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 day.beer 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. Sounds like a great trip! I’m somewhere in the middle on camping, too. This past month, I did a Wisconsin River canoe trip and slept in a tent for the first time since 2006. We pulled up on a sandbar right in the middle of the river and spent the night. No bathroom (just a giant sand litter box), no shade, lots of mosquitos, and no way to get the sand off my body. I slept horribly. I came away saying, “I think I had fun?” I thought maybe I was too prissy for camping, but most people I talk to have assured me that most camp grounds have things like toilets and showers (of varying modernity, of course). I’ve come away from the whole experience feeling like I want to spend more time outdoors, which for me is a big win. 🙂

    1. Giant litter box, eh? That sounds awesome. 😉

      I typically go to campgrounds with some creature comforts, like showers and flushing toilets. If it’s just an overnight, I can deal without those things. The great thing is that litter box reminded you of how great it is to be outdoors!

  2. I’m glad you guys gave camping another try – those are beautiful photos and the people watching opportunities sound like a lot of fun! I camped out recently too – in the yard. We always do that for my mom’s birthday – it’s become part of the celebration. There’s something about sleeping under the moon and stars that makes it all worthwhile.

    1. Yard camping sounds so fun! I grew up in a condo, so I never had that option. Luckily, there was plenty of nature around Southern California. Sleeping outside can be pretty magical. xo

  3. Our family had a rainy camping experience, long ago. We were camping with another family, and it rained all week. It took some real work to dry everything out, but I had a great time, drinking lots of beer and catching a load of fish every day. :-0

  4. Well, I was the one noncamper in my camping family and ended up in a tent, 7 months pregnant, during the Highland Scottish Games rains in NC. Ayayayayay. Give me aromatherapy baths anytime. 🙂 But I do love the getaway quiet too and love your stories Ms. Britt. ❤️

    1. Wowza…I salute you for camping while 7 months pregnant, Miss Debbie! I can’t even imagine. You earned your stripes with that one.

      Yes, please on aromatherapy baths any day. 🙂

  5. You have your pick of so many beautiful places to hike and camp close to home. Your get-a-ways, home and abroad, are making a mountain of great experiences and memories. Thank you always for sharing!

  6. Aww….to your first love carving, and in such a beautiful setting, too. I am not a camper or a tramper but I don’t mind holidays in simple accommodation. I smiled when I clicked on the camping link. It is the same article another blogger recommended to me yesterday. It’s very good and helped me to understand the American passion for camping and ‘going to camp’.

  7. You guys are always so cute, it’s endearing!
    Happy to read you had a much better time this time around, beautiful weather and could appreciate the joys of camping again. Good on you to have chosen to try again… says the girl who’s also in the middle when it comes to liking or hating camping and sometimes even more on the hating side (of course, most of my camping experiences were those with flooding and everything soaked too).
    Like you, I’m on the verge of trying again, leaving next week on a 7-day trek on my own and camping every night! wow! We will see!

    The outdoors near Portland is so fantastically amazing, those views are the best medecine for the soul and I love how both of you know how to enjoy the moment.You look positively happy and I love that smile on your face.

    Happy camping, my dear! Keep having fun!
    xoxoxo
    Jul’

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