Dow: The joys of camping


There are a few activities we do once a year — bowling, hiking Shrine Pass (now that’s a keeper), boating (rather sitting in inner-tubes drinking beer around anchored boats with our son and his friends who use their jet skis to buy more beer), and camping … whether we like it or not. 

Bowling has been permanently nixed after my husband tried to out-compete with one of our son’s friends who actually knew how to bowl. The bowling balls changed from the thumb and two finger holes to thumb and three. My husband tried to rip a crashing strike when his middle finger got stuck in the ball — disastrous for tennis as he couldn’t hold a racquet and even worse when he had to admit his bowling ball injury. 

His tennis friends would ask to see the fickle finger of fate, whereupon he would give them the bird. Boating, as described supra is boring, but it gives us a chance to visit and engage in live conversations without the interference from television or cell phones.  Camping … that is the high life … unless you go with us.

We just went to Hermit Park, the Cordillera of primitive camping, and even better if you remember to bring the tent.  There are two types of people:  slow and meticulous (difficile in French) who check, double check, cross all the T’s; and fast and perfunctory.  You can guess which one is which in our family.  We only had the rain flap after I had given my usual specific instructions (in one ear and out the other) prior to leaving by asking, “Do you have everything? Stakes and all?

Fortunately, a second bag had been thrown in which contained a spare pup tent.

The tent site was fabulous, surrounded by trees providing privacy, splendid vistas, great views for star gazing, beautiful mountains and meadows, and not too far from the potty (which I bypassed after the first night when some fellow campers left soiled diapers in the trash container).  Alors, the first night our blow-up mattress failed and we could feel every rock and pine cone to accompany our super hot day and a sleepless night. Of course, my famous last words had been, “Did you try out the air mattress?”

I am not totally innocent. Once when camping in that same pup tent in Denali over a Labor Day weekend, I said, “It must have rained last night,” as there were droplets forming on the inside of the tent. Not so. 

It was the condensation of our breath on an incredibly cold night.  We craved the first cup of morning coffee and we only had a portable Coleman one-burner canister propane stove. I said, “Let me make some oatmeal first,” and proceeded to tip the pan of porridge into the valve of the heat mechanism, thus ruining the stove.  I have never seen my husband cry, but that was a close call.

As an aside, our very first camping trip was at the Maryland Shore. We borrowed a tent and Coleman stove from Aunt Esther and Uncle Mel, my in-laws had given us some decent sleeping bags, (we later bought sub-zero sleeping bags after the Denali fiasco and we have never used them!), and we purchased a Styrofoam cooler for one dollar.  The weather was perfect and I was hooked on camping. 

The reverse situation came while camping at Virginia Beach years later when we encountered day upon day of rain. One man played the same musical phrase endlessly on his guitar and the bullfrogs sang all night.  We were stuck inside and poor old Fuzzy, our Old English Sheepdog, smelled up the tent after he got soaked. 

My sister drove down from Washington, D.C., to join us for one night, and it was one of the few times that we approved of her negligees and smelling like a perfume factory. She arrived late and had to sleep next to Fuzzy.  Needless to say, she never went camping again.

This year, the saving grace for Hermit Park was that our cell phones worked. Some friends who live nearby brought us a supply of beer and wine, so we proceeded to sleep fairly well. In conclusion, I give you my husband’s sagacious words:  Camping once a year, like bowling, is one time too many.

Marie Dow has been sashaying between Little Rock, Arkansas, Avon, and Missouri for many years, mainly chasing music, good snow and fine living. She recently taught at Gulf University for Science and Technology in Kuwait.


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