In a scary movie when something goes wrong, a LOT of things go wrong. Maybe the tent won't stand up, and then there's a forest fire, and then somebody twists an ankle, and then a bear shows up, and then the fire surprise attacks from some new angle, and then maybe there's a scary bad guy, and then, finally, you make it out all sweat stained but with a clear lesson that life is beautiful if only because you have it. Like Jurassic Park. It would actually be pretty shitty to be stuck in a dead Jeep in the middle of a jungle rainstorm with dinosaurs near by--even if none of them actually attacked. It would still be scary. But instead we have a lot of dinosaurs, we have the car hanging off the side of a cliff, we have accidental electrocution, we have dinosaurs with head colds. We have so many many problems.
In the real world you really only need one problem to have a bad time.
And when you have that bad time, you do feel grateful to be alive, but you also feel sort of terrified that you were ever having that bad of a time and you feel very profoundly that you could have never come back.
Our bad time? We got caught in a lightning storm. As a New Mexican, I'm certainly familiar with lightning, but damn, the Midwest seriously knows how to throw some lightning around. We were far in the woods by ourselves, at a gorgeous campsite that hadn't seen any people for months. The grass was overgrown on the path and no people had been through. A giant white pine shaded our spot, a little promontory into the lake. Perfect, until Paul noticed a storm moving in. It looked...unpleasant. It was definitely coming toward us.
I'm a little paranoid when I'm camping; I like to make sure we all know what to do if something goes wrong. I like to be prepared and I'm perfectly happy to follow the advice of the experts. So I called the ranger station. The ranger on duty when we called said that it was best to stay put rather than evacuate in the dark, so we followed his advice. We stayed on our rubber sleeping mats and waited. It was a sweltering July night, the way it gets before a big storm. The storm came with rain but also with lightning so close I honestly can't believe we didn't get hit. For hours it came. For hours we waited, tense and terrified and overheated and scared. The sun started to come up and we were sitting there, thinking it was over when a bolt of lightning hit so close there was no gap for the thunder. Without speaking, we threw our shoes on and ran to the portapotty. It was raining and I was scared and so cold (aka in shock) that my teeth were violently clattering. We huddled together, in the portapotty. Paul held me to warm me up. There was no more lightning or thunder. The rain tapered off.
Then the bugs, my god, the bugs. Never in my life have I experienced anything like this. Not in the Everglades, not in the Boundary Waters. After the storm it was like ALL the mosquito eggs hatched at once and boy, were they hungry. Still shaking, we run back to the tent, mobbed by mosquitos, we throw everything into whatever bag we can get our hands on. We spray ourselves with bug spray and we march our asses the fuck out of there at top speed. Fuck bears, fuck mooses, and fuck bugs. It was time to leave.
Half way through we stopped to RESPRAY OURSELVES because the mosquitos were climbing into our eyes and biting us through our clothes. We ran out of bug spray. We kept marching. We were wet from sweat and rain and we were muddy and manic. We got to the car, our poor sweet red Mazda a truly soothing sight, and we dug the keys out of wherever they ended up and threw the bags in the back. We slammed the doors as soon as we got inside and then proceeded to murder any bugs that got in.
The roads were empty. I drove as fast as possible out of that park until we were back in sight of buildings and towns and streetlights. It was 7 am and we stopped at McDonald's. We pulled over to eat and take a nap because we were still coming down from the adrenaline. Finally we drove home, safe, dirty and bug bitten.
Several hours later the park called, convinced that we were dead because we didn't check out. If I were making a movie out of this, we would definitely have a shot of our tiny red hatchback blowing past the check-out box while a hapless ranger waved at us to stop, but it was not a movie. I never even thought of it because I was basically hell bent on getting away as fast as possible.
And that was how we celebrated the Fourth of July two years ago.