I had certain reservations about this trip. These reservations had absolutely nothing to do with the location, the logistics of my arrival and departure, nor the company I would be keeping over the Canada Day long weekend. My reservations stemmed from my not having gone camping... anywhere, ever. I am talking the whole tent-life, hygiene-maintenance-in-the-bush, bug-spray, outhouse-if-you-are-lucky, no-shower, carting-around-lake-water-to-wash-your-dishes type of camping.
I am a bonafide city dweller. I was born in a big city, I was raised in a big city, I've immigrated from one big city [from Asia: Manila, Philippines] to permanently reside in another big [Canada: Toronto, Ontario] city, and my only concept of any small town, suburban-type, or country living has been sorely influenced by the handful of day trips out to farms and adorable countryside villas where I would don my typical city wear [sans leather oxfords or heels, opting for gumboots or sneakers instead], and prance around happily amongst the wildflowers and the orchard trees. The wilderness in those situations, given my personal experiences in my first ever Oroville away-trip, seemed very much easy to control and predict, and I would still ultimately end those days in my own bed or within comfortable lodgings furnished with a bed, a shower, a toilet, and a sink.
So, yes, I would hail Oroville as my first real experience in the wild. Seasoned wilderness junkies would scoff and laugh at this, yes, but I went into this trip knowing I would be pushing the boundaries of my personal comfort zone, "digitally-out-of-reach", I noted, save for perhaps "through a trained carrier pigeon". I looked at Oroville as my personal Everest of sorts (one of many, at the very least) - a place where I would purposely let go of my obsessive-compulsive need to shower, have smooth legs, tidy hair, and clean clothes.
I jumped into this armed with having only seen instagrams of the place and the joking remarks of Pascal, who told me they would have to arm me with bear spray, mace, and guns in order to be able to "do my business" out in the wild safely and effectively. I laughed these jokes off, though admittedly I was mentally panic-stricken at first, going through the myriad of stored excuses in my head to be able to explain why I will have to pass on this Oroville experience this time.
Lengthy preface aside... going to Oroville is the best thing I have ever afforded myself in what seems like a lifetime. I had forgotten how important it is to get away from it all - the day-to-day grind of life. Because I work full-time and devote my weekends to building my photography portfolio with my freelance photo partner, Oroville provided me with some much-needed and overdue respite from the high-anxiety-ridden existence of a 30-odd-something woman currently obsessed with perfecting inventory systems and developing her burgeoning career. Three days were most certainly not enough and I felt the familiar heaviness of adult responsibility set in as soon as I set foot back in the city.
It was in my days in Oroville that I relished the thick film of dust all over my hair and my body, jumped off small rock cliffs into lake water several times over, shed my usual body-consciousness, felt the juices of ripe apricots, cherries, and watermelons drip down my arms without worrying about the sticky residues that remained long after I have eaten them, laid under the stars with a friend blanketed by a sleeping bag while we played spot-the-shooting-star and talked openly about life and love, and eating simple food prepared and served en-plein-air. The experiences were far too numerous to count in my very limited time there: roadside tacos, hot tamales sold in a humble farmers' market, a ghost town, wild sage plants, a cloudless black darkness pierced only by the light of the stars, the feeling of dry heat on your skin... all of these... punctuated by the absurdly surreal beauty of the mountains. I am humbled by how truly small I am - a speck in the pure vastness of it all.
I am immensely thankful to Janaki and Pascal for welcoming a first-timer like me into their troupe. Sadly, the hard-core credibility that I have obtained from jumping off small cliff-sides into lake water have been erased when Janaki caught me recently lip-syncing to the cheesy tunes of Phil Collins and Peter Cetera at Atelier St. George. Darn! Perhaps the next time I return to Oroville, I will find myself a cowboy to kiss this newly-indicted wilderness woman and gain that credibility back. ;-)
Issha Marie & Janaki Larsen