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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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