Camping In Its True Form

March 15, 2010
By , Clarkston, MI
One day, as I listened to my friends describe idyllic scenery, deluxe RVs, and perfect relaxation, my head began to whirl in disbelief at the lies and mislead thinking portrayed by my friends. Jumping up, I exclaimed, “You call that camping!?” The group turned, their eyes wide with surprise. “I have been to sleepovers that would make your toes curl compared to that.” Their surprise soon turned to petrified horror as I continued, “Let me tell you about real camping! Camping with my family!” I let out a diabolical chuckle before narrating my own experiences with my grandparents.

“These new-fangled, air-conditioned deals deceive many innocents and make them soft to real camping,” I said with tears in my eyes. With pride, I told of the pop-up camper where so many memories had been created. Our camper had no heating or cooling and the refrigerator didn’t work. We relied on fans that only hit the person six inches in front of them, mounds of blankets for heat and tons of ice in coolers for our food. Another great feature was the beds. The two on each end were moderately comfortable and about the size of a double. They were surrounded by canvas walls that unzipped, exposing you directly into the cool night air. This was a wonderful addition as long as it wasn’t cold, rainy or windy. In that case, the canvas was no protection from the cold, it leaked and the bed would shake delightfully in the wind. The other two beds were narrower than twins and were made up of four lumpy cushions. You had to hug the wall in order not to fall off the edge. As my sister once said, “Once you get under the covers, it’s like sleeping in a straight jacket!” All-in-all the camper served its purpose of instilling the desire to be in the great outdoors.

“Another important detail of camping with my family is the location,” I said. Several years ago, my grandparents took me and my family camping in Arizona. They lured us there with exciting descriptions of majestic canyons and breathtaking views. They failed to mention the pit stop in Phoenix. I should have guessed something was up from the look in my Papa’s eye. When we reached the city, it was a balmy 120° with a wind that stopped mischievously when we entered. The campground was deserted of any sane campers and we spent the day trying to keep cool in a warm pool with a dead, sun-fried frog. “We have the place to ourselves!” my Papa joked. The campground manager took pity on us and, letting us use two huge, rotating fans, tried to make our stay more comfortable. We set them up outside the camper trying to create some type of wind but only succeeded in pushing the stale air around. Amidst the tossing, turning and staring at the ceiling with blood-shot eyes, sanity finally returned to my Papa. “We’re heading out!” he exclaimed. We quickly packed our bags, climbed into the van and drove off, sleeping comfortably in the bliss of an air-conditioned van.

When choosing a place to camp, don’t be deceived by the outward appearance. On the family trip to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, the weather was deceptively beautiful and warm, the waves were high and everything was set-up for the perfect, idyllic trip. I was fooled into believing that the curse of Dean camping might be broken. With a jolt of reality I found that I had hoped too soon. No sooner had our heads hit the pillows that night then the wind hit. That wind would’ve made a hurricane look like a tame kitten. Our camper sat amid the dunes and the sand swirled around us in the fierce wind. Our camper rocked and rolled but that wasn’t the worst of it. I awoke with the Arabian Desert coating me. I shook the sand off trying to get it out of my eyes. My Grandma yelled, “Zip-up the screens! Hurry!” I jumped to obey and tried to block every crack before I went back to bed. Five minutes later I rolled over into another gritty pile. I woke several times that night just to brush off another layer. By morning, we had sand in places we couldn’t properly itch and an inch covered the entire camper. We surveyed the damage of the night and found sand embedded in our food, in our clothes and our storage tent collapsed.

On a true camping trip, one must perform the correct outdoor activities. On Dean trips, we would hike everything, no matter where it went, in order to see nature at its best. My first major hike was the Grand Canyon at nine years old. With bags of trail mix, milk jugs full of water and wide-brimmed hats that dwarfed the small faces of my sister and me, we began. Going down wasn’t so bad, or so we thought. We soon watched as the trail grew and became steeper at frightening speeds before our eyes. It was all we could do to stagger our exhausted, fainting bodies into the small natural spring at the bottom. “We’re not going any further!” my sister and I cried. My mom began to make up stories in order to keep us walking. They were all about Rancid Robert and Rotten Rachael (I can only assume she meant me). They seemed to do my sister some good, but I can’t say I admired her choice of adjectives very much. Similar hiking experiences were found on Mt. Rainier, glacier trails in Canada, Bryce Canyon and many more. Even my little brother learned the joys and backache of hiking. He soon graduated from riding in the carrier on my Papa’s back and hit the trail with a staff in hand. He would shout instructions to those of us who would lag behind and cried “Woby!” whenever water was in sight.

At the end of my narrative, I sat with grim satisfaction and glanced around at the shocked and stunned faces of my audience. “That is camping! “ I declared. I was relieved that the truth had finally emerged from underneath the coating of lies and tall tales of camper idealism. My mission was now accomplished. I could see a new goal for my life spreading out before me: enlightening and leading others to the true joys found in experiencing the outdoors. I would blaze a trail of truth and hope for the faithful lovers of nature to follow with glad hearts. My pioneering venture would give birth to thousands of authentic campers. Camping could finally return to its true form.





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