Sunday, June 21, 2009

World’s Shortest Camping trip.

In Friday night Sunny and I decided, totally on a whim, to go camping the next day. We'd bought all our gear over the past few weeks, so our plan was to get up early on Saturday morning, run to the store for food and ice for the cooler, and just head off to a local campsite for the remainder of the weekend.

We drove past a bank sign and the following conversation took place:

"We are totally off our f**king rockers, you know that, right?" I said.

"Why?" Replied my darling wife.

"Because we're going tent camping, it's eleven in the morning and according to that sign, it's already 96 degrees."

Oh well, I thought…It's always cooler in the mountains.

Our first stop was Devil's Fork National Park, and it looked like an absolute paradise. The tent pads were all right on the water, literally just a handful of steps away… which made it a huge shame that it was completely booked up. It was a long shot anyway.

So we back-tracked to a much smaller campsite we'd passed on the way. There was no-one in the reception area, but I spotted a hand-written sign that said "If no-one's here, pick your spot and we'll collect later". For a moment I wasn't sure whether we were camping or visiting a loan-shark.

Anyway, we picked a spot and set up. Despite the fact we were in a very shady area, and it took us less than three minutes to pitch the tent, it was so hot that by the time we were done we were out of breath and my t-shirt was stuck to me.

It was at this point that I noticed just how many bugs there were.

Now, I'm not being a pampered "OMG where's my air-conditioning, wi-fi and cable TV" guy here. Before I moved to the US I went camping regularly and stayed at some crappy sites where I'd gotten dive-bombed by mosquitoes 24-7…but believe me when I say this place was something special. The word 'infested' doesn't even do it justice.

There were so many ants that the floor looked like it was constantly moving and the air was just filled with mosquitos, gnats and other flying insects. However, we'd covered ourselves in insect repellent, were burning a couple of citronella tiki-torches so we took it almost in stride. We both only got bit a couple of times and once we got the grill going, we were actually enjoying ourselves. The only real problem was the heat. My shirt was still soaking wet and I hadn't stopped sweating since I stepped out of the car…and I didn't want to go shirtless with so many mosquitos around.

At this point,we started making 'bear' jokes…don't ask me why. Every time there was the slightest sound, from something falling from a tree to someone on the other side of the site closing an RV door, we'd gasp and say "Bears!"

Walk to the bathroom on my own? No way! A bear will get me! Get something from the trunk of the car? No way! What if there's a bear in there waiting to ambush me?

…and this was all very f**king funny until a 350lb black bear walked through the campsite less than 70 yards away from us. Oh yeah, it was f**king hilarious then.

The sun was starting to go down and even though the bear was heading away from where we where, even though all our food was in a cooler locked in the car so it wouldn't attract anything, things started to get a little scary. You see, I was mildly concerned about the bear, but I knew if it headed back into the camp, we were sitting about four steps away from the car and had my car keys in my pocket. Sunny on the other hand was starting to freak out.

Remember all those sounds we were making jokes about? Well, when it's pitch black and you're deep in the woods and the only light you have is coming from a tiki-torch…those little sounds suddenly sound a whole lot louder and very…bear-like. Every slight noise and Sunny's head would snap around like a Daschund's after a thrown sausage. Of course, when you're sitting with someone who's freaked out, you start to get a little freaked out.

By that time it was coming up on 10pm. We'd only gotten to bed at about 4am that morning and were up again at 7am, so we were pretty tired. We decided to call it a night and got in the tent.

Ok, if you remember the post I wrote when we bought it, I thought the new tent was made of very thin and flimsy material. Because it was so hot, we'd left the rain-fly off and only zipped up the screen door. This meant that, in theory, no bugs could get into the tent, but plenty of air could get in and out, keeping it nice and cool.

That was the theory. In reality, our tent was basically a sauna for bugs. I mean it was crazy hot. Not just "Wow, it's hot in here" hot, but "Oh my God my teeth are melting." Hot. It was at least 110 in the tent. We also discovered that the walls of the tent, despite remaining completely sealed the entire time, were covered in gnats and mosquitoes. On top of that, our air-bed was both too small and not nearly inflated enough…meaning every time one of us moved, the other would get catapulted off the bed.

There was a snap from outside the tent, and I heard Sunny jump. A human voice told us it wasn't a bear, so we relaxed a little…until there was another sound…repeat ad nauseum.

A few minutes later as I was beginning to realize that I was never going to be able to sleep in the 110 degree heat while being attacked by mosquitoes, I suddenly heard Sunny whisper:

"Sweetie?" She said.

"Mmmm hmmm?" I replied

"How mad would you be if I said I wanted to go home?"

I turned on the flashlight and looked at the bug covered walls. There was a shallow pool of sweat in the dip between my man boobs…I mean, pectoral muscles.

"Not very." I said.

"Good, because I'm miserable and I want to go home."

"Let's go." I said.

I think I can sum up how hot it was inside the tent by saying that after less than fifteen minutes inside it, once I stepped outside where it was 88 degrees, I instantly started to shiver. It felt cold.

So I re-lit the tiki-torches and used my mini-maglight to take the tent down and unpack by. After doing so and walking into a lot of things because it was so dark, we finished and sat in the car and started the engine… instantly bathing our campsite in the bright headlights. I groaned as my shin throbbed from its impact with the picnic table.

Total time 'camping': Abour 11 hours.

Total time spent in tent: About fifteen minutes.

The funny thing was, I don't think either of us consider the trip a failure. We got out of the house, had a nice picnic in the woods and learned that we don't like to camp in 100 degree heat in bug infested hell-holes.

We'll definitely go camping again…but probably at the end of September when it's much cooler and in an area that has less bears.

Oh and that's become our new catchphrase: "There was a bear."

"Why didn't I do the dishes, you ask? I tried…There was a bear."

6 comments:

Terry Chandler said...

Lions and tigers and bears, Oh my!
Sorry it was so hot. Better luck next time.
Terry

MC Etcher said...

Glad you two made it home safe! It's trips like yours that renews appreciation of civilization.

As for the cooler being safe in the car... I saw a special on Yellowstone showing a bear breaking into a minivan with no trouble at all, destroying the interior, and eating all the food.

Again, glad you're both home safe. Take a rifle with you next time!!

Evan 08 said...

Better than any adventure I can tell.

Richard and Jean said...

Oh, you had me laughing so hard it hurt! Can I quote you in my blog at www.picturecamping.com?

And you'll have to let me do a follow-up in Sept....

Thanks for considering this,

Jean B. in SC

Paulius said...

Terry: Thanks, hopefully we won't need it

Etcher: Well, almost nothing can stop a determined black bear, it's pretty much what they're for. All I meant was a closed cooler locked in a car is less likely to ATTRACT a bear than a half eaten burger left on the picnic table

Evan: Maybe I'll believe that when Sunny and I start going canoeing

Rich and Jean: Feel free to quote as long as you link back.

Paulius said...

Terry: Thanks, hopefully we won't need it

Etcher: Well, almost nothing can stop a determined black bear, it's pretty much what they're for. All I meant was a closed cooler locked in a car is less likely to ATTRACT a bear than a half eaten burger left on the picnic table

Evan: Maybe I'll believe that when Sunny and I start going canoeing

Rich and Jean: Feel free to quote as long as you link back.