Good Times Camping

campingBy Judy Berman

Tenting: I don’t do Spartan bravely. On these outings, I miss my warm bed, home-cooked meals, and indoor plumbing.

I wondered if we’d need a Sherpa to help us survive “roughing it” for several days in the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York. From the mound of stuff still to be packed, we’d definitely need a trailer to haul it off.

This is from the way-back files when our girls were little, but the memory burns as brightly as the campfires we sat around at night.

About 200 miles into our trek, I realized I’d left my pillows and air mattress at home. Groan!

When we returned home, I shared my woes with my neighbor. But he just clucked unsympathetically, “What, no water bed?” I rolled my eyes. That was absurd. The TV and the vacuum cleaner took up all the room in the trunk.

The camping area, built at a 90-degree angle on the side of a mountain, was not the remote, idyllic spot to pitch a tent that I’d imagined. It looked like tent city.

There was no privacy. Our tents were so close that I could hear the guy next to our campsite lick the stamps for the postcards he was writing by the firelight.

I opted to sleep in the car while my husband used my sleeping bag for a pillow. Our girls nodded off an hour before, tuckered out by the day’s activities. Actually, I slept rather well, except for: the discomfort, my intolerance for frostbite, and an unrelenting need to “take a pause for the cause.”

campgroundThe latter caused me to wake at midnight and 4 a.m. At midnight, I fought the feeling and went back to sleep. By 4 a.m., it was no longer a question of choice. I left the car. As our only flashlight was in the tent, I groped toward the object of my quest.

Earlier that evening, on a similar errand, I’d gotten lost leaving the restroom as I headed toward our tent in a downpour. That time, I had the flashlight. So, understandably, I left the car with misgivings. I had no sense of direction and a magnum of suspicion.

Campers had complained about bears foraging thru the garbage cans for food. Not wishing to run into any wildlife, I double-checked every shadow to be certain the Masked Marauder wasn’t lurking in the bushes.

Then … a loud crash. I froze, unable to move … for what seemed like an hour. There, cloaked partially in shadows, was the Masked Marauder. We locked eyes.

Those beady eyes. I'd know him anywhere.

Those beady eyes. I’d know him anywhere.

His beady eyes were behind a mask. He had a long, pointy nose. I’d know him anywhere. It was a raccoon. He grabbed a bag of food from an insulated cooler and ran off, leaving a trail of groceries in his wake.

Boy, those folks are in for a rude awakening come morning.

Slowly, I stumbled back to the car.

Success!

The ultimate outdoors’ person successfully navigated the total distance from tent to john – in a direct line – of 200 feet.

About 2 hours later, I was awakened by screams from the neighboring tent.

“John!” a woman shrieked. “All our food’s gone. It’s scattered all over the campsite.”

Not to worry, I thought. The nearest Waffle House was just 15 minutes away. I’d checked the map as soon as we put the tent’s stakes in the ground.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo – Camping  – owned by Environmental Protection Agency  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/59/AZALEA_CAMP_GROUND_AT_DAWN_-_NARA_-_542727.jpg/640px-AZALEA_CAMP_GROUND_AT_DAWN_-_NARA_-_542727.jpg

Photo – Campground – owned by Environmental Protection Agency  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c5/LODGEPOLE_CAMP_GROUND_DURING_MEMORIAL_DAY_WEEKEND_-_NARA_-_542747.tif/lossy-page1-640px-LODGEPOLE_CAMP_GROUND_DURING_MEMORIAL_DAY_WEEKEND_-_NARA_-_542747.tif.jpg

Photo – Raccoon hiding in the branches of a maple tree – taken by Ken Thomas http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/81/Raccoon-27527-4.jpg/600px-Raccoon-27527-4.jpg

Camping, Anyone?

By Judy Berman

Ah, camping! Pitching a tent and communing with nature! As Memorial Day approaches, it’s a time when many begin to think about the great outdoors, the lure of the water and the call of the wild.

The last time I heard the call of the wild – it seems a lifetime ago – was when we pitched our tent in the middle of a square-dancing marathon. The strains of do-si-do still cause an involuntary shudder in our household.

Still, off we bounded with optimism in our hearts as we pitched our tent on the lake’s edge. Our eyes were bloodshot from absorbing the sights and sound that suburbia locked out.

These were some of the attractions of our camping grounds. The water was so far from our campsite that, on the return trip, I drank most of the water supply to fight off dehydration.

The bathrooms, which my children discovered a need for at 3 a.m. and 5 a.m., were so far removed from our campsite that I had to take them there by car. (This is when they were much younger.)

Low-flying helicopters buzzed the rec area during the day because some bright flyboy discovered that the showers had no shower curtains and no roof.

The dark spot on the horizon was an approaching rainstorm. The flashes of lightning looked so picturesque off in the distance across the lake. Our friend warned us about the slight shift of wind.

So we secured the tent, tied down the flaps, put most of our gear away and slipped into our sleeping bags, expecting to be lulled to sleep by the gentle patter of rainfall on our tent.

What we hadn’t anticipated was the slight shift of wind, predicted by our friend, that amounted to a gale force of 50 mph winds and rain that descended like a torrential downpour. The wind savagely whipped around our tent and uprooted some of our supporting frames.

We sought refuge in our car which really was not designed to hold two adults, two children and a St. Bernard.

When the rain stopped, we gratefully got out of our cramped quarters. Bad news. Everything, including our sleeping bags, was drenched. We packed up like thieves in the night and began our long haul home.

At 3:30 a.m., we finally arrived home. We peeled off our wet, sandy duds and tumbled into bed.

That experience still cuts through me like a knife. When anyone suggests in an upbeat, chipper tone that we go camping, I recall how our dog would bolt under the table and whine pitifully. To this day, all the rest of us still register panic in our eyes at the thought of a return to the great outdoors.

What family vacation makes you chuckle or dive for shelter? Comment below.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

* Main photo: Camping – Danielle and Jenn – Labrador Pond, Tully, NY

* camping – cooking http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Myaso_(2642493568).jpg

* Camping graphic – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Camping.png  Source: USDA Forestry Service website