Thought Tuesday

Camping Confessions 

It has been said that I am the best camper of all campers that hate camping. I am not sure about the “best camper” title, but I can, with confidence, say that I hate camping.

People say they go camping in order to ‘relax’.

Whatever! What is so RELAXING?!

Living off the land is… not for me. Camping…considering a list of things I really don’t want to do, like have an operation, watch other people’s vacation videos, clean the chicken coop, or listen to my son’s obnoxious, loud, rap music, camping has to fall in there somewhere up there right close to the top. I hate camping, and here’s why:

1. I miss my bed. You have to sleep on the ground in a sleeping bag. For the true camper, this is supposed to be fun, supposed to be one of the real highlights of the camping experience. Why? Sleeping on hard ground with maybe an inch or two of padding is fun? Really? I wake up, sort of bent like a human pretzel. I finally convinced John to buy a pop-up-tent-trailer, but it isn’t much of a step up. The bed is still hard. I still ache. I still have the only sleeping bag in the bunch that doesn’t zip. I still drown, not because of the sleep apnea, but from the condensation building in my c-PAP mask that eventually pools up for my breathing pleasure.

2. While you’re out camping and sleeping on the ground, you’re available for inspection by various and sundry forest creatures and animals. That’s bad and potentially dangerous, if you think about it. What if a coyote or a cougar sniffs you out late one night, thinking you’re a potential main course for its dining pleasure? Once I had to pee in the middle of the night, crawled out of the tent, and peed myself because I came face to face with the largest skunk I have EVER seen. Seriously, this thing could have eaten me as a snack… well, he looked like that in the dark…. without my glasses. Worse yet, what if a snake slithers up and decides that it likes the warmth of your sleeping bag? I used to have nightmares about that. Personally, if I woke up and realized that a snake was in there with me, I’d proceed to simultaneously release every single bodily fluid that I’m capable of manufacturing. And then some. And don’t even ask me about the fun possibilities inherent if a squadron of fire ants happens to be close by in the area where you happen to be sleeping… more childhood nightmares!

3. To me, there’s something both nasty and cumbersome about having to haul a bunch of food and equipment out into the woods in order to eat it there. Throwing food into some coolers isn’t the cleanest thing in the world to do (my stomach hurts right now most likely for that very reason), and look at what all you have to haul with you – either a gas grill that you have to have hooked up to some source of gas, or a conventional grill along with several bags of charcoal, a camp stove or a Dutch oven. And don’t forget the lighter fluid and matches. On top of all that, if you happen to have some kids with you, the safety potential of this whole deal becomes even sweeter. And don’t forget when you fire that grill up that all the smoke that wafts out from it sends a message to the afore-mentioned coyotes and cougars or worse that are lurking around out there that‘s its now supper time.

4. It’s not just the food… it’s all the preparation going camping entails. That takes a couple days… and the daily camping grind… I barely get things washed and put away before it’s time to start preparations for the next meal… and then cleaning and storing all the camping crap when you get home… that takes weeks! And where are the kids? They are RELAXING! Hey! So that is where the myth that camping is relaxing comes from.

5. Then there is the dirt. Nothing is clean… not the clothes… not the dishes… not the bedding. And don’t get me started on the tent. Seriously! There is a mere path from the door to the bed…. if you are lucky!

6. Then there are the elements… the cold, the heat, the rain, the sleet. Sometimes, there is even the snow!

7. I love my soft cotton sheets, my microwave, my internet.

8. My shower must be used by no one else but me and mine… that is, if there is a shower to be had.

9. I enjoy being warm and dry.

10. It’s not that I don’t like nature. I love nature. I just don’t like waiting in line to use the toilet. I don’t like people knowing when I’m changing into my bathing suit. I don’t mix well with wasps and mosquitoes.

How did I get to this very passionate opinion about the experience of camping you may ask?

Oh… I don’t know… maybe it was that first camping trip as a small child… Green Lakes in the Central Oregon Cascades. I have very faint memories of that trip. I remember hanging on for dear life as a horse lurched along a trail up a steep mountain. I remember slowly falling sideways as the saddle loosened and I have a faint memory of riding slightly sideways for a bit, staring at the backside of a heavily loaded mule ahead of me. Horses still scare me.

I remember feeling very cold and missing my bed at night. My parents tell me that it was cold.

My mom went early with friends, taking with her two small children and an infant. My dad followed later with a large home-made wagon he ran to the top of Broken Top before he realized that he had taken a wrong turn and ran back down the mountain to get to the camp, well after dark. They tell stories of my mom packing everything but the kitchen sink into that cart… high chair… play pen… clothes rack. I believe the story goes that it took the horses several trips to cart it all back down the mountain because the wagon axel broke.

I don’t think those friends ever invited my parents to accompany them horse camping again. I think the straw that broke the camel’s back was my mom washing a dirt diaper in the man’s coffee pot! LOL!

Maybe it was the once-in-a-lifetime camping trip to western Oregon. I grew up in the high desert of central Oregon. The lush, soggy, green coastal terrain was amazing! I remember being fascinated and disgusted by giant slugs on the paths at the camp grounds.

I remember is rained hard. Rivers were running through the campground. My mom said she put the baby in the tent for the night and went to check on him later to find him floating in the river running through the tent! There wasn’t room in the car so my mom took my sister and I to the campground bathroom and we slept on the floor. Nice one…

Maybe it was that brown, rusty Datsun that did me in. I remember the “mattress” my Grandpa White made that fit around wheel wells. It did make things a little less comfortable, but we were still stuffed in like sardines.

Of course, it could have been the camping trip that I was happily playing in the dust when my dad returned, feeling rather triumphant, with a dead deer and hung it in a tree. For some reason he thought that we would all be excited, we weren’t. I was horrified. I started crying and said, “You killed Bambi’s mom!” The smile that was on his face fell then he started laughing! LOL! I cried when hunters came and shot Bambi’s mother, so of course I was shocked when my father came home with deer meat for supper. I could not understand why anyone would shoot a beautiful deer, a deer that could possibly have a baby to take care of.

I remember that he gutted it right there in camp. He removed the meat from the doe and sent it to a taxidermist. I have a vague memory of the smell. I remember sitting down to dinner and he lied to me saying that we were eating beef. After I had swallowed it and said that it was rough to chew he revealed the truth, “It’s the deer!” GAH!

I burst into tears and cried out, “I just ate Bambi’s mom!”

I’ve never eaten deer since that day. YUCK!

Perhaps is was the camping trip my parents took us on with four kids and two adults on two motorcycles. I remember it took all day to tie everything to the motorcycles. They may have even needed to tie the kids to the motorcycles…. LOL. At last, we were ready to take off… my mom on one motorcycle with my sister Jana in front and my sister Carol in back… my dad on the other motorcycle with my brother David in front and me in back.

We headed down the dirt driveway.

The next few moments seem to be in stop motion for me in my memory…

My mom was just ahead of us riding blissfully with the wind in her hair with two children clinging to her for safety… and then the weren’t. In horror I watched my mom and siblings crash. The canteen hanging on my sister’s neck was caught in the spokes of the motorcycle and all progress was stopped.

It was a few more hours before my parents were able to calm everyone down, find a new place to carry all the gear and get on the road again.

Camping was cold. I remember finding a giant frog while my mom made dinner. But we didn’t get to play much because we got to the sight so late.

The trip really didn’t go as planned. We woke up to a foot of snow. My dad rode back to town and got the family car.

I think the most influential camping moment has to be the summer my family spent in the woods logging logs for the family home. It seemed like we were there FOREVER!

We set up camp just down the logging road from the plot where we were harvesting trees. A small creek ran along the small grove of trees. My dad had barrowed a small camp trailer, but most of us were in the old army tent he set up by cutting down small lodge pole pine trees for the tent poles. The tent didn’t have a floor. Still, I was assigned to sweep the tent floor every day.

Most days we ate breakfast before heading up the hot dusty road to the clearing to sit on logs with “drawn knives” to remove the bark before the log trucks came for the logs. My dad was busy cutting down the trees and dragging them to the clearing on his tractor. Mom supervised the army of kids with knives. Being the oldest, I was often responsible for cleaning up breakfast, starting lunch and minding my little sister. The clearing wasn’t safe for toddlers. Every third day my dad would go back to town to work at the fire station. The rest of us stayed in the woods and took bark off trees.

Dad was luck. He got a bath more than once a week. The rest of us took what my mom called “spit baths”. For weeks the only bathing we did was a shared pot of hot water and a wash cloth. If we were lucky we got to drive down the mountain a bit for a swim in an icy lake. I don’t think I felt clean for weeks.

It was hard work. I would barely get the dishes done, the food put away, the sticks picked up, and the baby safely napping, before it was time to start lunch. It was quiet. It was hot. It was even kind of boring.

I learned to build fires. I learned to chop kindling. I learned to purify water. I learned to tie knots. I learned how to find Huckleberries and wild strawberries. I learned to find north by observing how the plants grew. I learned to cook creative meals. I learned burn a few too. LOL.

The most memorable day there was a huge thunderstorm. Normally, I love thunderstorms. I enjoy them from a distance. This storm was right on top of us. The flashes of lightening were blinding. The thunder claps were deafening. I had never seen that much rain. The wind was whipped around me. I was alone with my little sister and my family was at least a mile up the road at the clearing. I was frantic! I ran to close all the windows in my dad’s rickety old trailer. I tied the tent down again and again. I tried to save all the food and the laundry that I had hung out to dry. I tried to calm the baby. I moved everything away from the creek that was rapidly getting bigger and faster.

I knew that thunderstorms caused forest fires. I knew that lightening could travel down trees and could then hit people. I was scared. What if my family didn’t come back from the clearing? What if the lightening started a fire? What if I was stuck in the woods with a toddler? I was only 11!

Thankfully, my family came back. Most of the camp was saved. We only lost a little food and a few items of laundry had been blown away in the storm.

However, that summer I decided I was done with camping.

A couple years later we went back up near that camp sight. This time we were driving the big yellow bus, a 12 passenger Chevy van painted school-bus yellow my dad had bought at auction. We were visiting Irish and Taylor Lake. We went up the road just fine. Coming down the road was a different story. As we went around a corner the van tipped and wedged between a couple trees. We were stuck. We could only get out of one door. If we moved the van would creak and moan. My uncle hopped out and ran to a lake lodge several miles away. It was dark before help came. My uncle had reached my dad at work at the fire station. We waited while he secured the van and cut down the trees. But a day in a van wedged on a couple trees kind of contributed to my intense feelings for the wild.

Things didn’t get better when I got married. Our first camping trip John and I shared a little Scout issue 2 man tent. These tents were build for one small 12 year old scout. John chose a nice spot on a side of a hill. In the middle of the night it began to rain. We awake around midnight to 4 inches of water running through our bedding. We tried to move to my parents camper. That was very uncomfortable. It was standing room only… not good for sleeping. I tried sleeping in out Toyota Celica. That didn’t work either. I finally gave up and bawled my head off all the way down to the valley and checked into a motel for a couple of hours of sleep.

It seemed that every camping trip was doomed to disaster status. Whether the van window broke and we had to replace the window in the pouring rain in a camp ground, or we had to replace the glow plugs in the big van in the middle of the camp ground, every camp trip was high-lighted by some kind car repair, poor weather or broken equipment.

It is all rather pathetic.

These are only a few of the reasons I don’t like camping.

On the other hand, I don’t want my tastes and preferences to interfere with my kids’ enjoyment of the outdoors. I want them to grow up knowing the crisp clean morning air free of car exhaust, the sweetness of freshly-made, fire-roasted marshmallows, and the majestic display of stars that can only be seen far away from the lights of the city. They need to cultivate a healthy respect and appreciation for the natural world and learn basic survival skills, such as building a fire, shelter, and finding food — maybe even how to catch and cook a fish with their bare hands! LOL!

So I go. I head of into the wild to camp. I decided to make a list:

“Top 10 Reasons I’ll Go Camping Again Even Though I Hate Dislike It ”

10. Having great stories to tell around the campfire. Telling stories is a family tradition. I can’t be the one to break tradition.

9. Because nothing beats having a wide open area for the kids to play and ride bikes around.

8. Relaxing in a lawn chair just talking with friends and family.

7. Being 100% ‘unplugged’. Well almost. Nearly everyone is addicted to Facebook. LOL.

6. Every little kid should have an adventure with their dog. (Sadly, I didn’t bring the dogs on this last trip. I was nearly guilted into bringing them what with the tears and sobs of a distraught 9 year old who could leave her “only friends” behind.)

5. There’s always books on my ‘To Read’ list.

4. You can’t beat the smile on my kids’ faces as they fall into their sleeping bags completely and utterly dirty, not to mention exhausted.

3. It is good to attempt teaching my kids survival skills… you know, cooking, cleaning, 1st aid.

2. To teach my kids the to be prepared. I’ve learned that things go better when I do as much work as possible before I actually leave. I chop everything. I precook and freeze meats to cut down on the need of ice. I collect rain gear too. In western Oregon you never know what to expect.

And drum roll please…………………..

The number 1 reason ‘I’ll Go Camping Again Even Though I Hate Dislike It’ is..

Family time and the memories my kids will create and the love you will share will last a lifetime… well that is the hope anyway.  I can’t explain it, but they like it.  So I go… sigh…

originally posted 12th June 2012 by Wendy Boyack on Resigning as the General Manager of the Universe powered Blogger.

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