city girl in the woods

A City Girl Goes Camping Again After a Seven-Year Boycott

Why did I boycott camping seven years ago? One fateful summer day in Wisconsin. Okay, I’m being a tad dramatic. Mainly, it rained a shit ton on that fateful day. Not a gentle rain that sprinkles upon your face. More like a humid downpour…with flooding. Tent flooding. Mud in places you’ve never seen. Doesn’t that sound amazing?

It began innocently enough.

We set up camp and decided to take a nice long hike when dark and ominous storms invaded the blue skies. We had to cut our hike short, because we were all about to slide down a giant hill into the lake below. Mudslides thrived. Waterfalls appeared. It was like a giant slip and slide with a watery, rocky doom at the end.

We clawed / slipped / crawled our way back to the campsite. I was there with Mr. H and his younger brother, both very outdoorsy and skilled with earthly elements. They began to execute their shelter strategy and fashioned a creative ecosystem of tarps. This way we could still “enjoy the outdoors” without hunkering down in our tents or the car.

Determined to ride out the storms, against our better judgement we spent the night. The rain eventually eased up, but everything was soaked through: our tents, our clothes, our souls. Starting a fire to warm up and cook food definitely wasn’t happening. We left the next morning and swore off camping forever.

sunset mount jefferson

That was until last week when Mr. H and I decided it was time to return to camping. Oddly enough, it was this Portland city girl right here that drove the reservation process forward.

Mr. H and I were both dying to get out of the city. We have a lovely forest less than a mile from us that we hike and run in frequently. Whilst living in Oregon the past four years, we’ve taken many day trips and weekends to remote, gorgeous places.

mount jefferson oregon

But, we needed the kind of remote where it was just us and the land. Far, far away from our zippy WiFi connection and endless construction.

I booked a campground online—thanks, modern technology—and we found a spot fairly last-minute on Detroit Lake. A brief two-hour drive from Portland, you can’t beat the middle-of-nowhere experience at such a short distance.

After being violently against the idea of camping for seven years, there we were setting up our tent on the beautiful lake with a bonus view of Mount Jefferson. Besides, we’re Americans…and we have some pretty deep historical roots when it comes to camping.

detroit lake walk

I won’t lie—the first night we both slept like complete shit. I thought I saw an evil racoon outside our tent, but my eyes were playing tricks on me. Cue, panic and unease. At sunrise, a symphony of crows woke us up. A group of ducks walked by our tent, then struck up their comical acapella.

But, we survived. We went on one of the most gorgeous hikes we’ve ever been on that day and stayed a second night.

The thing about “roughing it” in these groomed campgrounds is that your are surrounded by people. There were times I was annoyed with our neighbors who literally blasted music all day, but eventually I got into some of the fun of people-watching…the camping edition.

kicking back camping

At the end of the day, we were all there to get away from it all. I enjoyed observing people in the neighboring campsites, who had various techniques for relaxing. They had creative camp setups, like a flamingo lawn ornament stuck proudly in the ground or a giant Pegasus raft floating in the lake that I really wanted to take for a joy ride.

One younger group—some with babies, some without—sat in their chairs around this never-ending campfire, drinking and listening to music. Another impressive group played bean bag toss the entire day. For the record, this game is usually called “cornhole” here in Oregon, but I can’t get on board with that word. I once had a very awkward moment with my ex-boss when he mentioned we were going to play cornhole at a work event.

An older married couple had a decked out Sprinter van and we hung out with them for a bit. Mr. H and the husband talked animatedly about vans, since one of our clients we work with does rad Sprinter van conversions. The wife was a recovering cancer patient and they had been on the road for two months. They were kind and enthusiastic about life, endearingly open about sharing their travel adventures with us.

You might find it odd that I’m talking about people when I was supposed to be staring at nature. I did plenty of that, of course. Even though I’m introverted as hell, I gravitate toward humans. As a fiction writer, I’m continually fascinated by human behavior in different settings. Camping is certainly an interesting time for having an observation field on detroit lake

I didn’t realize camping was such an American thing until some of my fellow bloggers in other countries mentioned this in past conversations. I think camping is just a thing, in general.

Camping is one of those activities you either love or don’t. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle. Between a hot bath and sleeping on dirt, I’m going to choose the sumptuous aromatherapy bath—come on now! But, I do love the ability to pack up and go somewhere quiet and sleep on the earth.

P.S. Remember my obsession with carvings on Lovers Bench? At the age of 36, I got my first love carving on this driftwood in Detroit Lake. Thanks, Mr. H! xo

love carvings

25 thoughts on “A City Girl Goes Camping Again After a Seven-Year Boycott

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Britt. I need a trip to the wilderness myself. I am with you on the whole ‘corn hole’ thing. Whoever thought up calling a game kids can enjoy such a name should be taken out to the woodshed and… well, never mind.

    Great post, dear.

    1. Haha! I completely agree on the cornhole thing. The first time I heard that, I was like: I beg your pardon?

      You should get out there, Dannie! The wilderness is the best world. 🙂

  2. Wow, those photos…that second one (with Mount Jefferson?) takes the breath away. But no. I’d run/walk/hike all day in the wilderness. Come night time though, give me a comfy room with home comforts. And I would totally lose it with children, babies, loud music. Give me solitude away from actual people.

    Make a note Britt not to invite me on your next jaunt, yeah? 🙂

    1. Yes…Mount Jefferson is so beautiful! Photo credit goes to Mr. H on that one though.

      I hear ya on the spending the night thing. I prefer to spend my days being adventurous, then coming home to a hot bath, comfy bed, and snuggly cats. Yeah…being around people when you’re trying to enjoy some solitude can be a total bummer. I made the best of it by doing a secret character study.

  3. Mud can make it pretty miserable. So slidy, so damp :/
    I am hopeful we’ll camp when the night time temps get to the 50s. We used to go quite a bit, and have gone NOT ONCE in the last five years. I enjoy camping when the spaces are farther apart, less people and their music, hm? I like the quiet.
    I always sleep well when we camp, or at least, I always have in the past.
    So glad you went and had a good time, mostly.

    1. Rainy camping is pretty tough to handle. We had perfect weather this time, so it made it easy to give up the boycott. I like when the spaces are farther apart too. Otherwise, I feel like I’m hanging out with strangers. Anyhoo, the views made up for it!

  4. I’m afraid I boycotted camping after just two tries at it! Maybe if I’d done it when I was younger….I love the idea of it, just not the actuality – although I did enjoy lying in a tent while the rain battered down outside. I hope one day to see a blog post by some other blogger somewhere who has come across your love carving 🙂

    1. Haha, Andrea! I imagine if you start camping as an adult that would be pretty rough. I have the nostalgia to encourage me to get out there and pitch a tent. Without that, I don’t know.

      That would be really neat to see that love carving discovered by another blogger. xo

  5. Hubs and I used to camp a lot before we had kids. I can handle two days, two nights, then I’m ready for a real bed and a real shower. Camping is a ton of work, and if the weather sucks it isn’t worth the hassle. For me. I know many people don’t bat an eyelash if it’s monsooning or what have you.

    We ended up buying a house on a lake with his parents and his brother. We get the best of both worlds because we can canoe, kayak, hike, swim, or cookout whenever we want, but still have a bed and a shower and electricity at our fingertips. Not really roughing it, but it’s much kinder to the body! 🙂

    1. Two nights is my max too! Camping can be a shit ton of work. That’s another reason we stopped doing it. As we got busier, we just wanted to check into an AirBnB or a hotel and get our chill on!

      That lake house sounds ideal. When can we come over? 🙂

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