Night Swims, Hammocking in a Lightning Storm, and Sleeping in a Construction Zone

I have been quite restless lately. It is odd that I should feel this way since I have had the opportunity to travel to New York City twice and Washington D.C. once this summer. But even with these excursions, I have still felt trapped and antsy. So what can I do to relieve this feeling of entrapment? If this were a New York Times bestselling memoir, I would buy a one way plane ticket to Finland and backpack through the country with nothing but a journal and a sleeping bag. In case you did not know, this is not a bestselling memoir, so I have to do more realistic things to make my summer more interesting.

Alright, I know that at this point you are probably dying to know what it is that I did. Well, prepare yourself for something epic and unbelievable: I went to Ohio. Yes, Ohio, the state where I live for nine months out of each year for college. As I wrote where my trip took me, I could feel the readers dropping from the page, unable to comprehend what could be interesting about a trip to Ohio. For those closing out of the article, I recommend checking out the book Eat Pray Love since it has a story of reckless abandon and travel. For those who are still with me, let me give you a little back story as to how I ended up taking a spur of the moment trip to Ohio.

The idea to go to Ohio came to being when I was preparing to say goodbye to my sister Abby and her husband Josh. They had been staying with us for the past week and were getting ready to drive back to Ohio (where they live full-time). I had just talked to my friend Olivia (who was driving to New York from Ohio) and suddenly had the idea to ride with Abby and Josh and then switch to Olivia’s car when we crossed paths. I am not sure why the idea of riding in a car, on the road that I traverse many times each year, excited me, but I just felt like doing something other than sitting around the house watching Youtube videos. I did not have much time, so I began to set the plan in motion.

I called Olivia to see if it would be ok with her if I joined her on her drive to NY. She was thrilled by the idea (driving alone can be boring), but said that she would be stopping at a summer camp in NY to visit her sister Claire. I said that I was completely fine with that and hurriedly got off the phone to explain to Abby and Josh what was going on (I didn’t as much ask them if it was ok as I just said that I was going to do it). They were fine with the idea (the joy of having chill siblings/sibling-in-laws), and I grabbed a few things that I might need: my camera bag, computer, hammock, and a change of shorts.

I will gloss over the road trip portion of this journey by summing it up shortly: I listened to a Tina Fey audiobook, I talked with Abby and Josh, I ate a Chipotle burrito, I listened to a Tina Fey audiobook, I felt sick from the aforementioned burrito, I caught up with Olivia, we both listened to a Tina Fey audiobook, and then we arrived at the summer camp at around 11:00 PM.

Upon arrival to the camp, I immediately realized how old I feel. We were greeted by Claire and a small gang of high school age camp staff. The high schoolers were vibrating from the mass amounts of sugar that they had been consuming (as they spoke to us they were eating ice cream), and they excitedly said that we were going to have a dance party. I walked with them into a darkly lit gym building and tensed up as I saw the colorful strobe lights strobing (is that a verb?) on the other side of the room. Loud music was blaring and the kids were growing more and more animated as we grew closer to the music. I thought to myself, “This is how people are ritualistically killed” as we drew nearer to the music and lights. Because of this unfounded fear, following introductions I excused myself to call my Mom and tell her that we had made it safely back to NY. After talking with her for a few minutes about how old I felt from being around the high schoolers, I said goodnight to her and decided to explore the campgrounds for a little bit.

Exploring a camp with minimal outdoor lighting, late at night, when you have no idea where anything is, can be quite a challenge. However, after roughly eight hours in the car, I was up for whatever the darkness could throw at me. After some exploring, I found that the camp overlooks Lake Ontario, and I had the idea to go swimming at night. I had been in a car all day, so I was not in the most presentable condition. I thought that a night swim would be just the refreshment that I needed. The only problem is that I did not know how to get down to the lake (other than flinging myself down the pitch black embankment that I saw overlooking the water), so I knew that I would have to go back into “the rave” and get a little more information about the camp layout.

When I walked into the gym, I was immediately approached by two of the vibrating kids who asked me to dance with them. I politely declined and waited for Olivia and Claire to finish their dance party. Before long they were ready to call it quits and headed over to me. We walked out of the gym and prepared to say goodnight. They had offered for me to share a cabin with some of the camp staff, but I decided to take my chances with my hammock (I prefer not to sleep in small areas with strangers whenever I can avoid it). I figured that swimming at night was not allowed, so I casually asked for a towel (“Just in case I get wet from the rain”) from Claire and nonchalantly inquired where a path down to the water was (“Since I might want to go walking in the morning”). She brought me a towel and pointed to the area that has a path to the water. After saying goodnight, we all headed our separate ways.

I made a beeline for the path to the water and began my frightening descent down the dark, rocky path. I had switched to my shorts and flip-flops and was beginning to feel chilly from the cold night air. I questioned my sanity as I continued to make my way towards the freezing cold water, but I forced myself to continue since I did not want to back out on my plan for a random adventure.

Once I reached the water’s edge I kicked off my flip-flops and cumbersome clothing and waded into the water. To say that it was an incredible experience would be a vast understatement. After the initial shock of cold water on my skin, I started to notice just how amazing the little inlet that I had waded into was. There was no artificial light along the water’s edge, so once my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see the shoreline illuminated by the moon and canopy of stars. I swam around for a little while and then sat on the shoreline in stunned silence. It made me feel so small to sit under the expansive night sky next to a huge lake. Even though it was quite cold, it is one of my most memorable experiences.

After I dried off and made my way up to the top of the embankment, I began searching for a place to hang my hammock. To give you a little context, I have rarely used my hammock, so I am by no means a pro at finding unique places to hang it. Because of my hammock-hanging unoriginality, I ended up tying it between a metal jungle jim and a tree that stood near the guy’s cabins. I nestled into the hammock and prepared for a night of uninterrupted sleep. But, as I have now learned, uninterrupted sleep does not always happen when you are hammocking on a cold, stormy night.

The canopy of stars that I had gazed in wonder at just a little while ago was now obscured by storm clouds, and I lay in the hammock watching lightning flash in the distance. Even with my exhausted brain, I was able to deduce that being attached to a metal playground might not be the best thing in the event of a lightning strike. However, I was too cold and tired to find a new place to hang my hammock, so I lied back down and imagined what I would look like as a human who has been struck by lightning (the image that came to mind was a piece of fried chicken).

Somehow, after much time had gone by, I drifted off to sleep; however, that sleep did not last for long. I was jolted out of my stressful fried chicken dream by a feeling of intense coldness. I came to the conclusion that using one thin blanket was not the best idea for a hammocking adventure on a cold night. I tried to settle back into the hammock to fall back asleep, but sleep evaded me. After some time I realized that I needed to find a warm place to sleep, but I had not made any arrangements to sleep in a cabin because of my aversion to sharing quarters with strangers. Nevertheless, I would not be deterred. I grabbed all of my gear (which consisted of a hammock, a can of bug spray, and a thin blanket) and made my way towards the guy’s cabins.

I did not want to burst in on a cabin full of people at 2:30 AM, so I searched for cabins that showed no signs of life. The first one that I entered was not exactly livable. I stumbled inside (it is hard to see the step in the dark) and hoped that there was no one inside. After listening for signs of life and feeling my way around the dark building, I deduced that no one was in there, so I switched on my phone’s flashlight. The harsh light illuminated what looked like a construction zone. There were sawhorses in one part of the room and industrial lights resting on a few paint-splattered tarps. Even in my sleep deprived state, I realized that this would not be the best place to sleep for the night.

I carefully made my way out of what I have affectionately dubbed “the work zone” and tried the next cabin in the row. I watched out for the step and made my way into the cabin without tripping (score!). Once I had done my seeing-impaired habit of feeling around the room, I turned on my flashlight and saw that the room was completely empty except for a few bunk beds and a single bed.

I felt like an explorer who has just discovered a huge treasure as I made my way towards the bed and set up for the night. By set up I meant that I wadded up a hoodie for a pillow and set my blanket on the bed. It was definitely not a five-star hotel, but after freezing outside in my hammock, it sure felt like one. I fell asleep with ease and slept until my alarm awoke me at 7:00 AM. I continued to lie in bed for close to an hour, drifting between sleep and consciousness, before getting up and finding Claire and Olivia.

It may not sound like an adventure when one hears that I drove to Ohio and then back to NY in one day, but to me it was an awesome experience. I was able to catch up with my friend, see the stunning night landscape from the water, and learn some things about hammocking (bringing a sleeping bag). This little trip was just what I needed to fulfill my burning wanderlust, and I think that I will be able to survive to rest of the summer without needing another adventure.

Until next time,

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