While huddled around the campfire last weekend, we all shared our worst camping experiences. Here are my top 3:
1) The best part of camping is the campfire. Eating campfire-cooked food that's only been dropped in the dirt once or maybe twice is immensely satisfying and flavorful. Then, the conversations around the fire almost always have a richness and seem to engender comraderie more than those during a regular day, which typically involve me making the same excellent jokes over and over.
So, the first time I went camping with my good friend, Clint, one summer during college, I was looking forward to sharing the experience with him. Clint is one of the most mellow and laid back guys I know, so camping seemed like a great activity to do with him. Also, Clint was a much more experienced outdoorsman than I was, so I counted on him to lead the way on campsite-choice and similar issues.
We were driving across the country and had stopped at a campsite in Nevada our first night. I popped out of the car like an eager puppy and asked if I should start gathering wood, or maybe licking my testicles.
"Nah, we don't need a fire."
"Huh?" I whimpered, "No campfire? How will we cook our food?"
Clint rummaged around in the back of his car for a minute while I pined for my campfire. After a few moments he pulled out....(wait for it).... a can of cranberry sauce and a can opener.
"Here," he offered, "We'll eat this."
And so we did. And then we went to sleep. And then idealism died. And I still hate cranberry sauce.
2) About a decade ago I worked for Hewlett Packard. One summer a bunch of fun co-workers planned a camping trip to Yosemite, which I gladly signed up for. Yay, fun people! Yay, Yosemite! All good things. What could go wrong?
Due to schedule conflicts, I had to drive down to Yosemite by myself, which was about a 3 hour drive. A few minutes into the drive, I started to feel a little under the weather. As the minutes went by, I felt worse and worse. After about 2.5 hours, I knew I had come down with some nasty flu and would be vomiting very soon. Camping seemed unwise. Driving back home seemed impossible.
I pulled into the first motel I found and staggered into the front office, suggesting that they should give me a room IMMEDIATELY. They were almost quick enough. I stumbled out of the office and promptly puked into the bushes. I gagged my way to the room, where I spent the remainder of the night puking and shivering. It was one of those nights where I was too exhausted to even press buttons on the TV remote, so I ended up watching whatever channel the previous people had watched.
The next morning I checked out of the hotel and drove verrry slowly, so as not to disturb my delicate tummy, into Yosemite. I found my friends' campsite and left them a note, explaining my absence. I then gingerly drove through Yosemite, doing my best to enjoy this world-class park from behind my windshield.
It was a long ride home. It was my only trip to Yosemite as an adult.
3) My original camping buddy was Dan, a good chum from high school. We first went camping the year after graduation. We had a glovebox full of mix tapes and a cooler full of cokes. It was innocence personified. Nary a dark thought in our minds.
After finding a beautful campsite that afternoon, we pitched our tent, made our campfire, bbq'ed some burgers, and had a great time. That evening we snuggled into our sleeping bags and happily went to sleep in our tent, nestled among the trees in the great outdoors. It was peaceful, bordering on idyllic.
Until the night terrors.
In the middle of the night, Dan started to scream. He bolted upright and started tearing his way out of the tent, while screaming incoherently. It took what seemed like forever to get Dan calmed down. During that time he had literally torn a hole in the side of our nylon tent in an effort to get away from the truck that he had dreamed was bearing down on him.
We patched up the tent in the morning with long strips of duct tape, but Dan's psyche was still wounded. He woke me again later that trip, screaming about squirrels under his sleeping bag.
There were no squirrels.