My heart stopped when an enormous buck sprinted past me as I ate macaroni and cheese off of the ground. My solo trip was eventful. I am so grateful to have spent two nights on Dollar Lake, singing John Denver songs, journaling, reading, making friendship bracelets, reflecting on my experiences, and taking a moment to slow down.
My solo was hard and pretty lonely at times; there were definitely moments where I wanted to call my mom for a little support. Yet I felt content right where I was as I made dinner on my second night. At the time, I was overflowing with pride when I could get a fire started. Lots of birch bark, an extensive collection of sticks, and determination got my little fire going, and it quickly turned into a roaring pile of flames. I set my tiny pot on three rocks in my fire pan and was completely in awe when large bubbles began to appear — only a couple at first, then tens, and hundreds. My mac and cheese was a little funky and was more of a “pasta with cheese hunks,” but that didn’t matter to me. My slightly melting chunks of pepper jack cheese and miraculously cooked noodles put the biggest smile on my dirty face. My fire was still going strong, and I was ready to feast. Yet, somehow, my Nalgene container just went from happily resting in my hand to upside down in the dirt. My eyes widened, and my smile began to fade, but I quickly started to laugh at my situation. I tried to salvage the more significant bits of my meal, putting them back into my container, but many stray noodles sat in the soil. As I ate noodle by noodle, covered in pine needles and other debris, I heard footsteps coming from behind me. I brushed them off at first, wondering if the trees were just creaking in a funky way. The steps got louder, heavier, and faster. As I began to turn around, a massive buck bolted past me and leaped into the bog of Dollar Lake. I sat there, holding a stray noodle in my hand, with my jaw dropped. I was speechless. To this day, as I look back on that moment, I have no words to describe it. I was wonderstruck. I was appreciative, independent, confident, terrified, amazed, and overflowing with emotions. I am immensely grateful that I got to spend some time among the still bog and dazzling stars, eating dirty mac and cheese, viewing the pure magic of the wilderness.