Thursday, June 13, 2013

Camping is fun if you like to pretend you're homeless

I’ve never quite understood why people love to go camping. For people who don’t know me, they may say, “Maybe it’s because you’ve never really been.” To which I respond, “I’ve camped more than you can imagine.”

One of my accomplishments I’m proud of is earning my Eagle Scout ranking. There are many things I learned in scouting that I still use today. In addition, I got to do things I never would have had the chance to do before. I learned how to cross-country ski, shoot a rifle (and even hit a target!), go whitewater rafting, and build a pinewood derby car.

I also learned I don’t like camping. It was something we did a lot—in fact we went on a camping trip once a month, every month.

I’ll admit some of them were okay. One of the better ones is where we hiked only about a mile into the mountains into this small valley that was filled with wildflowers. It was spring and so it wasn’t too cold or too hot. We played a game of “capture the flag” which was epic in scope.

And then there were other ones. One winter we hiked into the mountains, again, (I grew up next to the Rocky Mountains) and built camp in the snow. Some of the scouts made snow huts / tunnels to sleep in. I shivered the whole time we were there. I don’t think I slept at all. The fires we built were hard to keep going because we didn’t have a lot of dry wood. That, and we had to dig a pit in the snow for the fire. Once the fire would get going, it would melt the snow around the pit, causing water to go into the pit and put out the fire. Frustrating!

See how fun this looks?

The toughest camping trip was a hike into the Unita Mountains. I don’t recall how many miles it was, but it was quite the distance. We planned on being there three days. We camped next to a lake and for the first couple of days, everything was fine. There was a small island not far from the shore, and four of us boys wanted to sleep there the last night of the trip. The problem? How to get there.

We considered building a raft—but we didn’t have a way to lash fallen trees together. One of the scouts realize that the water wasn’t too deep between the shore and the island—we could walk there and the water would only be up to our waists. So, holding our backpacks over our heads, we walked to the island and made camp—thinking we were all awesome and tougher than the rest of the scouts who stayed on the shore. We started a fire and set our wet clothes out to dry and then called it a night.

Unita Mountains

I woke up to thunder that was so loud that it shook our tent. For the first time on the trip, it started to rain—and Mother Nature seemed to make up for any rain we would have missed over the last few days.

My waterproof watch told me it was a little after two o’clock in the morning. My friend, Tom, woke up as well. We noted how the rain was really coming down hard—and then realized our clothes and backpacks were outside.

We waited through the night, and the rain didn’t let up. If anything, it got worse. And we faced yet another problem: the scout troop was leaving at first dawn to go home. We couldn’t wait out the rain—we had to hope it stopped. Which it didn’t.

As soon as the sky started to brighten, we heard shouts from our leaders on the shore, telling us we needed to hurry and come back. I wasn’t sure why we had to hurry—it wasn’t like they were going to leave without us.

Once we got brave enough to look outside our tent, I understood why. The lake level had risen. In the downpour, the four of us on the island packed up our camp as quickly as we could. Our possessions were soaked, which made our packs even heavier.

My friend Tom went first to walk through the lake. The water had risen enough that instead of being at his waist, it was up to his neck. The distance wasn’t too far, but it was even harder now that the wind was blowing, causing waves to splash up while trying to hold an extremely heavy backpack over your head.

The four of us made it back to shore—exhausted. Yet, it was now time to hike back to the cars. It took us a good part of the day. I was cold. I was wet. I was tired. I was so sore, I had to force one foot in front of the other to keep moving.

When we finally arrived at the cars, I literally kissed one of them. That night, I was never so grateful for a warm, comfortable bed.

So, when my wife hints that she would like to go camping, I hope you can understand my reluctance.

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