Happy Camper? I Don't Even Know What That Is
I hate camping.
I hate setting up camp, breaking down camp, and everything that falls in the middle. Except for S’Mores. Other than that, I have no desire to sleep in the woods unless it includes a cute cabin with indoor plumbing, Wi-Fi, good cell coverage, cable with movie channels, a full kitchen with double ovens and a grocery store within 10 miles.
Pup or pop-up, I’d just rather not do tents of any kind. A nap in an ENO hammock, strung between two trees in my back yard, is as close as I’m going to get to losing myself in the glories of the Great Outdoors.
Trust me, I have my reasons. I did Girl Scout camp (got that badge) and a few family campground-style outings here and there, but my maiden voyage into truly roughing it was bold – Alaska. It’s a long story how this lipstick-wearing southern gal ended up in a forest in the Last Frontier, but been there, done that, won’t do it again.
My first issue was with signs posted throughout the national park we stayed in. CAUTION: BEARS ON PREMISES. Caution? How about RUN? My companions were undeterred, though, treating the signs as though they promised a friendly drop-in welcome from the likes of Yogi and Boo Boo.
“This is so awesome!” My sister-in-law, Sarah, gushed as we pitched a tent at 3 AM.
“No, this sucks!” I retorted as I grabbed a blanket and made camp in our rented van.
The next day, we drove into Anchorage to pick up a few supplies, with everyone else getting food, water, paper products, first aid kits, bug spray – things needed for survival. Me? I bought a butane powered curling brush. If I was going to wrestle a bear, well by golly, I would not go down with bad hair.
The Alaskan adventure was years ago. I’ve only been camping one time since, and that was when my now late husband, John, convinced me to join him and our two sons for some woodsy wonders about two hours from home.
“You’ll be fine, Hon,” John promised. “There’s a nice port-a-potty right next to where we’re camping.”
Ha, now that was a good one. I might have flunked Camping 101, but I did know this: there’s no such thing as a nice port-a-potty. Please! Words like “nice” and “port-a-potty” do not even belong side-by-side in a sentence.
It stormed like crazy, too. One of those violent summer storms with cloud-to-ground lightening. From this I concluded that there was only one good thing about being hunkered down in a tent, surrounded by towering pines while Mother Nature throws a hissy fit of major PMS proportions– it’ll sure kick up your prayer life a notch or two.
“Oh, this sucks!” I said as I grabbed a blanket and made camp in our own SUV.
Speaking of prayer, I realize that Jesus was probably a camper. Considering all the miles He and His disciples traveled on foot, they most likely had some nights when they stopped to make camp. That’s cool – for them – but if I’d been along, Jesus would have put me on the first donkey home. He might have even added another commandment to the Big 10 – Thou Shalt Stop Whining.
Seeing how I would have probably asked the Lord Himself to book me at the Hilton Galilee, you understand that I really do hate camping. People say it’s so relaxing, but it just strikes me as doing all the work you do at home times ten – except you’re doing it outside in either pouring rain or penetrating heat, sometimes in the company of certain locusts that only show up once every 17 years -- or whatever year I'm camping.
My mother-in-law, Betty, used to be an avid camper who would often grade the papers of her high school English students while at the drop-from-wall table inside the family’s camper, where it was often parked in the mountains around Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This memory makes me wonder if I could ever write while camping. Let’s think about that. One, two, three … NO.
I have, however, incorporated my hatred for camping into my writing. Part II of the Heart Tides Series, “Seeking the Shore,” finds one of the characters out in the woods, where he fears the sumac, counts the howls of coyotes, and wonders just where in the north the North Star really is. Issues I could sympathize with. I felt sorry for him … and he was a villain.
Writing the scenes was difficult, though. As a writer who hopes to add depth to scenes …who wants the reader to truly feel what the character is experiencing … I had a really hard time with this.
Because it made me itch.
Even now, writing this blog post about camping is making me itch and wonder if that potted greenery in the corner is really poison ivy posing as a peace plant. It could happen, folks. At least, it could happen in the mind of a writer of fiction. Imagination is a powerful thing.
I need some repellant. I think it’s in the cabinet of my bathroom vanity, right next to that butane powered curling iron, which is the closest thing I’ve got to a souvenir from Alaska.
I will say there’s one thing I could do while writing … eat some S’Mores, but only the non-camping kind. (Somebody go heat up the stove.) And in closing, I have heard of an outdoor activity called glamping, or luxury camping, where you combine traditional camping with traditional posh. Some fabulous to your frontier. Some plush to your primitive. Some rah rah to your rustic. If glamping is a real thing, I'm open minded - as long as my glampsite looks like this.
Sign me up. I'll even bring my laptop.