I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees. — Henry David Thoreau
In recent years, I have begun the simple but beautiful process of more deeply exploring the state I grew up in. Prior to that, I rarely ventured beyond the straight line between Albany and New York City. Then I ventured to the Finger Lakes, to Fort Tilden, to Ithaca, to Corning, to Rochester, and beyond — and I loved what I found.
So when I learned that some of my closest college crew, the team behind the beautiful Equilibrio festival in El Salvador, were planning a low-key event for Fourth of July weekend last year, I knew I had to be involved.
I struggled with the decision, since my entire family was, as usual, going to be spending Independence Day on Martha’s Vineyard. But in the end, the chance to go camping, explore a new corner of New York State, and catch up with my college crew was all just too tempting to pass up. And so after borrowing a tent from my mom’s boyfriend and stuffing my car with s’more supplies from Trader Joe’s, I was on my way to Port Leyden.
I loved what I found when I arrived. So many familiar faces from college in Brooklyn, to Burning Man, to beyond. It was an intimately sized festival of sixty or so people, the perfect amount for a long weekend away. I staked out a quiet spot by the lake for my tiny one-woman tent, and set out to explore.
The three-day event was lightly scheduled; there were a few planned nature walks with a resident botany brainiac, some yoga sessions with a friend who was an instructor, and some group chores to keep the campground humming. But for the most part, this was all about getting back to the basics — swimming in a stunning lake, singing and playing guitar around a fire, enjoying simple meals with friends.
As usual, our pool float game was strong — though in this case, of course, they were lake floats.
One of my favorite things in life is a low-key day drinking sesh while catching up with old friends I haven’t seen in a while. Doing it while floating in the middle of a private lake in the middle of rural New York? Life just doesn’t get much better.
As with any event designed by the Future Clear crew, there were some incredible surprises and special moments — a sound bath installation in the pyramid by a New York artist, a special impromptu rap set by a pint-sized performer, and a concert on a raft in the middle of Moose Lake.
I’ve written before about the fact that I didn’t grow up camping, so three nights of sleeping in a tent, using a composting toilet dug into the ground — my greatest struggle! — and keeping a campsite tidy were somewhat new experiences for me. In the end, as usual, I left wanting to schedule my next camping trip — this time perhaps with a deeper knowledge of how to set up a tent.
I had big ambitions of working out every day — intense yoga classes, fresh air runs, and DIY tabata sessions. Instead, I did some self-practice with curious ants rushing over my mat, and swam happily in the lake. It was enough.
One of the things that kept me from enjoying more of the beauty nature has to offer for so many years was a crippling phobia of the dark. But over the years, that anxiety has eased a bit, and I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of sunsets like these without fearing what comes next (that said, I had backup batteries of my backup batteries on my headlamp.)
I confess — this is a short and simple post for what was a beautiful, back-to-basics weekend. I left recharged both by nature and the time spent bonding with friends new and old.
But I think these photos are worth a thousand words, this sweet video by my friend Zoe is worth a million — keep your eyes peeled for shots of me waking up with my tent and towing an enormous raft!
Are you potentially interested in joining this lovely gathering this year? Find more details on the Future Clear Facebook page! While I’ll be spending the holiday with my family back in Martha’s Vineyard this year, I hope to return to Port Leyden should we be lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend another Liberty in 2018.
Are you a camper? Where should I go next?