Every time, as I struggle to get ready for a camping trip: digging out the tent, the lantern, the sleeping bag—I ask myself, “Why do I love this so much?”
Then, much later, preparing food, trying to ignore the dirty fingernails, unsanitary prep surfaces and flies buzzing around my head, I ask it again, “What is it about camping?”
Yet, at some point, perhaps after the tent is set up, hunger slaked, the campfire started and the stars are beginning to twinkle in the dark sky, a feeling of peace washes in.
I didn’t come from a family of outdoorsmen. We didn’t hunt, camp, hike, boat or ski. I learned to ski as a freshman in college because I wanted to be near a boy I liked who skied like a pro. I never caught the boy, but I caught ski fever, despite the fact that my first run was straight down, until I crashed at the bottom of the ski lift, flipping cleaning over the ropes protecting the area from bozos like me.
At some point the next summer, I acquired what I called “Big Blue”, a rather large tent with fat metal poles that required a map to put together. I collected a group of camping buddies; we were partial to Bear Lake, up and over the Bear River Mountains through Logan Canyon.
At some point, I got serious about camping and visited the Army Surplus Store in Logan, Utah to pick up some more gear. There I found a nifty two-man tent for $20, which, along with Big Blue, lasted for years and many camping trips, until I finally sold it, still in excellent shape, for $20 at a garage sale.
Because I love camping so much, while still asking myself, “Why?!”, I have worked to refine my techniques, so as to lessen the “ordeal” of getting ready.
1.It’s important to be organized. In your garage or shed, have a section devoted to camping gear. Here is where you store the tent, sleeping bag, lantern, camp stove, propane bottles, folding shovel, cooler, camp chair and other large items. 2.Have a “camping box” or two packed with: paper plates and bowls, plastic cups. I like to have real flatware so there is a box of knives, forks and spoons, along with various utensils. Don’t forget the can/bottle opener and Swiss army knife a.The camping box also includes stick matches, a simple first-aid kit, extra mantels for the lantern, playing cards, small pots, re-usable plates and bowls, a coffee mug, flashlight, extra batteries b.For coffee lovers: Having tried the percolating coffee pot, which takes too long for my taste, I settled on the Melitta coffee system c.Hand towels, hot pad, kitchen mitt, baby wipes, marshmallow forks, plastic bags 3.I can’t sleep comfortably on the ground, so I indulged myself in an inflatable mattress. With care, your mattress can last for years. Another indulgence, but a must-have for me—a rechargeable pump to blow it up! Remember to charge the pump before you leave. Make sure you find a pump with attachments, so you can also inflate rubber rafts and other water toys
Last weekend, I found myself with a break between duties and decided to go camping. One of my greatest joys is scouting for new plants and flowers. Sometimes I bring guide books but at least try to capture a photo for identification later, such as the scarlet gilia and whiteveined wintergreen I found this trip.
Lake Tahoe is near countless campgrounds with varying amenities. Some have water, toilets and showers or hook-ups for camp trailers; others are pine-needle softened patches of dirt among the trees.
For the adventurous who like to go with minimal gear, seeking solitude in the wilderness, there are unlimited possibilities, as long as you’re willing and able to haul everything you need on your back.
Take the time to check the regulations of the area where you are going. For example, in California, you are required to have a campfire permit, obtained at any Forestry or Bureau of Land Management office or online at preventwildfireca.org. Currently, campfires AND charcoal cooking apparatus are prohibited until the end of the season in California, due to extremely high fire danger. You still need a permit to operate a camp stove and lantern.
Though camping can be a lot of work, it can also be food for the soul. The sounds of nature are soothing, the plant and animal life stimulating to observe; and the night sky away from any city lights can’t fail to inspire awe.