We just returned from our annual Thanksgiving camping trip.The car is unpacked, the boots are off, and the washing machine is steadily rinsing away any traces of campfire smoke. The trip may be over, but there are lessons and memories still to savor.
I was booking the reservations this year just as we faced our first real cold snap, thus I chose to find a campground near the Georgia-Alabama border not too far from Florida instead of our usual Smokey Mountain haunts. This was the first time I’ve ever been camping where the signs cautioned us to be aware of alligators rather than bears!
We stayed at Florence Marina State Park but our primary destination was Providence Canyon, a state park that is affectionately know as “The Little Grand Canyon.”
I had an interview with Sean Moffett on Wednesday afternoon, so we didn’t get into the campground until right before dusk.We had about 30 minutes to set up camp and get a fire going for dinner, all while my stomach was making it very clear that I missed lunch. Luckily, we’ve been camping together several times before so we pretty much have camp set-up down to a science.
Lesson 1: The more you do something, the easier it becomes.
After dinner, we spent some time sitting in front of the fire. I could tell I was wound up. I was impatient and kind of snappy. I wrote recently about being overwhelmed, and I was letting that get to me again. It’s been a busy fall with trips and events (for example, we just flew back in from Baltimore late Monday night and I had to be ready for camping by Wednesday morning). On top of those logistical challenges, I’m also having to adjust to some of the (very cool and completely surreal) opportunities that have been coming my way since I published the book. As a result of all of this, I’ve had a more difficult time than usual managing anxiety the last couple months.
Lesson 2: Just removing yourself from the situation does not remove yourself from the mindset.
So, there I was, fed and warm sitting next to a campfire with my boys and I was still stressed and irritable. Brock and I talked through things and he came up with three action points to help going forward when I am in similar situations: 1) Learn to say “no,” 2) Learn to delegate, and 3) use a key word to let him know when I’m close to meltdown. I thought this last idea was genius as I’ve tried to communicate to him when I’m feeling close to the breaking point, but he often doesn’t comprehend the magnitude at the time.
Eventually, we made our way to the tent and promptly fell asleep. At some point during the night, I awoke to the sound of footsteps on the fallen leaves just outside the tent. As I woke Brock, I recognized a familiar snuffling sound right by my head. I looked down to Tiger’s bed in the corner of the tent and realized it was empty. Our dog had pushed open the zippered door with his nose, exited the tent, and could not figure out how to return.
Lesson 3: You can prepare but you cannot control.
Brock and I have worked with Tiger extensively to the point where he is frequently off leash. This training meant that when he did get out, he stayed close and came right back.
After breakfast the following morning, we headed just a few miles down the road to Providence Canyon. The canyon is not a natural formation, rather it was formed due to poor farming practices in the early to mid 19th century.
Lesson 4: Big things can have small beginnings.
The land originally consisted of gently rolling wooded hills. The early cotton farmers cleared the land of all existing vegetation and dug shallow furrows into the soil every planting season. Erosion took care of the rest. Now, almost 200 years later, the canyons are 150 feet deep and and growing wider by 3-5 feet each year.
It’s wild to realize that the road leading to the park as well as the park buildings will be swallowed up by the canyon within my lifetime.
Lesson 5: Always be ready to adjust.
We made our way down into the canyon floor. Up close, it was apparent that the canyon walls are more sand dune than stone.
Lesson 6: Impressive exteriors can conceal weak interiors.
There are signs everywhere warning hikers not to climb the canyon walls. I only slightly broke the rules:)
Once the scale of the erosion became clear, people tried to slow the effects.
Lesson 7: There is a tipping point where momentum becomes inevitability.
Although the walls of the canyons are washing away, the depth remains fairly constant because it consists of a denser and harder stone than the chalk-like walls.
Lesson 8: Sometimes the surface needs to be washed away to reveal what is underneath.
Providence Canyon is in many ways a man-made geological catastrophe. However, rather than simply hide it away, the state has chosen to turn it into a park that celebrates its beauty and also educates the public about its root causes.
Lesson 9: Don’t be afraid to celebrate the beauty that comes from devastation while learning how to avoid it in the future.
We came across an old homestead identified by the following sign.
Lesson 10: We are more adaptable than we realize.
We saw many interesting landmarks along the trail.
Lesson 11: We can grow together yet still be distinct and independent.
Unfortunately, we had to cut our trip short and forgo our planned second day of hiking since Tiger injured his foot.
Lesson 12: It’s okay to play even if you’re hurt.
Providence has its appointed hour for everything. We cannot command results, we can only strive.
I am going to strive for continued peace and serenity through the weekend:)
Tiger is just going to sleep!