In my opinion, the problem with first person point-of-view is that it inherently lacks suspense. If I’m telling the story, obviously I survived the story. That’s always the good news, though, when you’re writing a blog post!
So, I had a rather lovely Monday. I took my time leaving Bandit’s Roost, appreciating my electricity and the availability of water and having another nice walk with Zelda where we went nowhere, but she enjoyed the smells. It was a beautiful day.
It was even a nice day for a drive. We wandered around back roads in North Carolina, staying off the highways, but heading toward Asheville. I did a little shopping at a Salvation Army store and managed to replace the jeans that developed holes in the knees a few weeks ago, plus picked up a cotton sweater to add to my warm weather layer collection. I also had a pleasant chat with a woman in the parking lot, who was impressed that I was traveling by myself.
She wanted to know if I carried a weapon with me.
I do not.
She shook her head and eyed the van, and told me that I was very brave.
Eh, I don’t usually think so. Bad things can happen anywhere, but they’re random, IMO, no more likely to happen on the road then when you’re at home. I told her that my weapon was my car keys: if I ever felt unsafe, I just drove away.
Isn’t it strange how life provides its own foreshadowing sometimes?
Eventually, in the early afternoon, I headed up into the hills of Pisgah National Forest to check out the Curtis Creek National Forest campground. The drive was up a winding narrow dirt road with multiple one-lane bridges — not scary, particularly, but definitely the kind of road where I had moments of wondering what I was getting myself into. The campground itself was unusual for a national forest campground in that most of the sites seemed to be clustered together in a small meadow. I kept driving, hoping to find a site that was a little more private and suddenly I was out of the campground, still climbing up into the mountains. But the road was narrow and there wasn’t any easy place to turn around. As I kept going, I passed a couple parked vehicles with tents set up in the woods. It wasn’t the campground. They were “dispersed” camping, aka free camping in the national forests, at spots just off the road.
After several minutes of driving, I found a spot in the road wide enough that I thought I could turn Serenity around. But instead of turning, I parked and ate a late lunch and considered the idea of dispersed camping. I hadn’t really done it before and maybe it was the conversation I’d had with the woman at the Salvation Army store, but it felt sort of spooky. It was so very isolated. Seriously, I was alone in the forest. No neighbors, no one around at all. And I had no cell service, of course, nor internet.
It was a beautiful forest, though. Lots of green and a little bit of autumn color, and I could hear running water from a nearby brook and birds chirping. Z and I went for a cautious walk in the woods while I thought about bears and broken ankles and the amazing beauty of real nature.
And then we came back to Serenity and settled in. I opened the windows, and started reading my book, and Z snuggled up and went to sleep. As it got dark, I listened to the sound of the brook and appreciated the chilly fresh air while a full moon started to rise. Then, of course, I thought about werewolves, and wished I hadn’t read so many shifter romances that start with a woman being attacked in a remote forest. The light from the moon was so bright that twice I checked to be sure I hadn’t left the outside light on, but I hadn’t.
In the morning, I was feeling ever so cheerful and optimistic. I’d had a restless night, but had two good ideas about the ending of APM, and my free campsite in the woods felt like a fine place to spend the day. Totally isolated. I’d get out the computer and do nothing but think about Fen until I was finished.
And then I heard a car pull up and stop right next to me.
That was odd.
A ranger? I didn’t think I needed a permit for dispersed camping, but maybe I did. The car was behind the van, so I opened the bathroom door to look out the back window.
It was not a car, it was a pickup truck.
And it was not a ranger.
The guy who’d gotten out of the truck was scruffy, pudgy, dressed in camouflage. He was behind the hood of the truck and he was doing something that I couldn’t quite see.
But… and this was clearly paranoia on my part… it looked like he was loading a gun.
I watched him for several seconds that felt like several long minutes.
Okay, yep, he was loading a gun.
That was not paranoia. That was what he was doing.
That… didn’t feel like a good thing.
I glanced back into the van. I had a bunch of kitchen stuff out. Olive oil, dishes, hot water on the stove for making coffee. How fast could I safely put things away?
Then I heard a car door slam. I looked at the pickup truck again, and nothing had changed. No one else was there, just the guy with his gun. So I scooted over to the front of the van and yanked open the curtain that separates the seats from the kitchen.
Another pickup truck was parked in front of me. Two men had gotten out. Both of them were carrying guns, too.
And neither of them was remotely scary, because they were both wearing bright orange baseball caps on top of their camouflage.
Guess what October 15th probably is in North Carolina? I say probably because I don’t know for sure, not having had internet access, but I’m going to guess that it is the opening day of deer-hunting season. Because for the next twenty minutes, while I packed up the van and got ready to go, truck after truck after truck drove up my remote forest road, carrying guys, guns, and dogs. Lots of dogs. Also more men with guns than I have ever seen in my life. Like, by a lot. Like, by an enormous amount.
It was a party. A gun-toting, deer-hunting,* celebration of fall, party.
By 9AM, I was on the road, driving cautiously to avoid hitting pickup trucks on the one-lane bridges. So many trucks, so many people. So not the glorious day of isolated writing in a beautiful spot that I was anticipating.
But one of my travel games — a thing I think about to entertain myself when driving — is to try to remember an experience I’ve had in every state. And I am fairly sure that the moment of watching a guy load his gun while contemplating how fast I would be able to get the van moving will get to be North Carolina’s memory for a good long time. Maybe forever.
*They could have been hunting something else. Do you need dogs to hunt deers? I am no expert, so I would google, but I have no internet, so can’t. Whatever they were hunting, it was not random women camping alone or small white dogs, so it was fine by me.