I’m generally good at multitasking, but trying to write a column while simultaneously packing for a camping trip is harder than expected.
The phrase “harder than expected” reminds me of the cement pad we camped on a few years back, during a hurricane, when every hotel and camp site in the state were booked solid. After the first miserable night, we’d been so desperate for padding we ended up paying premium for an inflatable mattress. But only after first attempting to tether together Dollar Tree pool noodles into a makeshift mattress.
I remember making the long trek down from the mountain, where we bought the age-faded but still pricey mattress and pump from a convenience store, and then drove all the way back to our remote campground before realizing the pump to inflate the mattress required batteries. We attempted to inflate the mattress the old-fashioned way, but succeeded only in making ourselves lightheaded. Down the mountain we went again, to fork over even more money for overpriced batteries.
To fill a mattress that deflated a few hours later, during the night.
(I paused writing long enough to find that mattress’s replacement, along with the pump and some batteries, and put them among the growing mountain of equipment near our front door.)
Although we’re fairly seasoned tent campers, we often end up feeling like rookies compared to those who strike camp beside us. We’ve seen tents assembled with what seems like nothing more than a snap of the wrist. Fires lit from a single match. Gourmet meals cooked in a cast iron skillet and served on real dishes.
I feel accomplished if I remember to pack condiments and marshmallow sticks.
(Which I just paused to retrieve.)
It’s funny how roughing it requires so much gear. By the time we get on the road, the truck will be packed to the hilt with tents, hammocks, sleeping bags and the wide variety of trappings we can’t live without. River shoes. Hiking shoes. Flip-flops. Portable speaker. Bug spray. Gobs of first-aid supplies.
The other campers we’ll encounter will likely be a mixed lot. Some will set up sites that seem better appointed than most homes, while others (like us) will scramble to erect tents without poles and start campfires with wet wood using something they’ve siphoned.
(I’ve now added lighter fluid to my mountain and made certain the tent poles are there.)
And then there are the campers who seem to pride themselves on minimalism. I once watched a guy at a neighboring campsite gather a small bundle of twigs, which he secured with the hair band from his briefly released man-bun. He used the bundled twigs as a broom to sweep clean a space for his bedroll, which appeared to be made from colorful old rags. Later he disappeared into the woods and returned with a sack of what appeared to be dandelion greens — his dinner.
Which he kindly offered to share.
You meet the best sort of people at campgrounds.
Come Sunday night, we’ll be headed back home. We’ll be bug-bit and dirty, with muscles sore from hiking, twigs stuck in our hair and burrs in our socks.
And we’ll smell like campfire.