Camping in the cold is always an adventure. On this night, the temperatures dropped into the low 20’s and the wind rushed through the campground creating swirls of leaves and smoke over each campfire. Extra blankets and our 30-degree rated sleeping bags were not enough for a cozy night’s sleep. Into the night, any exposed skin started to sting within seconds.
I had pushed down into the bottom of my sleeping bag and wrapped a blanket over the top opening. My kids had pushed their sleeping bags against me, and they seemed to be quiet and sleeping. I knew their sleeping bags were newer and better than mine, so I hoped they were warmer than me. I woke up frequently through the night, but my consciousness seemed somewhere between awake and asleep without being either. The morning came with hope of warm sun but hesitation to leave the relative warmth of the sleeping bags. The call of nature eventually overcame the fear of the cold, so we emerged and walked to the restrooms.
It was a quick walk, but in the fifteen minutes getting ready for our day, my daughter’s toe began to hurt. She described the feeling as either a whole in her sock or a tight string wrapped around her toe. I asked her to take off her shoe and sock. When she did, her right pinkie toe was as white as snow, while the rest of her toes were a reddish pink. My instinct was that her multiple pairs of socks were too tight for her feet under her sandals and her circulation was cut off, but I wanted her to be safe. We quickly left the campground and headed for the nearest urgent care center. The doctor confirmed the circulation was reduced on her toe and within about 24 hours she would feel no ill effects, but it was a lesson learned for all of us and a reminder to those fishing in cold waters to make sure your shoes are not too tight to reduce circulation!
So our trip had begun with a cold night and a frozen toe. Quite the adventure already. Heading back to camp, my daughter said she was feeling much better and was looking forward to a hike. We looked at the trail maps the night before and chose a route that paralleled the lake and then traversed up along the ridgeline and back to camp.
Walking along the trail, I pointed out different trees and shrubs. My kids are not appreciative when I quiz them, but my daughter is very good at identifying ferns, and some of the herbaceous plants. Along the way, my son pointed out that without the distractions of technology he was feeling more aware of his surroundings, that made me smile. My daughter followed his statement with a comment about how it is amazing that we can feel so many things simultaneously. I asked her what she meant, and she described how she could feel the force and temperature of the wind, the changing rocks under her feet, the difference in physical exertion with changes in slope, and the thoughts and feelings in her head.
Her statement stopped me in my tracks, I realized that I was carrying around many thoughts, feelings, and ideas with me on our trip and on the hike. I was still concerned about her safety and I was hoping it would be much warmer that night. I was trying to enjoy the hike and pass on knowledge of the outdoors to my kids. I was carrying the stress of work, the stress of preparing for a trip, missing my wife and step kids and just my carrying around my overall state of worry. The combination of my son pointing out his awareness and my daughter talking about the complicated mind processes of people suddenly helped me settle down. I try to process so many things and plan through so many scenarios that my brain is often on overload. I gave myself permission to relax.
One of my attractions to flyfishing is that it settles my mind and helps me concentrate, cleaning out stressful thoughts. All that thinking, planning and worrying can be overwhelming and keep me from enjoying the moments of life. I’ve written about this before, but I need constant reminders. It also struck me that while I am fishing, I often try to process so much information, I can get frustrated. I also could see my past moments of stress when I process lots of information and lose the ability to clearly think through the process or conversation. This happens to me in stressful or emotion conversations.
I also thought of others and how they were processing what was going on for them. I have had conversations where my takeaways are completely different than the other person. Also, this change in mindset helped me to see how easily people can have such different perspectives. With different past experiences, different focuses, and mindsets, it is hard for people to get on the same page. Misunderstandings can be very painful but giving people the benefit of the doubt and patience for explanation and understanding can help work through the differences.
The camping trip was focused on spending time with my kids and not fishing, which is not typical of my recent camping trips. The conversations we had and the ability to connect when they are not staring into a phone was well worth it. Luckily, my daughter did not lose a toe and we have a story about surviving a bitter cold night. Staying aware of my surroundings, appreciating my time with others, and recognizing the diversity of thoughts and feelings people are going through are some lessons learned from this camping trip. I also recognized that to settle myself down, I can likely improve my mindset when fishing or when I am stressed. Thanks to Samiah and Cameron for a cold night and a frozen toe.