Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Camping Never Gets Better...

This column oringinally appeared in the Mansfield News in August 2004.

I must either love my wife beyond all reasonable boundaries, or I am deathly afraid of her. No other reason can possibly explain my actions.

I am sitting here alone at a warped picnic table at 6:30 am in the beautiful woods of Maine. As I type my weekly missive, I am left to consider perhaps the greatest and most baffling question facing all of mankind today:

Why do people camp?

Those who have perused this space over the years know my position on this back-to-nature train of thought. If God had truly wanted us to sleep in tents, on the ground and outside, he would never have created hotels. This is known as the Holiday Inn Theory of Evolution.

Yet here I sit at dawn on a beautiful Sunday morning, fresh from my five-minute hike to what passes as a bathroom in these primitive surroundings, and I am alone. In the tent behind me my beloved tries to sleep despite my constant zippering and unzippering of the tent to retrieve some important item. The tent to my right reverberates with the ungodly snoring of my eldest son and his girlfriend. It must be her – males in my family never snore.

To be fair, I did offer to come along this year on the annual camping trek. It has been several years since I braved the wilds of Maine, much to the relief of our fellow campers. But my wife loves this unnatural activity, and since my son could only stay a few days, I decided she might welcome my company.

If you asked either of us this morning, you might get a different take.

I discovered this year that of the 40 or so camping regulars who make this annual pilgrimage, we are apparently the only ones left who sleep in tents. The others have invested in camping trailers or RVs, or rented similar equipment.

While they store their food in nice cupboards and place their perishables in small refrigerators, we live out of something less efficient and pleasant. Our dry goods are in stackable plastic bins secured to prevent marauding wild animals. Our perishables are stored in an ice chest the size of a small coffin. The highlight of each day is the trip to the local IGA store for life-giving ice.

Our site is on the shore of a beautiful lake, and the view is truly magnificent. Last night we had a perfect view of the rain and lightning as it quickly rolled over us, trying to thwart my son’s meager attempt at a campfire.

On our first night, my wife left with her friend to make a quick trip to the store. She returned three hours later, thus breaking the primary camping commandment: Thou shalt not leave Bill alone while camping (though she claims since my son and his significant other were here, there was no violation).

So last night I sat around a small fire, gazing longingly at my cell phone that refused to work up here in Moose Country. I spent much of the evening contorting my body in unusual ways, attempting to get my headphone radio unit into a position where it could receive the signal of the Red Sox game.

Now I sit here calmly watching while our friends climb into boats and head out to fish, another activity I have never really been able to embrace. I have been awake since 6 am, when a crow decided to locate directly above our tent and apparently begin broadcasting on the EBN (Emergency Bird Network). His shrill shrieks, in perfectly timed bursts of three, will be in my head for weeks.

I know my wife, who was delighted when I announced my intention to come along this year, is inside our tent now reevaluating that decision. I have a strange feeling that next year, when the annual camping trip comes up, I will be asked to remain at home and guard the family compound.

It will be a shame to miss that camping trip, but after all – duty calls.

1 comment:

Cape Cod Gal said...

I HATE camping. If I have to do it, it will be for 1 night and 1 night only. The kind of "Gee that was fun, but I smell like wet smoke and I want to sleep without a rock under my ass tonight." I love to hike, but need to sleep in a hotel to do it. Oh and I need alcohol too. Lots and lots of alcohol. Mostly because it numbs the whole rock-ass thing.