What’s Up With Camping?
What’s the appeal of camping? I don’t mean that as a rhetorical question. I honestly don’t know why people enjoy it. I’ve been a couple of times, and while I have had fun occasionally, the fun parts have very little to do with camping.
Boy Scout Camp
As a Cub Scout, I spent a couple of summers at Camp Joy in Centralia, Illinois. I had mixed feelings about the experience. I enjoyed getting out of the house in the summer and spending some time with my friends. But I hated sleeping in a dirty military-surplus tent full of bugs. I hated having to relieve myself in a wooden latrine. I liked swimming, but I didn’t like the slimy plants at the bottom of the lake. And maybe I just got unlucky with the weather, but I swear it rained the whole time I was there. I was very glad to be back home, where I could take a shower and focus on indoor activities. Still, I wasn’t ready to give up on camping just yet.
Camping and Fishing with My Dad
My dad and I went camping at Washington State Park in Missouri once. We didn’t have a tent, so we slept in my parents’ minivan. We cooked in cast iron skillets over an open fire. In hindsight, I recall the drive to the park better than the actual camping trip itself. That’s okay, since neither my dad nor I have ever been real outdoorsy folks. I’m glad we had the opportunity to camp out, even if it wasn’t the most fun activity.
On a similar note, my dad and I went fishing once, in the Lake of the Ozarks. It wasn’t camping at all, since we were staying in a condo, but I clearly remember getting up early in the morning, sitting out on the dock for several long and boring hours, until we eventually got a bite. It was a little fish, no more than 6 inches, and it looked so sad and pathetic flopping around on the dock. We let it go, and I haven’t been fishing since. When I mentioned our fishing expedition to my dad years later, he admitted that he didn’t like it much either, but he wanted to expose me to experiences that he himself didn’t like, since I’m a different person with my own interests.
Camping (and Drinking) with Friends
I didn’t do any camping in high school, but when I got to college, I found another opportunity. While working at an environmental lobbying group, I had the chance to go camping on the shores of Elk Lake outside of Traverse City, Michigan for a week in the summer of 1999. We spent the days doing door-to-door fundraising in some of the more affluent Northern Michigan towns, and at night we hung out at the campsite, playing cards and drinking cheap sangria. That week was one of the first times I ever got drunk, and I found that camping was a lot more pleasant with alcohol, something I still feel very strongly about.
My most recent camping trip was in 2009. Some friends and I here in Dallas went down to Lake Travis, outside of Austin. Even in June, it was way too hot for me. It didn’t help that we had these cabins that were just unelectrified wooden shacks. They were very hot, and I couldn’t sleep. So I stayed up drinking and singing Weird Al songs until my friends were thoroughly annoyed.
It’s been six years since that Lake Travis trip, and I’m wondering if I should give camping another try one of these days. Preferably not during the Texas summer. Though I’ve never seemed to like camping very much, I can’t help but think that there’s something I’m missing. All my friends like it. Why don’t I?