I think it was some time during spook trying on hiking boots that I started to have a panic attack. Have you ever been in Mountain Equipment Co-op on a Saturday? Not an experience I recommend.
There I was, surrounded by Gore-tex, and robust-looking moms talking to their equally hearty-looking children, saying things like "No, honey, the climbing wall isn't for us to use today." Climbing wall? Kid, you look like you only learned to walk yesterday. Slow down! You're making the rest of us look bad! In the presence of all that pink-cheeked vigour, I started to wonder what the hell I thought I was doing looking at tents.
Most of my MEC visits have been a bit like that. I went a few times with What's His Name, you know, Not Rick, the Other Guy--he was really into things in improbable colour combinations, but I gamely looked at boats with him. He even took me to practice kayaking in the pool once. It was fun. If nothing else, he was an insanely patient instructor, and I found it relatively easy to maneuver around in perfectly still, chlorinated water. See, and there's the thing--I'll do anything, if someone I love is into it. Sometimes I think this makes me versatile, and much more adventurous than I give myself credit for. Other times I think this makes me a fraud.
My one major MEC purchase in life was a backpack. Not just any backpack, mind you, a 67-litre backpack that I crammed full of all of my worldly belongings to take the damn Greyhound across the country. Because I knew (and, to my chagrin, still know) nothing about packing something that big, it was incredibly top-heavy, and I was in danger of tipping over each time I had to carry it which fortunately was not very often. Flash forward to me hefting the 3.5 kilogram tent and thinking "No way could I carry this, not all day, not with a backpack full of other things. What am I doing? I'm going to get eaten by bears."
The antidote to outdoor panic, I have discovered, is the Bruce Trail--at least, the part of it we were on at Samhain. Although the trail itself is impressively long, it meanders strangely, due to being created quite a bit after other land uses were already operating. Therefore, spook and I scooted across a two-lane highway at one point (just following the blaze, ma'am), over a weird, tentlike ladder which was the safe way to get over the barbed-wire fence, and walked alongside someone's field for ten minutes or so. When we got to the end of the field, there was another field, with more blaze indicating that yes, we were still on the trail. That was when we decided to turn around. There was a little bit of getting lost excitement, but we figured out where we were before it got completely dark. Phew. Wouldn't want to have to walk up to someone's front door and ask!
I guess like everything, it takes a little practice to get good at being outdoorsy. In the meantime, I can get myself a flannel shirt, and maybe some blush. You know, for that pink-cheeked look.