Camping Alone

I don’t necessarily ever do it but I did. I camped alone sorta. Last week I got to participate in an amazing retreat for soldiers with mental battle scars. Fourteen couples came to a retreat center and we ministered to them through scripture, prayer and just plain ole companionship. We laughed, we cried, we joked, we got serious. We just really had amazing time investing into these lives that came at no cost to receive some kind of break through their haunting of being in war.

After we dismissed on Friday, I left the retreat center and went to Montgomery Bell State Park and found a campsite, pitched my tent and sat by the fire. Carrie went back to Cornersville for the day to work a booth at the local Octoberfest for her photography that really panned out to be a waste of time with the exception of getting to see some familiar faces that’s had major parts in sculpting our lives.

I unfortunately planned my “getaway” on the start of Fall Break, when folks leave town for their getaway from work and school. I didn’t know that so when I arrived at the campgrounds, everyone was there. I paid for my spot, bought me some firewood in which I will never do again, and I sat and wrote in my sweet journal the retreat hooked me up with. That thing is awesome!

During my time I met some great people and also saw some familiar faces I didn’t expect to see. Driving through looking for a place to settle I saw these familiar faces. I slowed to make sure my eyes were playing tricks on me. Sure enough it was the Russels from Lifesong, a church I attended before moving to Clarksville. They were well out-of-the-way but so was I. We both were an hour away from home. We talked for a moment and they invited me over for dinner; homemade chili and hotdogs about 6:00pm. I was not about to pass that up so I made plans.

Then I met Jim. Jim is a hippie! No lie. He was a tall lanky fellow with a long grey beard, grey hair, a blue bandana rolled up and wrapped around his forehead. He wore thin framed glasses, an untucked button up plaid shirt, pants and tennis shoes. He approached me as I was setting up my tent. He told me he’s never seen one of the ten minute setups where it takes ten minutes to pitch a tent, so I invited him to watch. I didn’t invite him to talk so much but he did..

Jim is a very animated person. As he talked I thought he would hit me from time to time swinging he arms the way he would and his eyes would bulge on serious points. I never saw his lips move due to the thick beard and mustache. He would walk around me telling me about everyone who was in the campsite. By that time I was guessing he had done this to everyone. He found out through his sneaky prying that I was a pastor and began to tell me about the Messianic Jews that had been camping out for the Feast of the Tabernacle just over the way. They were the ones I saw playing volleyball in dresses.

Finally we parted ways, I to my seat and him to his VW and he was on his way. I later found out he had been there for some time and where he was camping. I made a mental note not to go that way again if I could.

I have a real hard time building fires. I’ve read the books and tried variations of ways but I’ll be honest. I’m terrible at building a fire. I also think it doesn’t help when the campsites sell you wood that doesn’t burn. A few years ago I bought some wood when camping at Land Between the Lakes and that wood wouldn’t burn. We chalked it up as the wood was wet. Considering this was the same type wood, I’m thing it’s some real hard wood.

Thankfully I brought a brick of that stuff you put in the fireplace to get the fire started. I waited till later to use it. Until then I had a small flame going and sat by it as I wrote in my journal for and hour or two listening the Cardinals play the Braves.

Six o clock came and I moseyed over to where the Russells had set up camp and had a great time catching up with them and eating yummy homemade chili that was made over coals. Good good stuff. It was so good to see familiar faces although I had no plans to make face with anyone. I expected the campsite to be secluded. That’s why I wanted to go.

After supper, I went back to my tent, lit the fire and sat by the fire reading a book on my kindle until the rain came in about 9:30. The rain never let up so I crawled into the tent and read some more till I got tired and the fire went out. During this time a family had arrived just behind me about 30 feet. I was already bummed cause I thought I had space from all the other campers. But what really bummed me out was this couple with their two kids. I’ll save you the details but I will say this guy treated his wife like a dog, verbally abusing her and I wanted to jerk a notch in his chain. However, I stayed to myself hoping they would bed down soon and be quiet. It took them a while and I think I fell asleep long before they settled.

I didn’t sleep very well. Somehow between the storm blowing water under my rain guard and condensation building on the bottom of my sleeping bag, I stayed damp the whole night. I would wake up not knowing what time it was but still being dark, and would go back to sleep. It seem rough but that is what I was doing; roughing it.

I woke in the morning to very little movement in the campsite. I packed my stuff fairly quickly and headed out to an Amish store where I would pick up an awesome chicken biscuit and then on into the house.

The cold and rain didn’t necessarily bother me. Sure I didn’t like it but I would put up with a week of that if that man wouldn’t talk to his wife like he did. That was more unbearable than any of the elements. So that was my camping trip. One night with Jim, the Russells, Messianic Jews blowing their shofars, a park ranger swinging by my campsite every fifteen minutes checking the score of the game, rude husband, thousands of kids on their bikes, a fire and a good book.

When do we do it again?!


This was the first fire I built that I couldn’t keep lit.


About Kevin Riner

child of grace, worshiper of Jesus, husband, father, Pastor of Village Church, author of Faith Debugged
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