This week, winter decided to depart momentarily and bring in some warmth and sunshine. The weather has been bafflingly beautiful and the grass is getting greener, enhancing our landscape’s beauty. So yesterday my friends suggested we go camping. “The guys” (a close-knit group of guys that my girl friends and I often hang out with) knew of a place on the ridge near the windmill where there was a little divot in the terrain. From that spot, you could supposedly look down on a farm landscape with cows and a pasture and watch the sun go down, but no one could see you, or so they said. But us girls would have to go see it to believe it. So we packed our things, blankets and warm clothes and brats and all, and set out on our hike to the campsite. The sun was setting as we made our trek to the campsite (which we had wanted to watch up on the ridge, but we just barely missed) - it was still bright enough to see where we needed to go. Part of the hike up was really difficult – we climbed up an almost vertical hill for two five minute periods where the mountain was very steep. And there were no paths – it all was thick woods. I joked that we should have brought our machetes. But that’s what made it cool – these guys had discovered this spot out of curiosity one day, decided it was a pretty place and promised themselves they’d come back some day. And here we were! Living out that wish! When we finally made it to the top, scratched up but relieved, we started a fire and warmed up by it while we stargazed. Then a few more of our friends hiked up and joined us and we cooked spicy brats and sang songs and played games. Soon the guys took off to visit the windmill, and we followed. It was one of the most beautiful nights I’ve experienced in Decorah. The air was warm, the big harvest moon hung low in the sky as we walked through fields of wheat – and I’ve never felt more free in my life than that moment. We arrived at the windmill and marveled at it for a while as the noisy wind refreshed our faces. “How big do you think this is, Abby?” one of the guys asked. “I don’t know,” I said. And so I hugged it to give him an idea of how small I was in comparison to the giant turbine. He laughed and said, “That really answered my question actually – thank you.” On the way back, the guys hid in the wheat and scared us girls about..35 times until we couldn’t stand it anymore. Back by the fire, we cracked each other up for a little while longer until we felt sleepy and crawled into our sleeping bags. Now there were no tents involved – just the open air (my first time without one – though all my other Iowa-born friends had done this numerous times). The moon was awfully bright. As one of the guys said, “Gosh, I wish we could turn that big bright light off” – needless to say it never did. But the stars were spectacular. The coyotes howled – I swear one of them had vibrato when it wailed – it was a gorgeous night in every aspect. The wind blew and it got chilly so we cuddled close and tried to fall asleep. After a few hours of tossing and turning, we all finally started to doze, and we were awaked by the warm sun and the birds chirping before 6 AM. We started chatting and talking about how everyone had slept. My friend hopped over (yes, in her sleeping bag) to where the best view from the divot was. We all hopped over with her like a stampede of kangaroos. It was an extraordinary morning: chatting, warm in our sleeping bags, looking at the landscape, the cows, the red barns, the cornfields, the sun coming up. It was possibly the most wholly Midwestern experience I’ve had yet – and I enjoyed it to the max. We finally admitted it was time to leave this beautiful place and get started on homework. So we packed our things and wandered back down the hill (actually slid, practically – because it was so muddy and well, like I said, vertical). We felt so intense, all scraped up with our dirty clothes, ratty hair, and campfire smell. We pretended like we were coming back from battle, victorious. I didn’t want the adventure to end. When we got to campus and departed for showers, we promised each other we’d come back to our divot on the hill some day. I will never forget this weekend…and I cannot wait to repeat it!