Monday, August 23, 2010

Not-Quite Campers

Camping, in my mind, is about as American as hot dogs at a baseball game. Well, as American as I am, one of those experiences will forever remain a mystery, and the other I am proud to add to my list of have-dones. Here's a clue: I have not consumed a weird link of red meat since approximately fourth grade.

We did our research (mainly by asking all of our camper-friends if we could borrow all of their stuff), and I'm still not sure why EVERY single person we told about our impending getaway started laughing. Like, out loud. I even remember one person saying, "you guys know that camping is outside, right?" Very funny. We get it. We're not exactly outdoorsy people. Well, we were about to prove everyone wrong. We could be outdoorsy. So we packed up and headed out. To a state park that had a hotel on the premises. Just in case.

With literally NO idea what to expect, we eagerly pulled up to a square patch of land. Were we in the right spot? Where the heck was the tent supposed to go? There's no possible way that this was the entire thing.

Well, after looking around, we quickly learned our place on the camping food chain. Our neighbors to the left had a humongous camper set up, complete with American flag lights illuminating their front entry way. The man of the site was sitting comfortably in his lawn chair sipping beer out of a can (the ultimate camping image), and his wife was sitting quietly knitting (a little weirder, but whatev.) These people hadn't left the site in at least a month. Probably longer. The family across the little dirt path had not one, but TWO deluxe looking tents. Each family member was going to get their own room in the first tent, and the second one was made completely of screen and comfortably held all of their food and supplies. We, on the other hand, came fully prepared with a single tent and a cooler. And so we got to work.

About an hour later, the tent was up, and the air mattress was blown up. In case you're wondering, a tent is supposed to look more like a pyramid than an oval, and an under-inflated air mattress is not sleep-conducive, even a little. Yeah, your tent isn't QUITE supposed to look like this:

Oh well, who cares? It worked just fine. And who needed fancy lights or deluxe tents, anyway? We had EACH OTHER. And we were CAMPING. (And oh yeah, NO- we didn't bring the boys. Another thing that people laughed at. We intelligently left them home. There was just no sense in forging unknown territory with two toddlers who sleep with their lights on.)

WOW! Things sure do get dark fast out in the woods. Between the darkest dark ever, the under-inflated mattress, the noise in the trees (bugs? frogs? Don't know, and don't care. But they were ridiculously loud), who could risk shutting their eyes? And I swear I heard raccoons walk across the edge of our tarp, which was also known as 6 inches from my face. When the sun came up and I realized I had been awake for the past 24 hours, I learned that my fellow camper had slept with a pocket knife next to his head, and had had visions of waking up to a bear looking him right in the face. Were these normal camping experiences?

At that point, he handed me the knife and told me to keep it in my pocket as I walked down the dirt path to buy us coffee and freezie pops. (Skip the judgements, please. Yes, we ate freezie pops on our camping trip.) I wasn't quite sure what he expected me to do with it, or even what I would have done had I been faced with the ultimate dangerous situation, but I was armed. So there I stumbled- bags under my bloodshot eyes (all that campfire smoke was killer), and the outline of a knife bulging out of the side of my leg, daring danger to come and find me.

Well, day two went surprisingly smoothly. We made breakfast sandwiches over the campfire, went hiking, had a picnic, tossed some beanbags into little holes, and hung out. No Blackberry, no Internet, no children, and NO hotel room! Just us, some trees, and some great people watching. We loved camping!

The next morning came quickly, and after finally having gotten some sleep (after passing out from pure exhaustion), we were ready to pack up and head home. Since we had never fully unpacked the car to begin with ("let's just keep everything in the trunk so that animals can't get to it"), the site took about 10 minutes to tear down. With visions of hot showers and clean sheets in our heads, we jumped in the front seats, and I turned the key. Hmmm, weird. I turned it again. Another note to self: If you don't drive your car for a few days, yet you keep opening and closing all of the doors and the trunk, your battery will die. We had been wondering all weekend why everyone had all of their stuff laying all over their site, instead of in their trunks. I guess we found our answer.

Luckily, Resident Camper to the left had a set of jumper cables, and was eager to help, snickering inside his head the whole time, I'm sure. I guess we're not quite campers, after all. But we're close. And we WILL try again. Maybe next time we'll even roast some hot dogs over that killer campfire.

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