With the freezing air constantly nudging at my skin, I was suddenly faced with no food, half a bottle of water, and was trapped hundreds of feet up on ancient rock. Although this sounds like another rendition of 127 hours, the removal of entire ligaments isn't a part of this story. My first experience was a bit eerie at first, but the feeling soon subsided after remembering all the campers parked just a couple miles away. I was at Enchanted Rock in Texas, known for its sparkling features under the full moon, screeching rock performances every sunset, and easy-to-climb summits. As your typical corporate drone, a vacation was needed. So I stuffed everything useful into a small backpack, and after a few short hours driving, I arrived.
At night-fall, moonlight causes the granite surface of Enchanted Rock to twinkle since most of the dome was covered in bits of quartz and other translucent gems. With each passing moment however, I felt more and more unsure of myself. As a summit which is climbed by hundreds everyday, by night, most if not all the adventurers went back to their campsites where things were a little more down to Earth. None of this mattered since I was determined to spend a night under the stars, contemplating my existence, and feeling the cold mountain beneath me.
By nights end, I would be completely out of food, but I had a big dinner and plenty of snacks on the hike which I cheerfully munched on. The trails lead straight up the dome summit, but gradually raised in elevation for easier climbing. Sure there were some parts where I probably could have hurt myself, but mostly had no problems maintaining my grip. Fifty-some minutes later, I was on the top, tired but energized by the view.
All I carried now was a sleeping bag, basic tools and a flashlight. I had consumed most of my rations by the time I reached the top and didn't bring a tent since stakes are pretty ineffective when solid rock is involved. The wind force was brutal as clouds hovered in the sky, but I was determined to make due. As night set in, the temperatures dropped; what was a 90-degree day would eventually feel forty-five. Thinking I had this weather thing handled, I roll out my sleeping bag and warm my thoughts as I realize that perhaps, this wasn't a good idea. The nylon material which formed most of my sleeping bag provided little or no protection from the blistering cold. Sure if I had a tent, the sleeping bag could work, but the wind probably would've blown me away with it given the chance. Soon however the weather calmed and I was finally able to surface out of my nylon cocoon.
This comfort would be short-lived as a giant porcupine decided to investigate me. Apparently I was of interest to him. I acted as calmly as I could while images of needles piercing my eyes start to take hold. Not wanting to seem aggressive, I slowly back away and wait for the curious creature to leave. It does moments later, but I'm wide-awake, unsure of what other dangers await..
I slowly list in my brain the animals which are known to inhabit the area. As the worry sets in, my fear of snakes and mountain lions start to manifest. I had no weapons other than a small knife, and I definitely wasn't in the mood for any predatory cats to make me their new toy. By now it was midnight and the entire time I've been watching this giant rock like a hawk in my pathetic attempts to ensure my survival. "I'm not afraid of you!" I exclaim in my thoughts, but alas, I already was.
After watching my back constantly for over an hour, I realize the entire point of this trip was to escape my worries back in the city, not create new ones. My eyes were also getting heavy as I realized that this imaginary animal had already wore me out and defeated me. I was constantly fighting this illusion of danger all night. There was no going back now.
As my body slowly wiggles back into the cocoon which sat in a crevice, I laid there looking up at the night-sky, asking the stars to help remember my bravery...(I also texted a few people just in case). Maybe I'm being over-dramatic, people sleep in the wild all the time...except for this corporate zombie. Sleeping on a rock just took a while to get used to. As time continued to travel, I eventually smile at how silly my fears were; and pick out which stars and meteors I wanted to visit the most.
It wasn't long before I fell asleep, packed up my gear, and headed back home. I slept well that night. The drive home was serene and I had time to really absorb what I just did. As unpredictable as nature can be, staying calm and aware is essential to reacting fast enough when you're vulnerable, but it's also important to enjoy the moment instead of constantly filling yourself with worries. Although I don't recommend anyone to go camping alone, choosing a popular place with park rangers nearby will also help minimize some potential dangers. Plenty of food & water is important as well. For more information about Enchanted Rock, check out this source.
By: Nick Long