I have a confession. I grew up in Northern California and I’ve never camped. I have slept in a tent before. It was more for survival however...not as a means of leisure. I know. It’s disgraceful. It’s amazing that I am still allowed to call myself a Californian. It’s not my fault though. My mom grew up camping every summer with my grandparents and was so traumatized that she vigilantly shielded my brother and I from sharing her experiences. However, in mom’s defense- I have gotten to experience countless other methods of enculturalization and am not too damaged from my lack of camping.
So, two weekends ago I was taken to the southeastern corner of Minnesota for my first camping excursion. I would like to think it was because my boyfriend and very few friends here in the middle genuinely wanted me to experience all the things they love about "roughing it" and spending a few days in the great outdoors enjoying God's country. BUT...something tells me it was more for their sinister enjoyment...getting to watch me camp... than my new life experience. Regardless...we went.
1- VARIETIES OF CAMPING:
First of all...I had no idea that there was more than one style of camping. There is "Camper Camping" ...which I think in California we just call "RVing" ...then there is "Tent Camping".
And then there is regular camping or I don't know what they call it...backwoods camping?....super camping? extreme camping?- it's the kind of camping where you don't stay at a campground- you just drive into total desolation until your vehicle can go no further and then you walk with all of your gear to the most remote spot you can find. Bears, snakes, pine cone toilet paper...it's rugged. We opted for the regular tent camping...so there were bathrooms, showers, but we still cooked outside and slept in tents.
It's a real vacation.
My friend, Kara, is a camping nazi. She had a four page list of all the supplies we would need for two days of camping. TWO DAYS. I was totally planning to bring a sleeping bag...some shorts...and my flip flops. Maybe some cheetos. I wasn't even thinking about bringing a pillow until I saw her list. Dishsoap, pots, pans, paper towels, hand sanitizer, hot dogs, cheese, playing cards, milk, camping chairs (which are apparently different than regular chairs?), spices, wireless internet routers, canopies, kleenex, footballs, golf clubs, ziplock bags, passports, pitch forks, small unloaded fire arms, band-aids, futons, cookie dough, bicycles...let's just say that had there been a natural disaster or an international security crisis we could have survived for WEEKS on hot dogs alone.
And...at least we would have had a futon to sleep on.
So we spent two nights sleeping under the stars...well, in tents under the stars. I have to say putting up a tent was a lot easier than I anticipated. I mean it looked easier. I helped...Okay, I observed, but next time I know I'll be ready. The first night was perfect. It was a little chilly out but not too cold so I slept great...until about 3 in the morning when I realized that the air mattress camping nazi Kara and I were sleeping on had morphed into a chalupa and, while it was still retaining some air, most of the air was only supporting random parts of my body. So...we spend the night in a taco shell. But we slept (sort of).
Then night 2...it was even cooler outside, which I was quite pleased with... I like to sleep cold. We gave up on the chalupa mattress and decided to brave it on the ground. Just us... a tent floor and our sleeping bags... and the fifteen sheets Kara packed. So we get to sleep (exhausted from the night before) and about two hours later...the storm moves in. Like a freaking midwest monsoon. Our tent shook violently and leaked...or rather gushed... all through the night. Only our tent. Chad slept just fine. Eric...slept like a rock. Matt and Wendy...well they had a double air mattress so they practically slept like they were at the Hyatt. But...Kara and I...we collectively occupied the space of a small child in our 8-10 man tent just trying to avoid the Chinese water torture leaking through our roof. Awesome. We woke up to wet pillows...wet clothes...and really sore joints. Thank the good Lord for the automatic hand dryer in the fully equipped camping bathroom.
So..for approximately 48 hours (actually it was more like 36) I camped. I think Bear Grylls would have been proud. I did not bite the head off of a small reptile, but I did eat pizza cooked on a camp fire (AMAZING). Drifted down a river in a large non-life saving floatation device. Had absolutely no cell phone coverage. Brushed my teeth outdoors. Swam across a large flooded rock quarry. Rode my bike in the dark with my toiletries hanging on the handle. Slept outdoors (sort of). Dried my clothes on a clothesline (right up until it rained). And ate a taco in a bag.
I come home and share my camping war stories and people just smile and share their camping stories...all of which involved leaking tents, packing too much food and mediocre air mattresses. Go figure. I still don't understand, but at least I survived.
I'm still not sure about the backwoods camping stuff. Not really my thing. I'm pretty attached to toilets and running water.