything critical. It took a couple of seconds to get my glove around the tent zipper, but when I did, it jerked straight up to the ceiling, and I bolted out into the frozen landscape.

The snow was deep, but light. I kicked my way through the snow. How far would I have to run? Could I make it all the way? I was almost out of breath when I hit the back door of the house and burst through.

“Hi, honey, how did you sleep?” asked Amy. “I thought that bit of snow and wind we had last night might have woken you up sooner. Are you going to bring the tent in from the backyard, or will you want to sleep out again?”

 

~James Hert
Chicken Soup for the Nature Lover’s Soul

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