Two hours north of New York City, there are mountains. I’ll meet you there.
Last week the voices in my head were louder than usual, desperately seeking my attention. They were saying the same things they usually did, like “Run Joe, run for your life! Its a trap! Get the hell outta here!” Hmmm, get outta here you say? What’s that… go camping? Brilliant idea! I should listen to the voices more often!
I packed up my camping gear on Thursday night and as soon as I finished work on Friday evening I was off to the Catskills!
I pulled up to Kennedy L. Wilson Campground in Mount Tremper, NY at 8:45pm, just in time to get a site as the check-in station closes at 9:00pm. Hell yeah brother! From there I parked the truck at my site, threw on my headlamp, set up camp, made a fire and cooked up some food as I sipped a bit of Casamigos Tequila and took a few hits of “the pot.”
With clear skies in the forecast all weekend, I left the rain guard off my tent so I could sleep butt-naked underneath the stars… the way we were meant to.
After breakfast I set out to tackle the hiking trail to Overlook Mountain, the old hotel ruins and Fire Tower. This trail, which I hiked three years prior, was three miles uphill and three miles back down with potential to run into rattlesnakes. Hell yes, sign me up!
At the summit, I sat with about a dozen other hikers as we watched the sun and the morning mist battle it out for the rights to the mountain. The mist eventually won though the sun put up a good fight.
My final ascent up the old fire tower provided a much better vantage point to behold this small portion of the Catskills in all their glory.
The way down was much quicker for obvious gravitational reasons. Before getting back in my truck to drive back to my campsite, I overheard part of a conversation between a man and his daughter. This is what I heard:
Daughter: Yeah Dad, you love hiking!
Father: I had no choice, it was either that or stay where I was forever.
My Internal Thoughts: Hell yeah brother!
Once I got back to the campground I was exhausted so I decided to lay down for a little bit. A “little bit” turned out to be two hours and when I woke, the sun was beginning to set and my stomach demanded food so I made a fire and broke out the tequila for an encore of yesterday’s performance.
Other than the obvious reasons for my solo getaway to the mountains, like mental health preservation, clean air and the excitement that came along with the potential for a slow and painful death by a rattlesnake bite or a bear-mauling, I also wanted to finish the manuscript of a book that my good friend Luke trusted me with reading. I was one of his few hand-selected beta readers and he entrusted me with providing him with valuable feedback on this book he’s been working on for years. It is called “The Release of Jerry the Hamster” and it is a story with much deeper message than the title lets on.
I could have finished it a day or two before my camping trip, but I wanted to complete it in the forest, the place where Jerry and his woodland friends in the story had most of their adventures. To say I was impressed by the creativity that Luke poured into the book would be an understatement. This being Luke’s first pass at a to-be-published work of fiction, I can honestly say I am beyond impressed and can not wait until it is shared with the world! All in good time.
Once finished, I sipped some more tequila, hit “the pot” a couple more times and listened to the music of Nahko and Medicine for the People, Xavier Rudd, Trevor Hall and of course Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack to “Into the Wild” while I sat singing along, sipping my tequila and staring into the flames of the fire.
It was in this very moment I remember a smile creeping across my face. The voices did me good and my weekend getaway “into the wild” was a complete success. I could not have asked for anything more. As my phone used the final bit of its battery to power my Bluetooth speakers it could not have died after a more perfect song. It was “I Mua” by Nahko, whose final lyrics are “What a beautiful life.” Indeed it is. Not too long after that I crawled into my tent to go to sleep underneath the stars for the last time that weekend, a bittersweet feeling.
I woke again to the sun on my skin the following morning. “What a beautiful life” I said to myself as I stared at the sky before I climbed out of my tent. As I broke down my camping gear and cleaned up my site I felt inspired to leave a little note for whoever may be the next person to stay there; an old Native American adage that I’ve held close to my heart ever since I first read it years ago.
Before I head back home to Long Island, I had to make a quick detour at exit 18 on the NY Thruway, just a half hour drive southeast of my campsite. There I would meet two hooligans that I used to get into trouble with back when we were crazy college kids a decade and a half ago.
In the town of my Alma Mater, SUNY New Paltz, I met Jake aka ‘Boner’ and Dan aka ‘Toilet’ at the new German spot Shatzi’s on Main Street for some food and grapefruit-infused beer before going canoeing in the Roundout Reservoir. Even our old friend, co-worker and famously foul-mouthed ex-P&G’s bartender Jenna met us there for a drink.
Tossing the canoe on top of Dan’s Subaru gave birth to the best Dad joke I’ve heard in months… and thus the word ‘Scanoebaru’ was born!
Paddling a canoe at sunset with good friends and a twelve pack of Miller High Life is, in my honest opinion, the best way that this weekend could have ended.
I’m still not too sure who the girl is, but she came canoeing with us as well. Her, Jake and Dan all got Guatemalan friendship bracelets that day. It was a glorious day for canoes, Subarus and friends.
I’m blessed to be able to heed the calling of my internal voices. Some may call it insanity, others intuition and some even say they’re spirit guides keeping us on course to live the experiences that we’re meant to fulfill in this lifetime. If they keep leading me to weekends in nature and spontaneous meet-ups like this one, you bet I’ll be looking to them for guidance more often than not!