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Wednesday, August 18, 2010  

Camping Trip-Up

You know we love camping, right? We get that not everyone loves camping. It's not for everyone. As one of my coworkers said to me, "Uh, I pay a mortgage, so…"

Given our two-week road trip earlier in the summer, we haven't camped out in the tent as much as usual this year. In fact, we've only done it once, the weekend before last. And on this trip, more than any other, I can see where some of the anti-camping types are coming from. I've heard all the reasons people don't like camping -- or think they won't like it -- but on this last trip, we lived them.

Bugs. The minute we got out of Chao's truck at the campsite, we knew something was wrong. It wasn't even one in the afternoon, and the mosquitoes were swarming, worse than we'd ever seen them in this campground. Or indeed anywhere in the world. The collective noun for a group of mosquitoes is a swarm, right? So what's the collective noun for a group of swarms? Because we had that. I think we had a couple of them, actually. Plagues of swarms. I'm pretty sure I personally killed more than a hundred of them in the forty-odd hours we were there. It didn't even help. Not even leaving their corpses stuck to my skin with their little probosci still sunk deep in my flesh as a warning to the others seemed to help. And then when I was all furry with them, Trash didn't want to hug me.

There were also spiders, but you'd be amazed at how friendly toward spiders you can get when there are that many mosquitoes.

Extreme temperatures. Making things worse was the fact that the days were hot and windless, so it was too uncomfortable to wear a beekeeper's suit against the bugs. And it got really cold the first night, which must have been why Trash needed the entire sleeping bag.

Fear of getting stranded in the middle of nowhere. Chao's truck served us well, but we were camping with my brother-in-law, his wife, and their daughter Deniece (now eight-and-a-half), who were using her dad's RV to see if it would be feasible drive it to Yellowstone next month. I'm not going to get into how much time my BIL spent arguing with the RV's batteries, alternator, and jumper cables, or how many times we had to stop on the 150-mile drive back to give the RV enough juice to cover just half of the remaining distance home, but suffice it to say that my BIL's family had other vacation plans by the time the weekend was over.

Being expected to go fishing. I didn't go fishing. I don't fish. I know less about fishing than you do, and I'm not talking to any person reading this, I'm talking to their Internet routers. And yet I got nominated to buy all the bait and tackle anyway.

Rain. In a tent, at two in the morning, it's easy to play that game where you count the seconds between the lightning flashes and the thunderclaps to determine whether the storm is getting closer or further. At least, it's easy when there is a gap between lightning flashes and thunderclaps. A bit later, when the machine-gunning of raindrops on the micron of synthetic fabric protecting you from the elements turns into antiaircraft fire and the puddles on the plastic floor are slowly spreading and you're looking at the sodden nylon over your head that makes you curse yourself for not securing the rain-fly better, you find yourself thinking about those campers who died in flash-flooding in Arkansas and you realize something: tents don't have ejection seats. We could make a dash for the RV, but it's coming down so hard we'd get too soaked to make it worth it. Fortunately M. Edium is already sleeping in there with his aunt, uncle, and cousin, so if lighting hits the tent and fries us there'll be someone to carry on the family name.

We're up with the anemic sun the next morning, and are in such a hurry to stuff all our sodden gear into the truck (and to get away from the mosquitoes, which were not only not cleared out by the rain but are now traveling in curtains) that we're out of there in half an hour. Last night, we'd taken down the screen gazebo over the picnic table in order to save time packing this morning, and it worked -- there's a lot of stuff we now have to throw away rather than pack up.

Then we get home and everything has to be quickly unpacked, run through the laundry, and/or spread out on the ground to be dried by the sun (because of course the rainstorm that made our night and morning miserable did nothing for our lawn or garden here at home). The sodden tent and screen gazebo are set up again in the yard so they don't mildew in their bags between now and whenever the next camping trip is, and the roof of a car turns out to be the perfect-sized drying rack for a sleeping bag. The tarps dry fastest, of course. That is, the tarp we brought home. We abandoned two of them at the campsite because they had become folding ponds. I'm sure someone else will enjoy them. It's like all the work of two camping trips with the fun of one!

Wild Animals. At some point during the Blair Witch hours of the morning between the end of the rainstorm and the sunrise, something's outside our tent. It's quiet, but I know it's there because something distinctly muzzle-shaped is pressing inward on the tent wall that's two feet from Trash's face. This is not an errant leaf or branch blowing past -- this is something that wants in.

The good news is that whatever it is, it's very low to the ground. "It's a chipmunk," I tell Trash optimistically, trying to think of the cutest, most harmless thing it could be. Trash is not convinced, and bops the nose with her Maglite. It goes away -- the second time she does it. We figure it was a raccoon, or maybe just another camper's escaped dog. Probably not a badger. Or a wolverine. Just something that didn't like the mosquitoes any more than we did. A harmless little grizzly bear, maybe.

So I realize that this post isn't going to convince anybody whot's skeptical about camping, but we actually did have a fun time, despite being coated in enough DEET to poison a moose. But I will make one small confession:

We're looking into buying a used camper pop-up trailer.

posted by M. Giant 9:16 PM 3 comments

3 Comments:

You know, the thing is, you somehow have that aura of being a guy who would know his way around a tackle box. I THINK that's a compliment. Let's just say that it is a compliment.

By Blogger Weetabix, at August 19, 2010 at 7:38 AM  

I will loudly and willingly admit that I am one who falls staunchly into the "not into camping" camp.

Not that I've never done it - when I was a kid, I camped with my Girl Scout troop, 4H club, church youth group and various school outings.

But any *one* of the reasons you cited above is more than adequate to keep me a firm believer in the "Heather and camping don't mix" category. Maybe if there was a tricked-out RV with hot water, flushable plumbing and power. Better yet, a hotel room. :-D

By Blogger Heather, at August 19, 2010 at 7:55 AM  

@Weet - I'll take it as a compliment. I try to have the aura of knowing my way around a lot of things. It's a lot less time-consuming than actually knowing my way around them.

By Blogger M. Giant, at August 19, 2010 at 8:49 AM  

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