Camping is one of those things that look really great, but in reality is stone cold awful. LL Bean catalogs, REI and Subaru commercials all make lodging au natural seem like you’re living the dream when in reality you’d kill for a private bathroom experience where you don’t have to take a campground shower wearing flip-flops or (shudder) live in fear of the mildew enhanced, free range hairs of a thousand campers before you, encrusted plastic shower curtain touching any part of your naked body.
It’s just all so icky. Why would anyone willingly give up fresh towels and a complimentary breakfast with waffle bar to have an overnight one-on-one commune with nature? Here’s a tip. Nature doesn’t want you sleeping over. Nature, Smokey the Bear and all of God’s forest creatures including every four-legged animated Disney character want you off their home turf and at a hotel accumulating Marriott points. How do I know this? Because nature has spoken to me and I have been charged with getting the word out.
No I didn’t pull a Dr. Dolittle and have any in-depth conversations with wildlife. It wasn’t that overt. Instead nature left me clues that it would be best if I, and humans in general, most especially those wearing $300 fleece hoodies, vacated the premises after dark. Go ahead and hike, climb and explore until you’ve got a heel blister the size of a Moon Pie. It’s all good as long as you don’t plan to have a slumber party.
It’s not that nature is a hater or is lacking in hospitality. All this shooing us out of the forest at bedtime is coming from a place of love. Nature watches all the rigmarole we go through to create a campsite and you know the sound you hear in the woods that you think are leaves rustling? Well, it’s really flora, fauna and assorted squirrels cackling at our foolishness. And how could they not laugh when putting up a tent has been known to break up marriages.
This is one of those clues I was talking about. The degree of difficulty in assembling a tent is nature’s way of telling us that this whole concept of woodsy overnighting is flawed. Let’s all face it; tent construction is the work of the devil. You’re beguiled by the instructions, which look so easy, dare I say even idiot proof, that you have 100% confidence in your ability to get that bad boy up in less than 60 seconds. Yeah, never going to happen.
My last foray into tent assembly resulted in me having what I would classify as a mild meltdown (Yet, if I’m going to believe the stories of my fellow campers I was in the fetal position whimpering and blowing my nose on a pinecone) and necessitated a trip to a minor emergency clinic because my tears mixed with the combination of sweat, military grade insect repellant and SPF 70 sunscreen resulted in an eye irritation so severe that it required me to wear a patch for the rest of my vacation. This meant for one solid week strangers greeted me with an “Ahoy mate.” Good times.
Putting up a tent is nothing, I mean nothing, when compared to all the prep work required to have an “into the wild” sleep over that exceeds more than one night. The meal planning alone is an exhausting. Why anyone would think that pre-making multiple breakfast, lunch and dinners, all that require a prodigious use of aluminum foil and gallon size Ziplocs, before you even back out of your driveway for your camping trip is a “fun” or come on now, reality check time, a “family team building” activity is beyond me. And the packing of a cooler, that’s half the size of your refrigerator, with your family’s sustenance ranks right up there with the world’s most annoying word problem. I’m not kidding when I tell you that there are websites dedicated to how to pack a camp cooler, hence, the word problem.
Sherry is going camping with six people, two of whom don’t like deli meat, three that are disgusted by bacon, one who is lactose and gluten intolerant and one who won’t eat anything but Smucker’s Uncrustables. The group will be in the forest for three days and plan to cook seven of their meals by campfire. How many foil wrapped, Ziploc encased packets of grilled cilantro chicken nachos does Sherry need to bring?
B) None of the above because you won’t be able to build a campfire due to a Park Service burn ban and this will result in everyone passing around a bag of Jet Puffed marshmallows for dinner.
C) Forget the foil wrapped packets and pack more boxed wine.
Of course the correct answer is C.
It took a transforming epiphany for me to start really hearing the clues nature had been sending my way. I feel like kind of dummy that it took years for me to catch on. Thinking back I should have keyed in on the simple hints. Like, for instance, that mosquitoes are nature’s bouncers. How could I have missed that? Lights go down, mosquitoes come out and start letting you know in no uncertain terms that’s it time to move the party inside.
My moment of realization came when I had to perform one of the most fundamental of life’s tasks over a pit toilet. It was at this point camping became dead to me. Every person has their limits, a line they won’t cross, and for me it’s going native with my colon in the woods. (Seriously what happened to take only pictures leave only footprints?) I was chided and then ridiculed. One hard-core camper thought that by enthusiastically sharing her adventures of using a trowel to create her own toilet, (with such detail I fear she has a Pinterest page devoted to it) it would be enough to keep me from fleeing. It wasn’t. I’m not some potty princess who requires Charmin 3 ply with healing aloe toilet paper, but I do need two things privacy and porcelain. A pit toilet provides neither of these.
As I threw back two Imodium in hopes of making it to civilization without having to use the bathroom I finally heard what nature had been trying to tell me for so long – that if God had wanted us to camp there wouldn’t be a Hampton Inn two miles from the trailhead.