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I am not a camper! I am a human being!

Camping season is here, and while all of you camper venture out into the wilderness, Terrie Ens is sitting at home in her air conditioned home, lamenting the situation on an electronic box – And how proud and content she is!

Not pioneer stock
The camping season has hit in full force. Our neighbors around the corner have loaded up their camper, and packed up the kids and the canoe several times for weekends in the wilderness. I always feel guilty. We should be out there, too, experiencing Mother Nature, but instead, I sit here in an air-conditioned house, lamenting the situation on an electronic box.

Although, in the past, I’ve occasionally tried to prove to myself that I could “rough it” with the best of them, I have come to accept the fact that I am just not a camper. I really don’t want to “get away from it all.” I like “it all.” If I get away too far, I get uncomfortable. I don’t like to sleep on the ground. I don’t like to sweat. And I definitely don’t like to pee in the woods.

You see, I’m just not Pioneer Stock. Nope, not a drop of pioneer blood in me, anywhere. And I am not ashamed to admit it. I think I can say with absolute conviction that I would have been one who would have “died on the trail.”

The smell of camp
With the best of intentions, we’ve purchased the proper equipment. We’ve just never utilized it. Last Christmas, we bought sleeping bags. I bought my husband a tent for his birthday. And there it all sits, still in its packaging, in the corner of the basement, never once having been christened by the great outdoors.

If I’m honest, I really don’t like anything about camping, other than being outdoors, and I can do that in the safety and comfort of my own backyard. And if you’re going to use the argument that I miss out on hours of adventure and wildlife fun, I’ve got you there! I can experience that here, too. We’ve had raccoons, opossums, foxes and skunks — right in our garage — and getting them out again definitely qualified as “adventure!”

It’s all so much work! Before you go, you wash all the bedding, pack every possibly-needed piece of clothing you own from swimsuit to sweatshirt, stockpile enough food and beverages to feed an army, and load up all the gear. This includes spouse, sleeping bags, cooler, lawn chairs, tent, fishing poles, radio, toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, paper cups, newspaper, bug spray and deodorant. Lots of deodorant.

Which brings us to the smell of camping. Being in the wilderness for long periods of time doesn’t make me smell good. I’m not even talking about the smell of sweat. I’m talking about that earthy, sun-baked smell a human being acquires after hours in the sun. Kind of like the smell of searing meat.

Bug spray doesn’t improve the situation, no matter how hard they try to disguise the chemical smell. But I have no choice. I HAVE to use bug spray, or the bugs eat me alive. They don’t just bite; they actually EAT me! They chew me to pieces! They attack with a vengeance that could not be greater if I actually bathed in pancake syrup!

What exactly do campers do?
And what is it that an individual is actually supposed to do while camping? What IS “camping?” You pack up all this stuff, drive for hours to some temporarily-remote spot (which will soon fill up with other campers, barking dogs and hundreds of tiny, screaming children, all wearing Cheetos® and Kool-Aid® stains) unpack it all again, and then sit. Out in the heat. Sweating like a pig. With nothing to do.

Often, lakes offer swimming areas to cool off, but they’re also usually packed out with screaming children. Besides — who wants to go sit in tepid, muddy water that smells like fish? And probably end up with a bladder infection or even worse?

Fishing offers one form of recreation, but to do it successfully takes a lot of skill. For years, I’ve sat alone on the bank, waiting patiently for a minnow to jump out of the bucket onto my hook. (I guess it’s a sacrifice. Out in the depths, the big fish jumps onto the hook in exchange for the life of the tiny fish who still has so much to live for.)

My husband is usually overcome with pity and puts the minnow on for me. I never have understood how he gets them to stick. He also casts my line out, as experience has shown that I do a lovely job of catching sticks, rocks and pop bottles, lying on the bank behind me, and hurling them at unsuspecting fishermen.

On occasion, I actually have gotten the line to go whizzing out of the reel and sailing through the air, only to have it land about two feet directly in front of me. But, once done, I sit and wait, eager with anticipation at snaring The Big One. The Big One Who Never Comes.

Camping cuisine challenged
And how many charred hot dogs can one human stand to eat? Maybe I’m Camping Cuisine Challenged, but there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of variety in campsite comestibles. Chips, hot dogs and marshmallows. True nutrition at its most wholesome!

At the end of the adventure, you again pack everything up for the long journey home, only this time, it’s all filthy — littered with bugs, rocks and sticks, and smelling like partially-baked human.

Once home, the un-paration takes as much time as the pre-paration did, but without the anticipation of fun on the frontier. Now it’s just dirt and work. There now. Wasn’t that a good time? You can have your bugs and your bass, your wind and your wienies. I’ll take the waterbed and an indoor toilet any day!

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