We went camping recently, as is tradition around here.
I won’t hold you spellbound with any riveting nature stories (although I could,) or spend a bunch of time complaining about the cold weather up in those mountains, even in June (although I could.) The only personal thing I am going to share about our trip is this:
It’s hard to see in this picture, but this is a rendition, in miniature, of the Battle of Watoga*. Union forces were able to withstand the vicious Rebel attack, but, sadly, they were unprepared for the ants.
My son is a huge Civil War freak, and he loves building these battles. It makes me sad, because every year he loses a little more interest, and I know before long he will be too “grown up” to build battles.
But I digress.
Instead of sharing nature, I wanted to tell you about a thought that occurred to me one night while I was attempting to sleep.
This grand revelation happened as I lay on our inflatable bed, listening to our neighbor at the next camp site as he snored loudly enough to nearly suck the rain fly right off of our tent.
Yes, I could hear the neighbor snoring. Let me tell you, it is quiet up there. No passing cars or thumping doors, no windows and doors or background household noises to damp down the sound. And that’s when it hit me that campground life is very intimate.
Think about it: essentially, you can hear and see people in very personal positions. Our inflatable bed makes this sort of squeaking sound, so every time one of us turned over, you could hear it halfway around the campground, I’m sure. Snoring is a big happening. So are other…..um……various bodily noises. You get up in the morning with your pj’s on and your hair all standing up and stretch and groan, right along with the strangers all around you. You might not be together, but you are together, if you get my meaning. You eat together. You shower and use the toilet and brush your teeth in the communal bathhouse. What is more intimate than brushing your teeth next to someone?
Another thing that I noticed this time was the various kinds of people who frequent the campground. Since we have been camping there nearly every year for fifteen years, and sometimes twice a year, I can speak with a certain amount of authority. Here are the types of people I observed:
- The purist: these are the people who take their camping seriously. No wimpy inflatable bed for them–they sleep on the ground. They don’t buy tents and sleeping bags at Wal-Mart, they buy them at the high-end outdoors stores, and they are outfitted to camp on the moon, should the occasion arise. Even their clothes are different from mine–and I’ll tell you, it’s not a look I can pull off. They look cool–I look like an idiot.
- The Athletes: where we camp is called “West Virginia’s Mountain Playground,” and with good reason. The Athletes have canoes, bikes, kayaks–you name it. We hike, but these people are on a whole other level. They wear bicycle pants, for Pete’s sake. Bicycle pants!
- The Long Timers: I like these people. These are usually older folks who have retired. They have fancy motor homes or big travel trailers. But that isn’t the best part–they usually stay for a week at a time, so they put out flags and lights and sometimes even little white fences (I swear.) They have a sign up with their name on it. They go from campground to campground from April to October. They are awesome!
- The Hot Shots: These guys are serious about their camping, too, but in a different way. They have extremely expensive campers pulled by extremely big, extremely expensive trucks. These campers have all the slide-outs, stainless appliances in the kitchens, and jacuzzi tubs in the bathrooms. The campers are so big, they sometimes have trouble negotiating the relatively small, rustic campground at Watoga. But they don’t care. They have more money than you.
- The Party-ers: We don’t always see this group. We go too early or late in the year, and as a rule, the party crowd travels in the summer. However, we went a little later than usual this year and ran into them. They also have nice campers (usually toy haulers), but they lack the overall refinement of the Hot Shots. In spite of the fact that quiet hours start at 10pm, and in spite of the fact that the whole rest of the campground is dead quiet (except the snoring and farting), they still talk and laugh as though they are trying to communicate with people in the next county. They are literally breathless at their own wit. The rest of us are contemplating whether or not their bodies could be successfully hidden up there in the mountains.
- The Kitchen Sinkers: This, of course, is my favorite group, because we are in it. These are the people who generally have a love/hate relationship with the outdoors. It is very beautiful, it’s fun, and we love it. However, it’s buggy, and hot (or cold, or sometimes both), and raccoons eat the dog’s food if you forget to put it away. Kitchen Sinkers are usually families with various numbers and ages of children. Hence the name–we pack enough stuff (everything but the….) to deal with every conceivable situation. Injuries, starvation, frost bite, heat stroke, headaches, allergies–it’s all covered. We can cook, clean, sleep, bathe, dress, play, and eat, all with the same convenience of home, plus bugs and dirt. We have jackets, tons of shoes, books, toys, flashlights, water bottles, snacks, and enough diapers and wipes to equip a hospital nursery. The younger the children, the more stuff we have. And I haven’t even started on the things that are required for the actual camping, like a tent. We literally take two vehicles, because all of our stuff won’t fit in one or the other. What can I say? We believe in being prepared. The only thing we don’t have are bicycle pants.
So I encourage you to take your family camping. It’s a fun thing that will create memories that last a lifetime. You can get close to God, your family, and nature.
And to the folks in the next tent.
*not an actual Civil War battle