The slam of my car door echoed across the empty field. Soon, the sun would sink behind Blue Mountain, the distant wall of rock looming over the northern horizon. The soft scuffle of my shoes across the asphalt mingled with birds’ calls and the faraway roar of cars on a highway, muffled by acres of woods.
Behind me stood a tiny municipal building, the seat of government in this remote township in rural Pennsylvania. I had miscalculated my travel time to get here, arriving hours early for a local government meeting I’d been assigned to cover for my newspaper. With no one else around for what seemed like miles, I set out exploring.
The temperature dropped as the mountain became a hulking shadow against the darkening sky. Objects glowed with almost florescent light but refused to snap into focus until I was close enough to touch them. Here was a shed for road salt. There was a trailer. And here’s a giant pile of … mulch? No, gravel! I sifted the small, cold rocks through my fingers.
As I hiked towards the woods, I realized this all seemed eerily familiar — the prickle of adrenaline, the sense of discovery as I picked my way through wilderness in near-darkness.
Then I recognized it. I was 12 years old, and this was every Boy Scout camping trip I’d ever been on: arriving in unfamiliar woods at dusk, scrambling to set up a tent in the dark, navigating and exploring strange terrain (with or without permission). Adventure lurked behind every tree, mystery behind every rock.
Then my cell phone rang. It was my wife, returning my call from that afternoon while holding our 15-month-old son in her arms.
And suddenly, I was an adult again.