It’s midnight on Friday and I am at “The Hunger Games” at Carmike Cinemas. Watching as Katniss Everdeen “jumps” around in the forests reminds me of tomorrow’s trip.
It’s an assignment for my Online News class. I have to head outdoors, but I am worried about going to the wilderness.
I was raised in the third largest city in China. I had never been to the wilderness before coming to Montana. I am a girl who can be scared by any moving thing, including mosquitos. I am not an outdoor adventurer.
For this trek, though, I need to borrow a friend’s car. The car, a 1995 white Ford, is too old to go further than 30 miles, and my friends are too busy to plan anything out with me.
Trying to find a destination that the wreck would make it to, I found Lolo has a campground and nearby bike trail. I check out camping gear from the Recreation Center at The University of Montana and plan on going to Wal-Mart to buy firewood, fire starter, marshmallows, chocolate, hotdogs, buns and ketchup, chips, coke, ice and cooler, plates and cups. All the preparation is based on the results from Google-searched camping-checklist.
It takes three stores to find some firewood and a giant box of matches. We take apart our bikes, load them in the trunk.
We are ready to go.
We pass Wal-Mart and head south on Highway 93, and then west on Highway 12. On my printed Google map, it says the campground is 10 minutes of driving on Highway 12. After about 20, we are getting nervous. I start to doubt Google Maps and our driver.
We turn around in hopes of that we missed it. Suddenly, I see a person on the side of road.
“Hi, I am wondering where is the Lolo Creek campground,” I ask.
He answers, “It’s about 10 miles from here, and if you see the sign of Lumberjack, it means you just passed it.”
“Do you know if it is open? We want to set up some fireworks.”
I don’t notice that my friend Dong is staring at me. The old gentleman appears taken aback, saying “I am not sure about that.”
Dong said, “We mean barbeque.” OMG, I wanted to say FIREWOOD.
I tell myself that I am just tired after a all the preparation, but it’s still embarrassing. I am lucky that he didn’t report to 911 that I was intent on setting fire to the forest.
We keep driving. The scene is the not the beautiful green hills I imagined it would be. It is April, but the trees, mountains and reflection in the river are all grayish.
The road, which is safeguarded by tall trees, becomes narrower and narrower. Still, I feel safe because we are in a box built of trees and sky.
We overshoot the campground again and end up in Lolo Hot Spring. There a person tells us to drive 10 miles back and it should be on the right hand. Finally, we find it – and a devastating sign: No overnight camping.
We decide to light the campfire and enjoy the lovely weather.
We light our firewood by using newspaper as kindling, and it surprisingly works well.
It is then that I realize that we did not buy sticks, which can help us stick hotdogs on the grill. My friends laugh when I suggest using tree branches, saying it is dirty and unhealthy.
Frustrated by the entire day I tell then, “You guys are still alive after twenty years of eating insecticidal and preserved food in China, why would some dirt bother you?”
Soon we have our fire and are cooking hotdogs.
Maybe our trip seems like a silly group of foreigners who haven’t seen nature, but it was a first for me and my friends and has helped us make plans for the next great adventure.