little campsite in the big woods

I went camping recently, and I gotta tell you. There is nothing like nature to remind you how remarkable indoor plumbing is.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You think I’m gonna trot out the same stale jokes we’ve all heard before about how wonderful it is to stay inside with all these lights and endless streams of running water. Well, get ready because I am. I am going to tell you all of these jokes and more.

Listen. I like being outdoors. I like it a lot. There are trees outdoors, and I’ll have you know I’m fond of trees. I have a special place in my heart for trees. Sometimes I leave the house specifically to commune with them. There are also mountains and rocks and plants outdoors, and I like those too. And I’m not a frilly, fussy, or nervous person, so on some level camping just fits me. 

So whenever anybody brings up camping, I am always all over it. Camping never ceases to sound like an extraordinary idea. Yet it’s an extraordinary idea much the in same way that jamming pizza in your drunken piehole at 2:30 a.m. always sounds like a dazzling plan. It’s only when you’re in that hazy mid-chew reverie, a trail of cheese tracking down your chin, that a tiny flame of thought sputters to life in your brain. You start putting two and two together. Nearly-forgotten memories of the last time you did this come surging into your consciousness until you have to put your half-gnawed piece of crust down and go, oh, shit. This isn’t going to end well, is it? And it never does, my friend.

It never does.

I’m not trying to insinuate that my camping experience ended in tears, or missing limbs, or even jail time. It was just that I was in the semi-wilderness for approximately 42 hours and it was utterly exhausting. You know why? Because everything takes five times longer than it normally would while you’re camping. The simple act of brushing your teeth now involves trekking across your campsite, unzipping your tent, digging around in a bag, trekking back across the campsite to find some water, going BACK to the tent when you realize you forgot the toothpaste, getting utterly distracted by chasing a large insect off of your sleeping bag, and so on. By the time you actually finish brushing your teeth, an hour or more has disappeared. Poof! Never to return. Heaven help you if you dare to take on the staggering task of washing your face; you may as well write off half of the day.

None of this is necessarily a bad thing, really. Since my everyday modern life consists of sprinting from one task to another in the spirit of productivity, there’s something to be said for a weekend in which washing your face is the crowning achievement. Still. It was surprising. Something I’d forgotten about since the last time I went camping.

Other facts I’d forgotten about camping since the last time I went camping:

It’s dirty outside. Really dirty. Think of the dirtiest, sweatiest, most filth-encrusted you’ve ever been. Now multiply that by 800. That, my friend, is cleaner than you will be when you’re camping. 

The silence is deafening. In the light of day, the peace and quiet is charming. Invigorating, even. But in the dark of night, you just lie there with your eyes wide open, waiting to hear the footsteps of the serial killer approaching. 

Animals are dicks. The foxes that barked and scuffled outside our tent all night? ASSHOLES. And the birds when the sun came up? Seriously, sunlight is like ultraviolet cocaine for birds. I HEARD YOU, MOTHERFUCKERS. Guess I’m up now!

Things in nature want to kill you. Arguably, things in the city want to kill you as well, but at least there I have more than a flap of canvas between me and them.

Toilets are the best invention ever. Best ever. I’m like the Jimmy Stewart of camping1; I saw a glimpse of what life was like without toilets and I promise to never ever take them for granted again. I will never again wish I was dead dream of a dishwasher as long as I can have my family and friends back my toilet back oh god oh please oh god

Mountains are okay.

You know what else is okay? Hiking on a beautiful summer day with friends. Are you throwing up now? I bet you’re hurling under your desk from all this sheer optimism. Sorry, it won’t happen again.

You know what’s not okay? Poison oak. This area is absolutely riddled with the stuff, but it’s never affected me. UNTIL NOW. I shouldn’t complain because it affected the beau a lot more than me.2 And here I’d smugly thought I was impervious to the stuff.

Lesson learned.

What have you learned from camping?


1 Except with fewer high-waisted pants.

2 Now I get to head to Michigan on Friday with what looks like giant red pimples all over my legs. Don’t worry friends, I’m not contagious! I just look like I am.3

3 The Ohio meetup is on and I’m excited!

14 Responses to “little campsite in the big woods”

  1. I like the outdoors, but I’ve tried camping and I just don’t get it. You drive a long way to sleep on the ground and be bitten by bugs and not have a proper shower. What’s the appeal? (That sound you hear is my husband, who loves camping, begging me to just give it another try.)

    But yeah, mountains are OK I guess 😉

  2. There’s at least a handful in every post, so picking one is usually tricky, but this, this is THE BEST LINE EVER: Seriously, sunlight is like ultraviolet cocaine for birds.

    I think I got woken up by their mad cocaine binge at about 4:30am the first morning of our camping trip last weekend.

    (Speaking of which, this post may have just inspired me enough to actually put a post of my own together about camping. Maybe. Writing is like, hard and stuff.)

  3. You are the Jimmy Stewart of camping. When you said that, for a little while I imagined you reporting on camping to some higher authority that looks like Joe McCarthy and thus led you to an estrangement with someone who looked an awful lot like Henry Fonda. (But don’t worry: he was an arsehole. A liberal arsehole, but an arsehole nonetheless.) That or I imagined camping made you stammer. WHICH IS NOTHING TO MAKE FUN OF, PEOPLE.

    To the best of my knowledge, we don’t have poison oak here. ANOTHER REASON TO COME HERE. We do, however, have snakes and spiders galore, but I’d take them over the creepy vine any day. So camping is fraught with peril anywhere you decide to embark upon it, I suppose.

    Hope you had a good time. Now you just need to wait long enough until it all sounds like a good idea again.

    • Yeahhh. I was thinking about specifying the Jimmy Stewart from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but when I tried to work that into the sentence it just took the funny away. So I left it and just accepted that I was going to confuse a lot of people.

      I don’t know. This poison oak might have done me in. I MIGHT NEVER FORGET ALL THE BAD PARTS NOW.

      • I laughed when I saw it on twitter. Whatever it meant, it was funny without knowing.

        OK, that sentence makes no sense. Fuck it.

  4. Oh, don’t get me started on the process it takes to wash dishes while camping. Or trying to stay dry if it rains (and doesn’t it always rain the weekend you go camping, or is that just me?). But I love camping. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment.

    Also, with plants like poison oak or ivy, often your first or second exposure doesn’t produce a reaction. In fact, the more you are exposed, the more your body develops an intolerance for it. So you’ve probably been around it a few times, slowly became susceptible to it, and now on this trip got a rash.

  5. Agree completely

    “Hey It’s cheaper than going to a hotel” – LIES- When we do go we end up taking & buying so much stuff it probably costs the same

    “Let’s cook our dinner on the camping stove” -YEAH- The wind will constantly blow the gas out and you still have to go find a sink to wash the dishes in. Of course once you have found the dish washing area there are two sinks occupied already by two different families washing their own dishes with the kiddies helping…waiting to wash dishes *exciting*

    We live in Scotland it WILL rain and the midges will eat you alive. Nothing better than itchy bites when you climb into your sleeping bag for an uncomfortable nights sleep.

    I think a camping trip is akin to childbirth, once you’ve done it, it’s amazing how quickly you forget the hell (not that I’ve had children but I have heard stories)

    Oh also, Hi I have followed your blog for ages & THIS is my first post you must have hit a nerve 😉

  6. “Camping is wonderful because it strips away all the extra STUFF in your life, even for just one weekend.”

    LIES. I’ve never had a minimalist camping trip. On the last one, we packed our little four-door sedan from front to back and up to the ceiling, and I nearly cried when I realized adding kids and dogs to the mix would necessitate a bigger vehicle. Probably an SUV. And if I’m killing the environment by driving to my camping trip in a ginormous Climate Change Death Machine WHAT IS THE POINT?

    • Yep. The kids and dogs thing is real. So much stuff.

      Backpacking is the only way to limit the stuff. We have not tried that with the baby, YET. But Lila Dog has her own backpack and has to carry her own stuff.

  7. When I read this sentence:
    “Listen. I like being outdoors. I like it a lot.”

    I read it as, “Listen. I like being indoors. I like it a lot.” And I thought, “Me too!!!” And then I thought, Yes, trees are nice and I like looking at them….from indoors. Haha. Yeah, I am not really a fan of camping. And the last time I went hiking in nature a few weeks ago, I got two weird itchy bug bites that are still not completely gone. They stopped itching and have faded. I wonder when I should start to worry…?

    Anyhow, your email further convinced me to avoid future camping trips. Thankfully, my husband is probably even less interested in camping than I am. And he is perfectly happy being indoors.

  8. My sister used to take me backpacking every year for my birthday when I was a teenager. I loved it.

    The awkwardness of pine tree plumbing is totally made up for by campfires and the stars, which are always easier to see in the mountains (the stars, that is, but I suppose the campfires too).

    Is it time for me to come out as a dirty tree-hugging hippie?

  9. 1. Spiders are big.
    2. They do nothing to defend me from Mosquitos which want me in eternal itchy pain.
    3. I loooooove my toilet, despite its ordinary appearance.

  10. The last time I remember camping? I got sick and threw up all over myself and my mother in the middle of the night. So she had to take me outside in the pitch black and dunk me in the FREEZING ASS LAKE to wash me off. Then had to wash herself off. It was so cold and we couldn’t dry my waist long hair and I woke up to frozen puke in my hair.

    I am decidedly NOT a camper.


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