Monday, September 14, 2009

Spontaneous Camping

It looked like it was going to rain. At least in part of the sky it did. You can see for a long way up here. Part of the sky was black as a parking lot. Another was dotted with white clouds, round but light looking. Another part was blue as a popsicle. I had 10 hours of work scheduled. The house was a mess. We didn't sleep much last week. Zoe had a bad fever for two days. I woke up at 3:45 one morning and didn't go back to sleep until 6.Z still was recovering from a three-week long cold. It was cold. At least at night. The furnace had kicked on the night before. We had no groceries.

And yet, whatever. It would only take an hour to pack the car. I could work while Erik packed. Zoe really, really wanted to go because you know, camp. It has fires. And tents.
By 2:30 we were ready. We stopped at the store for brats and hot dogs, chips and yogurt. And cookies. We wouldn't starve.

Erik drove down logging roads, toward oak creek canyon. We got deeper into forest where dispersed camping spots became more and more dispersed the deeper we went in. As usual, and we'd drive by one camping spot, and say, maybe this one is it. But maybe there's an even better one just a little bit further ahead. We do this a lot, keep looking for the best spot. We drove deeper in. Zoe fell asleep. The problem with this always-a-better-spot mode of camping spot choosing? Sometimes, we look so long it gets dark. Sometimes, we look so long, we have to turn around and go home. It was already 5:00. It gets dark here at 7. We drove so far, we ended up on a ridge that overlooked what was maybe the back part of Oak Creek. The road ended there. If there had been a fire pit, we would have stayed. Instead, we went back two spots to a place with a fire pit and a clearing in the trees.

Erik put up the tent and Zoe and I unrolled the sleeping bags. We made brats. Easy. We made a fire. Zoe fell asleep on her dad's lap. We could hear some lowing in the woods. We decided it must be elk. The clouds moved past and we could see stars. Erik was right. The star I was calling north was not, in fact, the north star at all. Still, I pointed out Orion correctly.

We waited until at least nine, which was impressive, since it had been truly dark for an hour and a half, to go to bed.

Of course, no one slept. Zoe snored. She got a charley horse. Also, in the 3-person tent, Zoe, Erik, me, and Cleo do not really fit. I can't sleep on my stomach except that's the only way I can sleep is on my stomach but on the hard ground, The New Addition (tm Fellner), objects. I turn on my left side and the ground chips away at the bone in my shoulder. I turn onto my right and the ground grinds into my hip. I turn. I get up to pee. I flop and get the sleeping bag all tied up around me and Zoe's sweating because she's sleeping in my too-hot sleeping bag and I have the sleeping bag I got at Wolfe's 20 years ago that is square (which my feet thank god for) and flannel lined and perfect except the part that I was lying on before becomes the part that's on top of me now and the zipper's making it's way down as if the sleeping bag is trying to wring me out. I watch the moon come up which is how I know my north star was really a south-in-the-sky star. The hunters on their ATV's drove by before even the first crack of light. I must have slept a little because I swore at them for waking me up. And then I felt bad for the elk they would be hunting. And then I got up to pee again. (Only my friend Misty knows how many times I pee a night when I'm camping. Erik and Zoe can sleep through it but the tent-zipper sound is tied directly to Misty's disaster-sensory-system. She's been known to abandon the tent and sleep far away from me. She's also been known though to give up the out-of-tent sleeping and put up with me when the mice start to crawl around in her hair, forcing a similar kind of sleep-flexibility on her.)

And yet, even though I didn't sleep much at all and I had gotten no work done and the house was a mess when we got back, it was the most fun I'd had in a long time. Camping, if one thing, teaches you not to be rigid. You don't need a spatula to cook hashbrowns. You don't need a cup to drink your coffee; a bowl works just fine. You don't need to sleep because it's cold outside and you're warm inside your tent. Camping puts a soldering iron to your rigid-- I must sleep, I must have ketchup, I must use toilet paper--metal rivets.

And, I have a plan for next camping trip. First of all, I'd been rigid even in my camping methods. I've always used a sleeping bag because that's what you take camping, right? But I hate them. I get too hot and I get oragami'd in them so tight I can't get out. I'm taking a lesson from Jo's blog and taking many, many blankets, and maybe a mattress camping next time but I am not wedging myself into a straight-jacket-sleep-destroyer unless I'm backpacking. It never occurred to me, because what I gain by being rigid I make up for by being unimaginative, that you could not sleep outside without a sleeping bag contraption. I probably still won't sleep and I'll still feel bad that the house is a mess and I didn't get any work done but at least I will be able to toss and turn rigidity-free.

6 comments:

Lisa B. said...

>> what I gain by being rigid I make up for by being unimaginative

Oh, I will be laughing about that for quite some time.

What a great post!

Dr. Write said...

Awesome story. We did no camping this summer, which I'm sad about. But your story inspires. And the blanket idea. Genius.

Nik said...

Lisa. I write for you. Dr. Write. I thought you went to the Uintahs this weekend. You inspired me to go! Ack.

Misty said...

the air mattress is the key I think. and the sleeping bags you can zip together so that someone can't steal your covers. and then, all the pillows you need.

we put the dog in the car at night - which is like an isolation chamber for her so that she doesn't wake up and bark at all the nothing noises.

geez, I don't remember the fleeing or the mice in my hair - when was that?

Nik said...

Misty: The time the mice curled up in your hair was in the Jefferson Wilderness. I'm not sure exactly when the exasperated tent-leaving occurred, but I don't blame you. I'd leave my bladder behind if I could. I think sleeping on my stomach, on the hard ground exacerbates my already-oversensitive bladder.

An air mattress is next on the list.

Richard and Jean said...

Hi. I have a blog at www.picturecamping.com where I feature people's posts about camping, and I would like to send my readers your way. Of course I would give you credit for quotes and would link back to your site.

Thanks for considering this,

Jean B. in SC