CALL OF THE WILD: It was Katie's idea. One day while we were out riding the horses, she said she'd always wanted to do an all-women camping trip. Our brimming confidence tempered by a prudent sense of moderation, we settled on an overnight trip to Lemmon Creek in the nearby Santa Catalinas.
By some strange coincidence, my boyfriend also decided to head out of town that same weekend, with a group of buddies who proudly identify themselves as "the quasi-men." Their destination: a seaside hotel in Puerto Peñasco, where the extent of exertion is crossing the shallow end to the swim-up bar.
I say to you magnanimously, "Who am I to judge?" But I don't really mean it. I feel my weekend plans are far superior, far more inventive, a courageous challenge of spirit and stamina. And so on.
I love preparing for these backpacking trips. I feel so self-sufficient as I expertly pack sleeping bag, .38 revolver, cooking gear, dried foods, headlamp, 36-hour bug repelling citronella candle, Swiss army knife, filtered water bottle and iodine tablets, tarp and absolute bare essential clothing into 5,700 cubic inches of serious outdoor camping gear.
"Nice pack," Katie says when she comes to pick me up. It's a real bonding moment for me.
That evening, we enjoy a feast of fresh vegetables, garlic and basil wrapped in foil and roasted in our well-planned fire. We cook angel hair pasta on the butane burner and pass around a bottle of red wine. The dogs curl up nearby. It just doesn't get any better than this.
But as we call it a night, none of us can sleep. For my own part, I'm sleeping with a revolver in the shoe next to my head, and that's of some concern. Having taken the self-appointed responsibility of shooting intruders should the need arise, I lay awake reviewing the exact distance and circumstance that would justifiably warrant an armed response.
It's not that I relish the idea. Far from it. But the only thing potentially more dangerous than carrying a gun is carrying a gun you are not willing to use. Stranger still is the realization that I'm safer by law in fatally shooting someone in self-defense than, say, letting my dog bite him. Go figure.
There is a tension I have not yet worked out in my mind. We must simultaneously be aware--all of us--of our surroundings, without being so self-aware that we distort those surroundings entirely. Point of fact: There was no ambush. And on the final, exhausting push back to the trailhead, if anyone harbored criminal thoughts it was I, guiltily fantasizing about holding the next passing hiker at gunpoint and making him carry my pack. So much for self-improvement.
As our dear Hannah might say, "Sleep with one eye open, warriors."
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