photograph by SARA BRENNAN AND ISTOCK.COM/GSAGI

The first and only s’more I’ve ever eaten was indoors. Not by a campfire, not beneath a moonlit sky — but at a restaurant in Atlantic Beach called Amos Mosquito’s. I had the oyster, scallop, and shrimp platter with fries (delicious), and at the end of the meal, the server brought over a tabletop hibachi grill, miniature Hershey bars, a stack of graham crackers, six large marshmallows, and a handful of wooden skewers.

Everybody at my table squealed, catapulted back to childhood camping trips at Hanging Rock, at Pilot Mountain, at Jones Lake. But I sat silent, no camping memories of my own to contribute. I didn’t even know how to assemble my s’more.

I grew up with the Uwharrie National Forest in my backyard and Holly Bluff Family Campground less than six miles away. My dad had a shelf of Foxfire books, and I read them all, learning the skills that seemed useful for surviving in the wilderness, like which wood to use to start a fire (pine) and how to make my own sassafras tea. My high school boyfriend was an outdoors guy, a trout fisherman and deer hunter who spent weekends, when he wasn’t with me, in a tent in the woods near Lake Reese.

Now, at 47 years old, I’m craving an experience I never had.

My mother tells me that I’m wrong, that I don’t really want to go camping, that I don’t like mosquitoes or being too hot or being too cold or having dirt on my feet, and that despite how often I played by the creek in the woods, I always ran back home before dark, in time for a hot bath and a home-cooked supper, and that she and my dad sent me to camp once when I was a child — Don’t you remember that? — the YMCA’s Camp Cedarwood, and I went stiff as a board when the camp guide lifted me up onto a towering horse, and, after I nicked my ear pulling back on the bow in the archery session, I called my parents to please let me come home and never send me back to this torturous place.

But that was a long time ago. The outdoors haven’t changed, but I hope that I have.

A few years ago, I started day hiking — I have a small backpack and the right shoes and wool socks — and, sometimes, when I’m deep in the woods, I think about what it would be like to just stay there, to find a spot with soft leaves and lay down a sleeping pad and a blanket and turn my head toward the stars.

I’m preparing. I’ve researched which camp stove to buy, and I save recipes for hamburger dinners in foil. I’ve listened to all the “Ask a Ranger” podcasts on the NC State Parks website. I’ve even picked out my campsite at Lake James State Park — I like Site 6 at the Catawba River Area, which has a beautiful view of Lake James and is 90 feet from drinking water. I want to know how dark it’ll get when the sun goes down. I want to see sparkles on the lake in the morning.

I think about this when I sit on the patio at my townhome in Greensboro, where the stars are obscured by streetlamps, where I can barely make out the bleat of a bullfrog over the rush of passing traffic.

There’s a lot that I love about living in a city, but, lately, I’m feeling a draw in a different direction, to finally see for myself what’s out there.

This story was published on

Hudson is a native of North Carolina who grew up in the small community of Farmer, near Asheboro. She holds a B.A. degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and began her publishing career in 1997 at Our State magazine. She held various editorial titles for 10 years before becoming Editor in Chief of the 80-year-old publication in 2009. Each month, she works with the top writers and photographers in the country to produce a magazine that has garnered national attention, and in 2011 and 2012, Our State won consecutive Gold Eddies for “Best Issue” of a regional magazine in the country, the top honor from FOLIO: Magazine, the magazine industry’s leading publication recognizing editorial excellence. For her work with the magazine, Hudson is also the 2014 recipient of the Ethel Fortner Writer and Community Award, an award that celebrates contributions to the literary arts of North Carolina.

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