94. Camping (Not That I’m Happy About It)

14 Apr

Disclaimer: Everything I have to say about camping in the South is based on my personal experience way back in the 1970’s. Here goes:

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.

Our campsite looked kind of like this,
only smaller and with plastic fruit lights.

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 ones in Wiggins, MS,
were slightly less grand.

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.

Me, Jenna, and her creatively named doll, "Denna."

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.

Somebody ought to
buy me this.

Every once in a while, I’ll hear people in Seattle planning weekend camping trips. They make it sound quaint, enticing, blissful even. Which starts me thinking, “Maybe it would be different without the scorching heat and 1000% humidity. I’ve long-since cured my TV addiction, and it would be nice to see actual stars again.” I might just be persuaded to try again, if it weren’t for this one thing: I hate camping.

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.

23 Responses to “94. Camping (Not That I’m Happy About It)”

  1. The Vintage Apron April 14, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    Lmao! I literally pulled your blog up and spit (sweet tea, no less) all over my computer screen…as out the window behind me sits our pop up camper…that looks remarkably like that one. Of course, my partner absolutely forbids me to hang any type of lights on it, fruit or otherwise (even those cute camping trailer ones I saw at Wal-Mart). However, I don’t do rustic…ours even has its own bathroom…and air conditioning… I absolutely refuse to sleep in a tent after one disasterous camping trip where I managed to sprain my ankle falling OUT of the tent…and sinking our canoe…or maybe they were two seperate trips… Anyway, love your blog!

    • Emili April 14, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

      This is awesome considering this is how most of my summer vacations were spent at the Buffalo River in N. Arkansas. I actually happen to love camping though and always think back on how much fun we had there and at Lake Ouachita.
      The one thing I didn’t like so much about camping was when my dad discovered we could ‘camp on the beach’ in Destin instead of wasting money on a condo. Yes, yes we pulled our camper all the way from AR to Destin. Thank God it wasn’t a pop up though. We had a nice larger one.
      Oh and I LOVE the Buckstaff Bathhouse pic you posted. That’s in my hometown of Hot Springs, AR. The National Park to be exact.

      • Kim Holloway April 15, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

        Hi Emili,

        Man, am I glad nobody ever told my dad that you could camp on the beach in Destin. Although I don’t think he would ever set a wheel on the beach again after that time he attempted to drive on sugar sand, and we were in the sweltering heat for hours trying to extract the car. Ah, memories!

    • Kim Holloway April 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

      Hi Vintage Apron, my apologies to your computer screen. I reckon I should post a warning. 🙂

      Oh dear, no lights? If anyone doubted that I’m my mother’s daughter, I’d point to the adorable flower lights around the window in my office.

      I’d ask how one could sprain an ankle falling OUT of a tent, but then someone might want me to describe how one manages to fall UNDER a car, while sober, no less.

      • Kim's Sister April 29, 2011 at 8:12 am #

        i don’t think falling Under the car was a sober event… 🙂

        • Sandy Thornton May 11, 2011 at 8:00 am #

          Believe it or not, Jenna, Kim was actually sober when she fell, or should I say, did a “split”, under that car. I do believe we were walking through the El Chico parking lot on our way inside to fix that little sober problem when one of Kim’s legs just shot out under the car and she went down in perfect split! It was almost like the leg was possessed or something. Definitely one of the funniest things I have ever seen! LOL

          • Kim Holloway May 12, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

            See, Jenna, unsolicited corroborating evidence!

  2. Tori Nelson April 15, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    “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.”
    Haha! So true. I was lucky. I’m told I pooped my pants on our first attempt at a family camping trip. It was pretty easy for me to get permission to stay with Grandma after that!

    • Kim Holloway April 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

      Damn, I wish I’d been that clever!!

  3. Todd Pack April 15, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    There are people who love camping and people who hate it, and they’ll never see each other’s point of view, ever.

    My parents went camping once before I was born and hated it. I didn’t go until I was an adult, and I think it’s great. Our kids (ages 11 and 5) love camping, too — love walking in the woods, playing in the creek, making s’mores, roasting hot dogs, telling ghost stories and using a flashlight to walk through the campground to the bathroom at night and listening to the radio and playing Go Fish inside the tent before bed. If that sounds awful to you, there’s absolutely nothing I could say to convince you otherwise.

    P.S. I really like your whole blog, by the way. It’s good stuff.

    • Kim Holloway April 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

      See, this what I mean about people making camping seem fun. 🙂

      I love walking in the woods, making s’mores, roasting hot dogs, telling ghost stories, listening to the radio and even playing Go Fish. I just can’t come to terms with that “not so fresh feeling” that comes from being in the great outdoors for more than a day or so.

      P.S. Thanks so much for the compliment. I enjoy reading your blog, too!

  4. Debbie April 16, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    Funny stuff, Kim! We weren’t a camping family; we were a fishing family. I hated fishing about as much as you hated camping. I’d bring along a stack of books, sit on a blanket beneath a tall tree, and read (while swatting flies, ants, and mosquitoes!) Not much of a vacation, and my son can thank me for never subjecting him to the likes of it!

    • Kim Holloway April 19, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

      In general, I just think it’s a good policy not to be outdoors in the South anytime between May to October unless absolutely necessary. (Like if you have to drive to the sno-cone stand, for instance.)

  5. lisa in alabama April 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    My Alabama-born husband grew up HATING camping. This was probably due, like you said, to the 1000% humidity down here, and sleeping on the ground. His family went to Disneyworld in Florida in the middle of summer, and in true 80’s style, camped at the KOA to save a few clams. They woke up sweating and gasping for air in the sweltering greenhouse effect of the tent, and everyone was crabby all day. His memories of Disney include hugging Mickey and crying. Another of his camping memories, though I’m not sure if it was the same trip or not, was his dad gathering up a soggy flooded tent, bedding and all, and throwing the whole tangled mess into the trunk before a very quiet ride home. You’ve gotta give it to ’em for trying.

    I grew up having great camping experiences every summer, so was thrilled that he finally decided it was worth another try, especially if you go to the right places at the right time of year, and plan ahead well for food, supplies, tunes, ambience, activities, and weather-appropriate clothes and bedding. We make campfire curries, listen to great music on a portable ipod dock, and bring our bikes along for day trips. He’s become a fire-building pro. And now he LOVES camping. He actually took it upon himself to research and buy a vintage Airstream trailer that we took out to California and back, camping all the way. So, good news, Kim – there’s hope for your relationship with camping yet!

    And I agree, the lights are the best part. We have pink plastic flamingoes, Japanese paper lanterns, and a sweet string of multi-colored lights made of spent shotgun shells that I found on a shopping trip with both of our mothers when mine came down to visit last fall. We slipped the shotgun shell lights into his Christmas gifts, but for some strange reason they disappeared shortly afterward. When I ask him he just keeps changing the subject. Something about rednecks. 🙂

    • Kim Holloway April 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

      I’m shocked that your husband would give camping another shot after his traumatic childhood experiences. (Hugging Mickey and crying. Awwwww.)

      I do think that given the right people in the right place at the right time with the right stuff, camping might not be horrible. Maybe.

      Please tell me where one might acquire shotgun shell lights. That’s hilarious!

      • lisa in alabama May 11, 2011 at 4:26 am #

        Sorry for the delayed response…been a heck of a coupla weeks down here! Tornadoes missed us, but power was out for days, the school I work at was closed for a week, and now I’m still trying to get caught up! Fortunately all of our staff and student families are safe.

        The shotgun shell lights we found at a random store here in Alabama actually came from California, of all places. I guess I was expecting West Virginny. Or even Wyoming. But I’m sure there’s no shortage of crazies with 12-gauges in California. Anyway, you can find ’em here:


        Or send me your address and I’ll send you mine. I was hoping they’d grow on him, but because he really and truly will not let them near his Airstream. Not for fear of blowing the blame thing up, but for fear of starting down the slippery slope to redneck-dom.

        • Kim Holloway May 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

          Glad to hear that all your folks are safe.

          Those lights are hilarious. And I love how they point out that their lights have 15 more lights than their competitors’. More than one company is making shotgun shell lights?

          I can’t say that I blame your husband. That slope is pretty darn slippery!

  6. reelingintheyears.wordpress.com April 19, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    Trapper keepers, color TV and fruit lights! Love it.
    Agreed, camping is just downright unnatural. I like nature best viewed from a distance, as through a spa window.

    • Kim Holloway April 29, 2011 at 11:28 am #

      Agreed! A spa window is the perfect vantage point from which to view, well, anything.

  7. Kim's Sister April 29, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    I can’t believe you didn’t add the picture of you, me and “Denna” sitting on the step of our camper that I have posted on facebook! It would have been perfect. My favorite part of that camper was when we would actually crank it open in the woods behind our house and use it as a playhouse with Bethany and Christie…come to think of it; we probably would have much preferred to just open it up there instead of taking the road trip to Wiggins. Because, as you left out on here…the other part of our vacations almost ALWAYS involved the car or the camper breaking down/having a flat tire/getting stuck in the sand…which resulted in us sitting for hours on the side of some road while Dad somehow figured out how to fix the situation. Oh, and for the record, I have that luggage tag…somehow my husband Shawn thinks it should be taken off when HE take the bag on a business trip…Geez! The NERVE! 🙂

    • Kim Holloway April 29, 2011 at 11:47 am #

      I’d forgotten that pic was on Facebook, but I’ve included it now. Now that you mention it, we probably spent more time in the makeshift camper playhouse than our actual playhouse, which I think might’ve been plagued by the same bee problem that prevented us from using the swingset.

      When I was writing this, I realized I had far more than a blog post worth of material on camping. I’ll have to expand this into a full blown essay one of these days.

  8. Tiffany November 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    I went camping one time then decided to purchase a t-shirt with the terribly hard to answer question across it – “Camping… what’s the point?!”

    • Kim Holloway November 7, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

      That IS hard to answer!

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