Worst Camping Ever
I have been camping a number of times in my life, and while it’s not my favorite thing to do, I have had some reasonably fun camping experiences. I have had two awful ones, each on opposite ends of the weather spectrum. Mostly on camping trips, I worry about bears. I hate bears. If I saw a bear I would absolutely come unglued. But there are other menaces on camping trips…
My camping trip on the Mississippi coast was at one end of the weather spectrum. We camped on July 4th weekend, and the temperature was over one hundred degrees during the day. The trip started off auspiciously enough. My boyfriend at the time knew how to sail and had the use of his dad’s sailboat. He and I and another couple loaded our camping gear onto the catamaran (don’t ask me how many feet – I don’t remember) and set sail for an unoccupied island called Horn Island. The island had been frequented in the past by a well-known painter. As my boyfriend was a painter too, he felt an affinity for this island and frequently camped there. On the trip to the island we were followed by a school of dolphins – I climbed down the back ladder of the sailboat and held on to it and let it pull me through the water. The dolphins were all around me and it was an awesome experience. When we arrived at the island we set up our tents and made a campfire on the sand. We were waiting to watch the fireworks which were set off at the beach in Biloxi. After the fireworks (which were beautiful), we drank some beer and turned into bed. That was where the misery began. It was SO HOT. I am sure it was still well over eighty degrees in the middle of the night. The mosquitos got into the tents despite the mosquito flaps, and I began to hear their whine in my ears. I couldn’t sleep and I finally couldn’t stand it any more. I got out of the tent quietly and slipped down to the water’s edge to get wet and cool off. I waded in up to my knees and was splashing the tepid water on my arms and legs when I heard a voice. My boyfriend had followed me down to the water. “Watch out for the floating logs,” he said. “Say what?” I said. “The floating logs. The alligators. They come all through this inlet.” I hauled butt out of that water so fast, nearly screaming. “Alligators! There are alligators here? In. The. Water. With. Me?” I couldn’t believe he hadn’t warned me about the alligators. He didn’t seem too concerned that I might meet my death by colliding with a giant man-eating prehistoric lizard. I returned miserably to our tent, not cooled by the warm water at all, and letting more mosquitos in when I came back in. The rest of the night was a wretched blur as I tossed in the heat, swatted at mosquitos, and imagined large gators waddling around outside of our tent like awful horizontal green bears. The following day, after we laid in the sun on the island (no gators during the day), we packed up our stuff (I hate packing up camping stuff, just for the record) and loaded up the boat. We were sunburned, exhausted, hung over and hot and we were making poor headway in the wind on our way back. There was a catamaran race going on in the part of the water we were approaching. Suddenly, a funny thing happened. The catamarans just started flipping over, one after another. A microburst gust and a gale were coming up out of nowhere. My boyfriend frantically cranked the sail down to keep us from flipping over too. We retreated to the inside of the boat and were violently slapped back and forth, up and down as the water and wind raged around up. The other girl on the trip started getting seasick. All we needed was vomit and hysteria down in the hold of that little boat, so I frantically went through my stuff until I found us all a benadryl – helps with seasickness. I persuaded the girl somehow not to get sick. I don’t know how long we were down there before the wind calmed and we were able to come back above. For some reason, we couldn’t get the sail up and my boyfriend turned on the trolling motor. It was hiccuping and spitting, and it occurred to me that we might not be getting home ever. What seemed like hours later, we pulled up into the marina. I literally kissed the dock when I got on it. Then came the worst part of all – my boyfriend insisted that we clean the boat before we could leave. I mean, I know that’s the correct protocol after taking a boat out, you clean it up and swab the decks, but I was so desperate to get out of there that having to stay on the boat and clean it up was just awful. It seemed an eternity before the thing was done. We finally got to drive out of there and I vowed I would never again camp on the Mississsippi coast in the dead of the summer.
My second camping trip was just the opposite. This was another camping boyfriend and we had been invited to go whitewater rafting. I didn’t cotton on to what this would mean in West Virginia in late October. I had been whitewater rafting many times in the summer and it had been lots of fun. I bought us a double mattress so we could sleep in comfort off the ground and we both had warm sleeping bags. We loaded up my two dogs and the Suburban and took off. First, the drive to West Virginia from Atlanta was endless. On arrival, it was literally snowing. Snowing! Ohmygosh. We made a warm campfire and pitched our tents (which were somehow not cooperating, maybe because all opposable digits were frozen). It was so cold that I was literally trying to climb IN to the campfire without getting burned. I would do the front half, then the back. The dogs were uneasy. They had only been camping once or twice before and they were skulking around the fire. I hadn’t seen them go to the bathroom since we had arrived. When it came time to go to sleep we set up our sleeping bags on the inflatable mattress, which would hopefully protect us from the frozen ground. We decided to let the dogs sleep in the tent since it was so cold. Of course, they were so nervous they barked at every little noise, which in turn persuaded me that there was probably a bear skulking around our tent, and this rendered sleep nearly impossible. We finally fell asleep and awoke in the morning to – WET! And freezing! The stupid dogs had held their pee the whole damn day and had both released their bladders in our sleeping bags. My boyfriend’s sock was yellow and dripping and he snatched up that dog by the scruff of her neck and gave her a shake. There was no hope of lying in and snuggling because our warm haven was ruined. We were wet and cold and we stunk. It was time to go rafting so we struggled into our wetsuits. The wind on the evaporating dog pee was glacial. We loaded up our fellow campers and drove to the put-in spot. And when we got in the boats I realized something awful. There was snow on the ground. And the water was freezing. And we were about to get wet. Sure enough. Water splashed into the boats steadily as we worked our way downriver. I was so cold that I literally prayed for death. I hoped I would fall out of the boat and bash my head on a rock and not have to be cold anymore. This went on for hours. When we finally staggered out of the boats I felt I was near death. I could not get warm. We returned to the camp site to be greeted by the dogs and the person who had stayed behind (oh, how I wished I was that person) and changed clothes. I spent the rest of the day hunkered as close to that fire as I could get. I don’t ever want to go camping in the winter time again. I am just not into being cold, and now that I know how cold it is in West Virginia, I won’t be going there in the winter again. The only thing missing from this scenario was bears. A few bears thrown in and it would have been the sucky camping trifecta.
So now I don’t camp. I was all about being a Good Sport when I was younger, but as I get older, I am less about good sport and more about self preservation. I like camping in hotels. I used to hate people who say that, but here I am, in my mid-forties and I am totally over camping. My husband likes camping a lot and has all sorts of camping gear, and he plans to go camping with our daughter when she gets a little older. Who knows. I may go with them. As long as I can be guaranteed no bears, no alligators, and no snow.