An introduction to camping

I’ve talked at length about camping before – in fact, I’ve talked at length about a lot of things that may or may not have any effect on your lives – and so I don’t need to drone on extensively about my love of camping and what I enjoy about it. I’ve already done it.

Sometimes, however, I find myself with an all out longing to go camping. I’ve never been one of those psychotic outdoorsy people, but there have been inexplicable times in the past few years – times that are growing more and more frequent as I age – where I’ve felt the pull of the fire rings and flat grassy areas that we call state park campsites.

Growing up I never really quite understood the draw of camping. I knew that it was an excuse for grown people to drink a lot of beer, and that occasionally (if the fire wasn’t already out) I would get chocolate and marshmallows. I knew that there were a lot of bugs, and there was no television, and I wasn’t able to go to the bathroom without fear of something coming through the vault toilet and attacking my young rear end.

I remember going on a camping trip with our fifth and sixth grade class at Irving Elementary. I was, unfortunately, bunked in a tent with three nerds (four, if you count myself) and a chaperone. The other tents were laughing and having fun until well past dark. Our tent just went to sleep early – each one of us secretly wishing we could have been invited to play with the cooler kids (except for the chaperone, who probably just wanted a stiff drink.) I don’t remember much else; I’m sure it was at Newton Park State Park, and I remember helping to make pancakes in the morning.

My second camping memory was a bit more memorable. My parents had just let me know that they were getting a divorce (a story for another time, I’m sure) and I guess they thought that, in the effort of bonding, my father and I should go camping together. So we went to Lewis and Clark Recreation area and we bonded. We went fishing a lot. We talked about the impending divorce. We both felt concerned for the other, and we both accepted each other’s concern with open hands.

I had never really had a heart to heart talk with my father before; I was independent enough and I also figured he was a burly enough man that he was fine without one. It was an interesting experience because of that. I can’t say I remember anything we talked about, but I do remember him being very concerned about how I was taking things. Surprisingly, I remember the fishing more than the talks that might have been earth shattering to any other 5th grader.

What am I getting at? Nothing really. I’m just throwing stuff out there because I have finally started writing out our trip to the Boundary Waters – just one year later than I had expected – and these are the things I think of when I’m considering an introduction. The Boundary Waters was an unforgettable trip because it was a bare bones camping experience. Throwing a thirty-pound, six-person tent up next to a paved driveway and electrical post couldn’t hold a candle – or an electric lantern, I guess – to the solitude and beauty of the Wilderness Area.

Still, I couldn’t do that trip justice without starting from the beginning. Just like the Boundary Waters began when glaciers in northern Minnesota melted millions of years ago, my affair with tent camping began as the twin glaciers of my pre-adolescence and my parents marriage began melting away. It began out of necessity, but blossomed into a past time.

I now look forward to camping more than anything. I understand the importance of taking myself out of my normal life and experiencing the outdoors, forgetting my troubles back in civilization and ignoring my future – at least for just a weekend. I relish the idea of cutting myself off from all connections, outside of our short-wave radio.

Come to think of it – it’s just as much a necessity as it was in 5th grade.

This was lovingly handwritten on August 15th, 2005