It got real dark real fast. Up ahead, lightning flashes, lighting up the dark sky.
“Are you tired?” Phillip asks.
“No. I’m too excited to be tired.”
I can feel my heart pumping in my chest. I’m excited, but at the same time, I’m scared. I’ve never done this before. It’s exhilarating!
Raindrops start forming on my windshield and I turn on my wipers. Lightning flashes again, closer this time.
“This is wild.” Phillip says with worried anticipation.
The rain is pouring down now and my windshield wiper works hard to keep up. We exit the interstate, onto a country road. Few miles down, I point the Xterra off the pavement and up a gravel road. This is getting real.
14 hours ago…
I overslept! My mind is racing and I pour over the checklist to make sure we have everything. Months of planning comes down to this. If we forget anything, we can buy it there. James has spring break this week, Phillip and I have the week off from work, and we have a reservation for a campsite in Yosemite Valley for five nights; the ingredients for adventure. We’ll be spending two days on the road, four days in Yosemite, and two days driving back home. This is going to be so much fun!
We scramble to get ready and gather last minute supplies. My mom is nagging us about this and that and my dad is telling her to leave us alone. Resistance only fuels her determination to leave us with enough motherly concerns echoing in our minds to last us the entire trip. We make necessary promises to call frequently and pile in the car. We’re leaving over two hours later than planned, but it should be okay.
The responsibility of finding restaurants on the road was given to Phillip, our resident foodie. First up is Petite Provence in Portland, OR. The food is a little salty, and the roof of my mouth is burnt from tasting Phillip’s baked eggs like a hipster, but it’s a nice spot for brunch. I had the smoked salmon hash.
In Medford, OR, In-N-Out is for dinner, Animal Style of course. Though we’re not in California yet, the combination of the golden evening sun hanging low in the sky and the nostalgic taste of In-N-Out creates an atmosphere that’s close enough to the So-Cal experience. After I finish my cheeseburger and shake, I study the map of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest to figure out where we could camp for the night.
The area I picked is about five miles up the gravel road, but it’s taking longer than I thought. The road is getting rougher and all I can see is what the dim headlights reveal directly ahead of me. On the bright side, it has stopped raining.
We find a short turnout on the side of the road and park the Xterra.
“What’s that sound?” Asks James regarding the continuous rumbling noise coming from the left of us.
Phillip wonders out loud, “Is that water?”
I check the map, “I don’t see any rivers in the map.”
“Is it wind?”
“The trees aren’t moving.”
“Let’s go explore.”
The rumbling grows louder as we walk further up the road. About a hundred feet from where the Xterra is parked, we find the source of all the noise.
It’s a big stream, or a small river, I don’t know which. It’s flowing fast and white water pounds around and over the rocks. The water is so loud that it’s all we can hear around us.
We fumble around in the dark with our flashlights and lantern to set up camp. It takes us an hour, but we get it done. After saying a prayer around the lantern, we go to our respective sleeping areas. James and I are in the tent and Phillip is in the Xterra.
While laying in the tent, my mind races with all the things that could go wrong overnight. A wild animal could attack us in our sleep. A sudden wind storm could knock down a tree and crush us in the tent. The river could flood and wipe us out. A mean man, or woman, could rob us at gunpoint, leaving us stranded with nothing. So many things could go wrong. So many things are outside of my control. I am so scared that I can’t fall asleep. I pray again to God for protection and lay there listening to the roaring water.
I wish morning would just come already.