When I was in fifth grade, I wrote a scathing expose on camping and got to read it in class. Everybody thought it was hilarious. I can’t remember what all I said, but the gist of it was: I hate camping. I really hate camping. Also, camping sucks. Which is why I hate camping. So much.
This was the first time I truly realized the power of a number 2 pencil and Trapper Keeper-compatible loose leaf paper. My highly unscientific hypothesis was: People like to laugh. I can make people laugh. Therefore, people will like me.
I wish I had a copy of my essay on camping, but it has most likely disintegrated by now, considering how many times I read it to a captive audience. (By “captive” I don’t mean “fascinated by” so much as “prevented from fleeing.”)
Here in the Pacific Northwest, people see camping as a way to loosen the shackles of society, commune with nature, catch a rare glimpse of a star-filled sky, and sleep in tents. That all sounds great (apart from the sleeping on the ground aspect), but unlike any camping I’ve ever experienced.
When I was a kid, my dad would hook our pop-up camper to the trailer hitch on the car and away we’d go to the KOA Campgrounds in uber-exotic Wiggins, MS. Once we’d parked in our assigned spot, we’d set up camp. This involved popping up the camper and erecting a tarp cover to shade the picnic table, complete with a snazzy string of plastic fruit lights. (My mother never met a place she couldn’t decorate.)
My first order of business was scoping out the nearest bathroom facilities (some things never change). If we were lucky, there’d be a sketchy looking building with toilets and showers fairly close to “home.” One of the stereotypes of Southern folks is that we don’t have running water. Well, I’m here to tell you we do. In the wilderness, no less.
The next item on my agenda was chasing squirrels. Not for supper. Just for fun.
One of the selling points of the Wiggins campsite was that it featured a lake with sandy beaches. Since I’d always associated sandy beaches with oceans, I once tried to teach myself to surf using the lid of a Styrofoam cooler. I made a valiant effort, but, alas, it was not to be. Turns out that surfing requires, well, surf.
I can’t remember what all we ate when camping, but I do know that our food was cooked on my dad’s trusty propane Coleman Stove. As it turns out, a propane stove can be quite useful in a crisis. When Katrina knocked out the electricity at my parents’ house, my dad used his to cook up ham and eggs, and more importantly, coffee. “Eggs?” I asked. “Where are you keeping eggs?” My dad: “In the cooler.” Me: “Of course.”
Seeing as I’ve never been a fan of dirt, insects, public showers, and propane-tinged food, the only thing that made camping remotely bearable was when we brought along our portable color TV. My dad claimed that my sister and I were the only people in the entire history of camping who couldn’t stand to leave the TV at home. What? Other folks were content to miss an episode of “Mork and Mindy”? Seriously?
I do understand why people might choose to stay at campsites to economize while traveling on vacation. But, y’all, the campsite WAS our destination. I still can’t fathom how cramming four hot, cranky, occasionally TV-deprived people into a pop-up camper constitutes a vacation. Now that I think about it, maybe my dad was trying to give us an idea of what Hell might be like so we’d do our best not to wind up there.
Did you go camping as a kid? Would you voluntarily go now? What’s the one item from civilization you’d find it most difficult to part with?
Photo Credits, Flickr Creative Commons: Camping sign by Susan Hunt, Bathhouse by Amy the Nurse, TV by Eric Albee
I Love Not Camping luggage tag by Anne Taintor available here.