MY CAMPING CALAMITIES OR... How to barely survive Mother Nature in three tries.
Some people just are NOT cut out for Camping.Hiking in the wilderness, sleeping under the stars, foraging for your meals, and enjoying Mother Nature just isn’t for everyone.Especially ME.I need my creature comforts.I need a nice, soft bed, a flushing toilet, air conditioning, and an environment where I am NOT at the mercy of every insect within ten miles. Oh sure, I’ve gone camping a time or three… and at the end of each adventure, I swore to myself I would NEVER do that again… only to find myself cramming everything possible into my backpack for another weekend of hell. The very first time I went camping, I couldn't wait to go. I went out and spent a fortune on camping equipment. I was packed and ready to leave a week ahead of time. My boyfriend and his friends were seasoned campers, and were really into the whole ‘nature’ scene. There were ten of us in total, five couples, and everyone pitched in and did their share of chores around the campsite. We gathered kindling for the fire, fished for dinner (although we also brought along a cooler loaded with food) and set up camp so it was as comfortable as home.We pitched our tents in a circle behind the big logs we dragged into place to sit on, while toasting marshmallows around the campfire. It was easy to spot me in the crowd of ten.I was the one with the swarm of gnats around her head, constantly swatting at them, and running as fast as I could away from the occasional wasp, green headed fly or other insect with beady eyes and vampire fangs. These insects didn’t seem to bother anyone but me.We would all be drinking beer around the campfire, telling stories to scare us or make us laugh our butts off… and I’d be sitting there, swatting mosquitoes.I was also the only one dressed in layers of clothing to hide every available inch of exposed skin, surrounded by a cloud of insect repellent.But somehow, the bugs got me, and in the morning, I was covered in welts from forehead to toe, and scratching like a dog loaded with fleas. The first time I needed to use the bathroom, I asked one of the guys where it was.He thought I was joking, and played along.“It’s up there!Climb that hill, and you’ll see a really big log.Make a right at the log, and you’ll see a fork in the path.Take the left fork, and you’ll see it on your right.But take your own toilet paper!The raccoons usually steal it to line their nests with it.” I thought that was so cute!I decided I’d leave my roll of toilet paper in the bathroom on purpose, just so the baby raccoons would be comfortable and warm, thanks to my kindness! I began my trek up the hill, following the directions exactly.However, I never saw the bathroom!So I went back to the campsite and asked my boyfriend where the bathroom was, and he motioned his arms in a wide-open gesture.“Anywhere your heart desires!” he said. “You mean, there isn’t a BATHROOM?Not even an OUTHOUSE??” Needless to say, everyone had a good laugh at my expense, and I took off in a huff with the toilet paper roll crushed in my fist to keep me from throwing it at my boyfriend's head. Diane yelled to me to wait, and she came with me. We found an area to do our business out of view of the campsite.Diane simply yanked down her jeans and panties, squatted and peed, like she did it in the woods every day of her life. I did the same, and realized that I would have peed into my jeans and panties had I gone without looking down there first.For whatever the reason, I just couldn’t squat and go like Diane did.She dripped dry and returned to camp, leaving me standing near a tree with my jeans and underwear around my ankles.I felt like a helpless idiot.
I removed my jeans and panties from my right leg, and swung them over to the left, out of the way.I squatted again, and let a little bit of urine out.I was totally freaked out when I noticed it splashed up off the pine needles and dry ground, and left a few small mud splashes and a pine needle on my sock.I was obviously not meant to squat and pee in the woods. A brilliant idea flashed into my mind, as a green-headed fly stung me on my butt cheek.I grabbed onto a large tree branch, and squatted down, putting all of my weight onto the branch.I put the toilet paper into my hoodie pocket.I moved both of my feet forward, and hung my backside as far away from my sneakers as I possibly could. I got my butt as close to the ground as possible, to allow the barest minimum amount of splashing.I was a genius! I had a completely full bladder.When I was finished, I held tight with one hand on the branch, and using my chin and my other hand, I managed to remove the toilet paper from my pocket and unwind some from the roll.Just as I was finished doing my business, the tree branch snapped! Down I went; butt first, into a puddle of pee, mud, used toilet paper and pine needles! Everything splashed everywhere, and got onto everything.I was so grossed out, I started to cry, scream obscenities, and tried to get up off the forest floor and begin clean up at the same time.I had mud and pine needles in places I didn’t even know I had places.The one leg of my jeans that I removed was lying flat out in the puddle, doing a great job sopping everything up into the fabric. I got off the ground, cleaned up what I could with the toilet paper (which was now sitting in the dirt) and I limped over to the creek to wash up.
Being a Newbie at camping, I had no idea how cold creek water could be.Especially in early spring. (IT WAS FREEZING!!) But I took off my sneakers and socks and bravely waded in, sat on a rock, cleaned myself up and rinsed my clothes.I walked back to the campsite, soaking wet from the waist down, barefoot and approaching hypothermia.I went into my tent to change my clothes without a word to my hysterically laughing so-called ‘friends’.
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The second time I went camping, (after I swore I wasn’t cut out for it the first time I went!) it was mid summer, and we rented a campsite that had a real working bathroom just a hike away.Of course, everyone busted my chops that they had to go ‘sissy camping’ because of my inability to pee in the woods, but nobody complained when they took hot showers, either. We still pitched our tents, but I insisted on buying an inflatable mattress for the floor of the tent.Again, everyone teased me, but at least I didn’t have stones and tree roots sticking me in my back all night. (My boyfriend thought it was a brilliant idea, but still teased me in front of his friends. He was a jackass.) The second night, we sat on the dock and watched the sun set into the lake.It was a beautiful sight, and I was actually starting to enjoy myself.The gnats still swarmed around my head like a halo, and a dragonfly flew directly into my forehead and bounced off and landed into the water where a fish snatched him up… but overall, I was beginning to relax and have fun.That is, however, until our friend Wayne stood up, stripped naked and dove into the water bellowing, “EVERYBODY SKINNY DIP!” I was leaning back into my boyfriends’ chest, and he suddenly leaped up as well, knocking me onto the dock where I whacked my head on the boards.I propped myself up on both elbows, watching all of our friends quickly tear off their clothing and leap into the ice cold lake, completely naked. Once everyone was neck deep in the water, they started to splash and tease me into joining them.I smiled and shook my head ‘no’, and tried to avoid seeing anyone’s nakedness.I guess I was a prude back then, but I’m still not comfortable skinny-dipping with anyone but my husband.So I guess I still AM a prude.Oh well… some things never change. Eventually, I began to pick up everyone’s clothing, and folded them into neat little piles along the dock, for lack of something else to do.While my friends frolicked naked in the cold water, I announced I was going back to camp to get everyone a towel.I was called a ‘chicken’, a ‘wuss’ and a ‘mother hen’, but at least I wasn’t bare-assed naked in an ice cold lake loaded with turtles, fish, weeds and slime.
I got to the campsite, and started to collect the towels off the makeshift clothesline where they were drying out from an earlier swim during the day.(With swimsuits!)The last towel fell off the line and landed on the ground, as I worked my way toward it.I held the towels over my left arm, and removed the other towels from the clothesline with my right.When I reached down to the ground to pick up the towel that fell, there was weight on the end of it. It was then I saw the goose. Yes, a full grown, hissing, nasty goose was sitting on the corner of the towel that fell to the ground.It was nearly dark now, and I couldn’t imagine why a goose of all things would be out this late, and sitting on a towel in our campsite.It’s my luck.It’s just my luck. I gave the towel another yank, and the goose took a step closer to me on the towel, and sat his butt down.“Come ON!Get off!”I shouted, and yanked the towel again. The goose remained seated, and stretched his neck towards me and let out a long, rattlesnake-like hiss.He looked mean enough to kill me.He was certainly big enough.I’ve never seen a goose this large in my life.(Not that I’ve seen all that many geese, but this one was surely a ‘Guinness World Record’ contender!) I yanked again on the towel, nearly flipping the goose backwards head over heels (if geese HAVE heels!) and pulled the towel out from under him.I noticed there was a big turd on the edge of the towel, and that made me angry.But, it seemed, not NEARLY as angry as the goose! He lunged at me, hissing like he’d lost his mind.I swear his eyes were glowing red and he would soon lunge for my throat!I screamed, turned and ran at top speed, with this enormous Volkswagen sized goose chasing after me! I jumped over rocks, fallen logs, and around picnic tables like an Olympian.I leaped over the creek in a single bound!I weaved through trees, under branches and through thigh-high weeds without pause.The goose was still giving chase, and was beginning to catch up to me!This must indeed be The Goose From Hell. My heart was pounding in my chest, the heavy towels in my now numb arms felt like they weighed a ton, and I broke into a sweat.As I approached the dock, some of my friends were already out of the water, sitting on the dock, hanging their feet into the lake.I ran out of the forest, screaming like a crazy person, which brought everyone’s attention to me in time to watch me slip on some gravel, and fall like a tree onto the pile of towels I held in my arms.Behind me came the German Shepherd sized goose! My friends screamed and leaped back into the lake, and I got up just in time to avoid having this insane goose sit on my back and pluck my hairs out of my head or worse! I left the towels on the ground and ran at full speed onto the dock, and did a belly whopper into the lake, fully clothed.My friends were laughing like lunatics, as the goose sat back down on the top of the pile of towels, and was hissing at us not to come near it. That night, the story of the goose was the topic of conversation and jokes. Everyone agreed that an oversized, evil, maniacal goose would never have appeared at dusk in our campsite to sit on one of our towels, if it were anyone else but ME.WHY these crazy things always seem to happen to me has been one of the great-unsolved mysteries of my life… and they haven’t stopped happening yet.
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The third (and final!) time I went camping, it was a spur of the moment, scorned woman-left-behind knee jerk reaction.In other words, our boyfriends decided they were going camping, and didn’t want the girls to go with them.
So, we borrowed as much camping equipment as we could get together in an hours’ time and headed for the wilds of the New Jersey forest to spite the guys.If they could camp out without us, we could camp out without THEM! It was a late summer afternoon with just a hint of autumn in the air. But we were determined to camp overnight without our boyfriends, so we lugged our gear out onto a narrow spit of land which jutted out into a crystal clear lake. We gathered kindling and logs to start a fire.We brought along a cooler of beer, some hotdogs, buns, and a bag full of snacks and munchies. We set up camp, pitched our tents, and kept congratulating each other on a job well done!We’ll show THEM!! As the sun was setting, a fine mist started to drift across the peninsula we were camping on.We were surrounded on three sides by the lake, and the only access on or off of the peninsula was barely 18 feet wide. (Alice measured.) By dark, the mist turned into a fog that chilled us to the bone, and scared the hell out of us at the same time.We couldn’t see more than ten feet in any direction around us, and nobody needed to say what we were all thinking:If a predator came onto our narrow spit of land, the only way to escape was by jumping into the lake and swimming to safety on the other side – in the dark.I don’t think I was ever so frightened. We all sat huddled close to the fire, trying to keep the stories funny and light in topic.We refused to break camp and head home, or the guys would win, and we would never live that down.So we decided to double up in the tents, and stay the night regardless of what happened. Judy and I climbed into Judy’s brother’s tent.We stared up at the inside of the tent; the moisture from the fog was reflecting the moon and the fabric sparkled.She reached up and wrote her name in the dampness.I reached up and drew my trademark signature icon:A smiley face.We played tic-tac-toe, and drew pictures until the entire inside of the tent was full of graffiti.Within a few moments, I realized my back was soaking wet.Judy and I burst into laughter, as we realized our writing on the dew inside of the tent allowed the water to drip down to the floor, soaking us completely. We climbed out of the tent, laughing at our naiveté, which brought the other girls out of their tents to see what all the commotion was about.Judy and I changed clothes, and hung up our bed linens to dry.We sat by the fire to warm up, and were soon joined (again) by the rest of our crew. We huddled together, and went off into the fog to gather more wood in teams.We decided to stay awake all night, and feed the fire to stay warm.The fog was becoming thicker as the hours passed, and we were all bundled up in layers of clothes and wrapped towels and blankets around ourselves.It was cold, and the fog made things look like the perfect setting for a Stephen King Novel.We tried to stay upbeat and brave, but we were all afraid. Suddenly, from somewhere across the fog enshrouded lake, came a scream!We all screamed in reply and huddled closer to each other around the fire! “What was THAT?!” Diane shouted, her eyes darting in every direction at once. “I think it was an animal’s mating call.” Judy replied, trying to pass it off as nonchalantly as possible. “What kind of animal makes that kind of sound?” Sharon asked as he pulled her blanket closer around her shoulders. “Um.A raccoon.Yeah.It must be a raccoon.” I answered.
"That doesn't sound like any raccoon I've ever heard." whispered Alice.
We poked at the fire, and kept looking around in every direction into the thick fog, and never felt so isolated or helpless.We told inane stories, played word games, and even tried singing.Nothing quite took our minds off the sounds of the forest around us. The animal in the distance screamed again.We all jumped. “Barb, are you SURE it’s a raccoon’s mating call?” I swallowed deeply and puffed up like the brave one of the group.“Sure.It’s definitely a raccoon’s mating call.” The animal screamed a third time, and this time; it seemed to scream for an hour. “Will someone go screw the raccoon already!It’s scaring the shit out of me!”Judy screamed. We all laughed until we had tears in our eyes.Once we all started to laugh and joke around, we weren't so terrified. But at that moment, from behind us, our only connection with the mainland, we heard a large twig snap! We all looked back at the narrow opening, our only escape route except for the lake!Another large SNAP of a twig!Then another! And another! “Holy shit!Something is coming this way!”Sharon cried, as we all flung off our blankets and towels, and gathered together in a tight group on the side of the fire furthest away from the sounds of twigs snapping! “I KNOW I’m not imagining this.”Diane whispered “No, no.I hear it too.Something is coming this way!" " Maybe it’s a bear!” “Where should we run?Should we split up so it can’t kill all of us?” Judy bent down and pulled a sizeable stick from the campfire, which was red-hot with flame on the other end. “Great idea!Find weapons!” The five of us scurried, looking for whatever would make a good weapon to defend ourselves from the unknown creature approaching us. SNAP!SNAP!CRACK!SNAP!The unmistakable sounds of twigs and branches being broken underfoot was fast approaching our group of friends.We were terrified. We were huddled together, holding our makeshift weapons in our hands, ready to do battle. Suddenly, we saw the bobbing of a flashlight through the fog.I sighed with relief. “It’s a person, not an animal!Whew!”and started to put down the two bottles of Budweiser I was prepared to use as grenades. “He’s probably an axe-murderer!Or a rapist! Or an escaped Mental Patient!”Sharon whined miserably. “Well, unless he brought friends, he can only get one of us at a time.”Diane whispered. “Yeah, but who will be the first?” Alice asked, pushing her oversized glasses back up onto her nose. The SNAP and CRACK of the breaking twigs came to a halt as the bright flashlight played over us.Then we heard laughter! Two very tall (and very handsome!) State Troopers stood on one side of our campfire, and we stood huddled together on the other side with eyes as wide as tennis balls.It then occurred to us how absurd we looked, each of us holding our weapons, which consisted of beer bottles, a tent peg, a burning stick, a handbag, and a jar of Cheez Whiz. The one State Trooper was smiling, the other was actually giggling.The first one told us to put down our weapons, as they came in peace.The giggling Trooper broke into guffaws of laughter. We realized how ridiculous we all looked; hunched together, cold, damp, frightened, dirty, and looking just a little bit crazy around the eyes. The Troopers told us they spotted our fire from the main road, and came to investigate.We chose to camp in a State Park, and didn’t realize there was no overnight camping or fires allowed without first obtaining a permit.They called their dispatcher, and were advised no permits were issued for camping this night, and they came out to see if a fire was burning wild on our little peninsula of land. They were still laughing at us, (although they tried to hide it) and told us they would not issue a summons for trespassing, as it looked as if we weren’t having much fun. They helped us to put out the fire, and even carried some of our gear our to our car.We turned the heat up to HIGH and drove home, just as the sun began to rise. I believe “three strikes and you’re out”…also applies to camping.
Some people love it.They hike through the wilderness for weeks, eating wild berries and insects, bringing nothing but what they can carry on their backs.Some people take their RVs and swear it’s the only way to travel. Others are happy fishing by day and sleeping in a rustic cabin with just the bare necessities at hand.
I’ve tried camping three times, and I can bet you there will never be a fourth.I’ve done my share of feeding swarms of insects, fighting overweight birds, fearing for my life in thick fog, and sitting in my own urine.
In my opinion, Mother Nature is best viewed from a window… in air conditioning.
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