Most outdoor enthusiasts would expect me touting how awesome it is to be in the wild, with just some synthetic material separating my family from the elements. They’d expect me to type away about the great smell of a forest – that sort of thing.
But actually, camping, to me, sucks. Not unlike the ticks that try to claim our blood as their food while on camping trips.
Over Memorial Day weekend we packed up the truck (twice so everything could fit) and pitched our top-of-the-line tent in a state park in southeastern Wisconsin. We set out our tent, and began to follow the “user friendly” instructions.
It didn’t take long to figure out that one of our tent poles was broken. Once my blood pressure settled back to a safe level, we made a trip to a local sporting goods store to find a universal tent pole fixer.
“No problem,” I thought. “Just a minor setback.”
After all, the clerk said that it’s an easy fix and set us on our way. What he “forgot” to tell us that the kit for fixing the pole, did not include tape, which a person needs to attach the pole line in order to thread the bungee cord through the pole.
“Maybe he never really fixed a pole,” I told my wife, Lisa, trying to maintain composure.
I flagged down a park ranger and asked him to bum us a little tape, which he did.
“Good luck threading that cord through the poles,” he said, with doubtful snicker
Obviously, he had campers before with our same dilemma. In an act no less than a gift from God, the tape held and our anchor pole was set. After that, we got the tent set up with no profanity yelled from me, and no arguments with my spouse.
So our base camp was set. Coolers were unloaded, and Jiffy Pop was popping. Everything was now going swimmingly – surely our luck had changed.
The campfire began to die, thanks mostly to rain, and we retired for the evening into our top-of-the-line, rain-sealed tent, for a dry sleep.
It was about midnight when the first of many drops of rain fell on my forehead.
We all got up eventually due to the smell of bacon frying (nice) and the sounds of campers arguing (not so nice). Day two was upon us.
It went pretty well. No one got poison ivy, no ankles were turned, and no tents failed (again). But then winds picked up, just as we were cooking chicken over the campfire, and the Doppler radar on my iPhone revealed huge red patches of rain, lightening, and gale force winds coming in minutes.
We drove to my home for shelter, which was only a few miles away, and slept there. We camped close to home on purpose, as insurance, for just such an occasion (I win, Mother Nature).
The next day went well. We swam. We fished. We hiked. The problem was that when we were doing that, the camper south of us killed a 24-pack of Miller Lite. He made some rotten comments to us and I nearly got in a fight, but luckily park rangers swarmed the site and escorted the drunk back to his beer den.
Did I mention that sand infiltrates every inch of a tent? In our case, it was wet sand, too, from the rain.
We ended the weekend wet, a bit crabby, and too full of carbs from too many pudgy pies.
Want to know what saved it? Want to know what will make me endure camping next year?
The kids. They started all of our fires with flint and tinder. They built forts. They ran around with squirt guns. They ate over an open fire when the rain didn’t douse it.
Some people may think that I am a masochist for ever camping again. I prefer just to say that us camping parents will endure anything for the happiness of our children. I’ll just say it’s worth it, because for just one moment, kids get to be kids – wild and free.
I wonder if next year I can get the same site reserved?