Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Night in New Mexico

[The photo was taken in Nevada]

So I feel like I need to tell a few short stories that have happened in my life. I want to get them down somewhere so I won't forget.

A Night in New Mexico.

The family had just finished a visit to relatives in Las Vegas, Nevada and we were on our way back to North Carolina, driving across country in a car. We spent the whole day driving through Arizona and we had just made it into New Mexico. It must have been around 10:00pm because I remember it being extremely dark. One thing about my family and long trips is that we never buy a motel for the night, it is cheaper and usually more fun to find a campground off the highway. Needless to say, after a few of these long road trips, we were getting pretty good at camping.
On this particular night the campground that we were looking for ended up being farther away from the highway than we had originally thought. We kept driving on this dirt road, traveling deeper and deeper into the dry and dark wilderness of New Mexico. Eventually we gave up trying to find this mysterious campground and my parents decided to find an open spot on the side of the road to camp out under the stars on our air mattresses.

We set up camp, turned off the lights, said our good nights, and sleepily stared up at the beautiful night sky packed with bright stars. As I was drifting off to sleep, I remember looking off into the distance filled with dark shapes. My over-active imagination began to create menacing animals out of the black shapes that were most likely trees, shrubs, or rocks.

We were rudely awaken to a park ranger asking loud questions.
'Have you seen anyone driving a red truck?'
(apparently someone was on the run from the park rangers)
'No, we have not seen anyone else on this road.'
I vaguely remember this conversation, as I was in the hazy mode between sleep and consciousness.
I do remember him getting into his car while throwing out a last humorous word about wild bears.
'Oh, and be careful of the bears! Hahaha, have a goodnight!'
Bears? He was joking, whatever, I'm so tired...

1:00 or 2:00 a.m.
Dad woke me up.
"Lydia. Get your stuff and get in the car. NOW."
The urgency in his voice told me to not ask questions and it caused me to move as fast as I could.
I sat in the car with my blanket and pillow clutched in my arms, my sister sat beside me with the same look of fear and question on her face. Outside my dad worked quickly, deflating the mattresses in record breaking time and stuffing everything he could in the trunk. My mom helped then got in the car and shut the door.
Dad got the last things in the trunk and jumped into the car.
The engine roared to life and we pulled onto the dirt road, traveling in stunned silence.
After a few long minutes of this, my dad finally spoke up.
"I do not want to scare you girls, but there was a bear in our campsite."
What?? A bear?? The ranger wasn't joking after all.
"I woke up with a strange feeling, I could smell it before I heard it; you know it's a bear when you smell it. Then I heard something big moving around, sniffing, close to us. I did not want to frighten it because that would make it attack, so I just started to make small sounds. I moved around slowly, letting the bear know that I was there. Eventually it left, but I wasn't sure how far it went. That's when I got you girls up."

Sometime between 1:30 and 2:30 a.m.
We drove down the road for a few miles and suddenly came upon the campground. It was surrounded by a tall fence. My guess was that its main function was to keep out the bears. The next morning we woke up to the bright New Mexican sun, feeling good to have survived the night.
That morning I learned the importance of one minute detail, I was on my period. I was 14 and not willing to use a tampon, so the only other thing to use was a pad. 
Another thing, bears can smell blood, they love blood.
Mom and Dad pulled me aside, "Lydia," said my Dad in hushed tones, "the next time we camp out and you're on your period, let me know."
My 14 year old self was mortified, humiliated, and embarrassed.
Several thoughts ran through my head at once.
'Tell Dad that I'm on my period? Are you serious?! And Mom told Dad that I'm on my period? I could have been killed by a bear last night!"

Now I look back and laugh at this story, I love telling it to friends and family.
I still love camping, but needless to say, I never want to camp out in New Mexico without the protection of a tall fence... or a tampon.

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