A Change of Heart

How one reluctant camper came to appreciate tough trails and the beauty of nature

20 Jan 2020 | 03:41

As I looked up the steep hills I still heard my mom’s voice echoing through the long, rugged trail.

“Don’t worry, it will be very fun!” she would always say.

Right! I was about to stomp the ground, but I remembered that I could not walk straight with my heavy backpack. I was at camp. Our group was doing a thing called an expedition. Hiking, camping, swimming and finding water and food for five days. Camp was a tradition in my family, and just to be clear, I did NOT want to go.

“Every day will be a new adventure,” were my Dad’s final words before he abandoned me.

“Some adventure!” I scoffed.

Our trail was the worst of them all. It was an entire uphill trail, if you could call a rocky, muddy, wet, barely cleared out path a trail. I hated it. I hated hiking, I hated camping, basically everything that this “trip” entailed. My backpack was heavier than me, though I may not be exactly heavy. I couldn’t jump higher than up to my ankles. Time went on, and it was just tree after tree after tree.

“Look at all of this beauty! The trees the fresh ai-”

“Yep!” I sarcastically said, cutting off my hippie counselor.

There were ticks crawling up and down my sweaty socks. I hated it.

“Nice job, guys!” said my counselor, who was barely fazed by the five miles we just trudged through.

I was happy it was over.

“Almost halfway there!”

“WHAAAATTTT!?!?” I exclaimed.

At least I had time to take my bag off and eat a sandwich. Too bad they were rotten, hot and disgusting. As our journey continued, I was getting really tired. Like, REALLY tired. I asked for a water break, and my counselor responded in his obnoxiously jolly voice, and said:

“No rest for the best!”

I whined, but had nothing better to do and kept going. I may not have liked it, but one thing I had going for me was that I was determined. I don’t know what would have happened if I just gave up.

Pretending to Enjoy the Hike

We finally arrived at our campsite. I felt proud of what I had overcome. I was nervous for the day ahead, but I completed the first challenge, and I was proud. We had a fire and packed it in for the night.

“OK,” I thought to myself. “If I try really hard, maybe I can pretend like I will enjoy tomorrow's hike. It will be long, hard, and just all around boring, but I will have to just suck it up.”

If I kept it to myself I wouldn’t harm the rest of the group. I needed to make sure that people thought I enjoyed it. I didn’t, but I was not going to be annoying about it.

The day came and I was as nervous as a pig going to a slaughter house. It was about six in the morning, fifty degrees and buggy. I thought: “Don't do it. You won’t enjoy it, and it will be hard, so do not do it.”

No. I knew that wasn’t an option. I had come this far and I wouldn’t back out now.

“Is everything alright, Matt?” my counselor asked.

A Feeling of Pride

I nodded. We left our campsite and headed to the foggy mountains. I saw an amazing sunrise on the way there. Cool, I thought. I realized that the hike up wasn’t so bad? No! I hated hiking. That was what I repeated all the way up the mountain.

As I neared the top, I felt a feeling of pride so different than anything I felt before. I saw a view that looked like a picture on a computer lockscreen. I was trying to act like it wasn’t much, but wow! It was so cool. The sunlight was sneaking in between the trees trying to find me. I looked around and saw things in nature that I never saw before.

“Wow! That tree looks like an animal.”

I wonder if my dad saw this and thought the same things I was feeling. I kept looking at trees in a different way. The nature-hating side of me died. Was that piece of moss alive before me? Never in a million years would I have thought that I would look at a view off a mountain and think, wow, that looks cool! Hey, maybe hiking isn’t so bad!

I never would have felt this if I quit. If I just didn’t go. Imagine what would have happened if I was grumpy, mad or annoying the entire way up? I wouldn’t have been able to finish the mountain. I wouldn’t have known that I liked hiking, that nature wasn’t so boring after all.

The rest of the summer I tried things that I would never have thought I would have liked. Like fishing or canoeing. Turns out, I did! I liked all of it. Always try new things because you will never know what you like if you don’t.