This weekend was the most unplugged I've been for a long time. Andrew and I went dancing (lindy!) in Pensacola on Friday night - I drove on the way back since 4am is further past his bedtime than it is mine - crashed a bit, then went off camping at St. Joseph Peninsula. I must say I rather liked it.
First came the 2.5 mile hike (in the blazing Florida sun, through sand) to the campsite. We were the only ones there, and it was a primitive site, meaning the only thing there was a firepit (and two benches and a picnic table, which... we weren't sure why they were there, but okay). The beach had fiddler crabs. A lot of them. And birds I didn't recognize. And water - lots of water. And white sand. And was extremely shallow for a long, long ways - I was pretty hot after that hike so I took off my sneakers, rolled up the cuffs of my jeans, and sloshed out maybe 50, 60 feet before the water came more than a few inches above my ankles. Waded back and forth enjoying the water part of the beach while Andrew poked around in the sand (discovering yet more fiddler crabs). Went back, learned how to pitch a tent (easier than expected) and start a fire. (Harder, but fun. THE BURNINATING!)
Andrew found a large log, attempted to burn it in half, then gave up using it for fuel when that didn't work. I sized up the piece of wood, gave it a tap, decided it was a prime candidate for brittle fracture. "Swing it against the tree like a baseball bat," I said. He was skeptical, but did that, and it broke into lovely fuel-sized pieces. "You... you proved me wrong!" moaned Andrew in mock distress. He found another large log later and did the same thing, smashing it to pieces against the tree and occasionally bellowing things like "I AM ALL THAT IS MAN!" when performing various fire-related actions. I'm used to this by now - I mean, I studied engineering, my best friends for years have generally been guys, and I'm a tomboy myself - but it is still tremendously amusing.
Next was cooking. We did a couple kinds of cooking. There was a bag of freeze-dried "just add boiling water!" beef stew that we tried just for amusement purposes (it was okay). He also showed me how to put chopped food (beef, potatoes, carrots, etc) in foil packs, then put the foil packs into the fire - those turned out glorious. Eggs, sausage, and cheese scrambled into a casserole for breakfast, biscuit dough wrapped around sticks and toasted over the fire into doughboys. (Also, firestarting is fun. Also, a lot of random things are flammable!)
And s'mores, of course - the chocolate bars melted in the Florida heat, so we were squeezing them like toothpaste onto the graham crackers and getting marshmallow and chocolate everywhere. Andrew gave up due to Too Much Messiness after his first round of s'mores and just toasted marshmallows thereafter; I originally intended to soldier on with more s'mores but eventually decided to do the same. "Oh, did civilization get the better of you?" asked Andrew when he returned and saw me toasting marshmallows, the chocolate and graham crackers set off to the side - then looked at me and quickly added "...of course, I say this to the girl with wild hair who's covered in ash and has chocolate all over her face and a mouth full of marshmallow." I waved my sticky ash-covered-chocolate hands around into a thumbs-up and happily mumbled an affirmative. <lolcat>Civilization does not want!</lolcat>
Andrew and I talked until mosquitoes drove us inside his tent, then talked until he fell asleep, at which point I took the flashlight and wandered around a little longer (yay for stars!) until mosquitoes drove me inside my tent. I slept eventually, sometime around 3:30am. Partially because it was a good night for thinking, mostly because it's hard to fall asleep when bugs keep biting you (I think 3:30am was around the time I finally killed them all). Next time we are bringing better insect repellent. Oy. But I like talking with Andrew - or I should say I appreciate talking with Andrew, because he knows me well (too well sometimes, despite being my polar opposite in many ways), and pushes me to think about things that are hard, but that's what friends do. (And I hope I occasionally return the favor.) Yay for friends! Sometimes you have to punch them or throw sticks at them, and sometimes you threaten to stab them with their titanium camping sporks (okay, that one was more me being twitchy than Andrew being annoying), but they are good to have.
Beach sunset: awesome. Beach sunrise: super-awesome. Night sky in place with much less light pollution than I'm used to: HOLY COW. Mosquitoes: I understand you are a valuable part of our food chain, ecosystem, whatever - but if you bite me YOU WILL DIE. That having been said, that sunrise alone was worth it. I woke up early - way before Andrew did - and walked out to the end of the peninsula and watched the sun come up over the beach as the sky shifted from pink and orange to a pale blue, then a deeper one. I usually don't see these things; I'm usually in front of my computer for the sunset and either working or sleeping through sunrises, and there tend to be buildings and whatnot in the way. So when I do get to see them, I appreciate them.
I then cooked my birthday noodles on the campstove. It's a Chinese tradition - long noodles for long life. You also wear red, so I had my Red Hat t-shirt on, since I do not own any other red t-shirts. The noodles were pretty boring - normal wheat noodles boiled in broth made from chicken bouillon cubes - but reasonably tasty. There were supposed to be dumplings in them, but we think a raccoon ran off with the dumplings because we could not find them in the morning. Still tasty.
Oh yeah. I'm old now - not yet old enough to get rental cars for cheap, but... but... I'm 4! Got back to Panama City from the campingness to find a bunch of text messages that completely made my day. My friends are awesome. (And my brother, who apparently went camping this weekend too - it seems we both decided this was a skillset missing from our childhoods and decided independently to learn it, though he took some fancy campin' class at Stanford as an elective once, thus prompting our father to complain that he wasn't paying tuition so that his son "could learn how to poop in the woods" - ah well.)
Got back to Andrew's place, unpacked, unwound, and now... I am totally crashing. Mattresses. Indoors. With no mosquitoes, and with running water. Nice in an entirely different way.
Working from Andrew's apartment tomorrow while recovering from camping trip. Flying to Raleigh on Tuesday, and then... it is transition time. I am excited. Perhaps I will even find a place to live (starting in August) while I'm there. Woo!