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The (Not So) Great Outdoors

August 28, 2009

     There are many things I do, and do well. However, camping is another one that is really nowhere on that list.

     I came by this (lack of) skill naturally. My parents are most certainly not “outdoor” people, staying only in a certain level of hotel-and  never one without room service. They won’t even eat outside. Unless it’s a swanky little cafe in, say, Paris. I myself had never even flown any way other than first class until I got married, the first time. Dad’s extensive business travel had some perks.

     Seriously? I literally once spent a panicked 30 minutes on the phone with J in a complete and utter fit because the most horrifyingly large centipede was in my den, inconvenientlypositioned half on the ground and half on the floor. With all of that sucker’s legs, I knew my strike had to be quick and deadly…or it would run off and forever dwell in the bowels of my house. I stabbed at it and scurried away shrieking. Nothing. The terrifying centipede of doom? Plastic. J laughed for so long I hung up on him.

     When I was younger and in Brownies, I decided to give camping a whirl. I’m not opposed to being outdoors, despite my opposition to sweat, and even enjoy hiking, camp fires, and the like.  Armed with a lamb and cloud sleeping bag, as well as 3 cans of Lysol-I made the trek to Camp Trico in the back of a station wagon. I made it thru hiking and crafts, despite being fussed at for making mine different. (I would later have issues when I went home and customized my denim sit upon with bleach and my complete refusal to wear any part of the uniform other than the sash.) When it started to get dark, and I realized there were bugs in the bathroom, I insisted that my dad come pick me up. Right then. Immediately.  Fast forward to the next year, in which I somehow convinced my parents to let me have another go at this whole camp thing. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Dad made another late night journey to Camp Trico. To this day, I don’t actually know where this camp is located. I may have blocked it out. That and four square will probably be at the top of my list of traumatic childhood events should I ever seek therapy. (I actually tried to go once but he thought I was hilarious and very well-adjusted.)

     In high school, I was very involved with my Episcopal youth group, I very much love the Episcopal church and was so excited to hear from my friends about Happening and Camp Mc Dowell.  I am still not sure how I convinced my parents to let me go, but I did.  Considering Camp McDowell is about 2 hours away, one way, this was rather adventurous on their part. But I went. And had a blast. Still some of my very fondest memories. Cried every time I left. Of course, the presence of yummy food and cute boys with guitars possibly played a slight role in the successof this venture. There’s none of that at Girl Scout camp. We had to cook ourselves. With fire. I still absolulely adore Camp McDowell and was thrilled when I got to take bratchild this summer. I could’ve done without the canoeing but she cried when we left as well. Which made me cry.

     Anyhoo, one night in high school some camp friends as well as some local friends (some were both) got the idea in our heads that we were going to hike up the ginormous hill behind Buck’s Canyon and camp out overnight. I actually lied to my parents to go on this excursion-mom was convinced that every time I “camped” I got sick. I didn’t drink much so a couple of drinks of the very finest Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill and I was tipsy. Thus came the first time I ever peed outside. Unfortunately, the people who knew how to set up the tents, and I was certainly not one of them, were a little too intoxicated to actually put said tents together. Have I mentioned this was the end of November? Final result? A cold and very early expedition back down the mountain and my parents questioning how I ended up smelling like a campfire and had ashes in my hair from a slumber party. (And I DID get sick. I should ask my parents if they bought the whole slumber party story.)

     In college, the most outdoorsy things I did were: wear Timberland boots with skirts and sorority tshirts (the college uniform at the time) and steal friends’  jeeps (repeatedly) to go lay out at Chewacla State Park. Otherwise, I pretty much drank, went to parties,  and wore pearls with everything (including my bathrobe-that was pretty much MY personal uniform). On rare occasions, I also went to class.

     My sweet, amazing, love him to death second husband J is a HUGE outdoors man. Loves to hike, camp, take his old fj-40 out offroading-the works. He’s a fan of knives and firearms and pants with lots of pockets and sturdy shoes. The first time he took me, it was New Year’s Day 2007. He told me to dress warm. I went with my gray cashmere lounge outfit. Needless to say he made me change and bought me pink rubber boots-which I had never before owned. After my fifth or so fall into pits of mud, I was thankful both for the boots and that he made me locate more appropriate attire. Since 95.9% of my wardrobe was dry clean only, this wasn’t the easiest of tasks.

     Right after we got engaged he decided to take me camping to meet up with other Toyota enthusiasts. We’re in the fj-40 driving thru the rain with only a bikini top and half doors on (the truck, not me-I would never ride around in a bikini top-unless I was in college and my 100 pound self was exceptionally cute that day). The rain turns into a torrential downpour turns into hurricane warnings. We finally stop and pull into a car wash. My dad calls and offers to come pick me up, flashbacks of Girl Scout camp. I’m crying ever so slightly. I don’t know where we are so I can’t have my dad come get me. After it clears up and we get to camp, it is requested that I assist in assembling the tent. My protests that I have NO clue how to go about this fall on deaf ears…until I get stuck in the tent and manage to roll myself somewhat down a hill-while trapped in the tent with an air mattress. I was also promised there were bathrooms. There were not. I was next promised that if I woke up and had to pee, he would escort me. Rain kicks back in. Picture me peeing outside a tent, in pouring rain, cussing at him while he sits in the tents and laughs riotously. Tears may have ensued at this time as well. Possibly.

     The scene the next morning does not improve. I am hot, sweaty,  mildly hungover, humidity is 204%,and all kinds of bugs/animals/god knows what all are making noise.  In short, probably more miserable than I have ever been, right up there with the sinus surgery. The exchange goes something like this:

Me: “Baby, I can’t sleep.”

J: (still asleep) “Go watch tv.”

Me: (becoming pissed off) “We are camping , I am miserable, and nature is too loud!”

J: (still asleep) “Go get my noise reduction headphones.”


J: snoring

     Our next “camping” experiment was slightly better. We took the RV to the rugby fields for a weekend long party, errr…rugby tournament. I was quite pleased to have bathrooms on hand and to be able to only allow people I liked to use them. The whole bed thing was pretty nice as well. The shower? Not so much. I drove home to shower and came back. We haven’t used the RV since that time as generally when you travel in an RV you aren’t close enough to your own house to drive home and shower. That’s an issue.

     Which brings me to this weekend. We are going camping up in Sewanee-which happens to be one of my favorite places on the planet.  Heading up in the morning, spending one night, doing some hiking and sight seeing (which mainly includes stopping by The Lemon Fair-one of my most favorite stores ever). We are camping out at a State Park. When I called to make some general inquiries-we need a site near easy trails since we have bratchild, do we need reservations, what time do we come…you know, normal stuff. The lady on the phone asks if I realize this is primitive camping. “Of course I know that,” I reply, “I just don’t know what that means”. She goes on and on we need a permit for back-country backpacking, I tell her no worries as I don’t carry things, she tells me they’ve seen black bears-I say how precious and maybe we will get a cute photo. Silence. She finally clears her throat and tells me to have a nice day and that they’ll see us Saturday.

      Bractchild is beyond jazzed about the trip. That child has been aching to sleep in a tent. She was gleeful when we came home from school to discover a massive tent erected in our yard. So gleeful, in fact, that she chose to chill out in said tent while we gathered some things together. I happened to walk by and find her inside crying hysterically. A wasp had entered the tent, she was convinced, on a mission to kill her. So…hopefully we won’t fall down a canyon, get washed away in a deluge, encounter any wasps (or any bugs ideally), be eaten by a bear, or end up curled up in a ball crying somewhere (the only real chance of the last one happening is to me).

     Proof that I have been in a canoe…and even paddled some:


© Amy Lloyd Mayfield and Amy’s Blam, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Amy Lloyd Mayfield and Amy’s Blam with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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