As a kid, I was always excited to go on camping trips. My family would plan two or three every summer, whether this meant traveling to a new location, heading to a usual place, or just bringing tents along to our camp for the 4th of July so we didn’t have to sleep inside (Note: on a sweltering hot day in July, my grandfather likes to keep camp’s inside temperature right around 90 degrees).
While we never really did any truly backwoods, in the middle of nowhere camping (there was always at least an outhouse, and sometimes we were lucky enough to camp somewhere with a shower house), I was always thrilled to set up a tent, cook over the fire or the handy two-burner stove my parents brought along, and read or hike or go biking and swimming, all of which I could do perfectly well at home; for whatever reason it is more satisfactory when you can come back and sit next to the fire before you crawl into a tent and sleeping bag.
As a teenager and young adult, I’ve been on a few camping trips without the guidance of older adults. I’m definitely not complaining – love you mom and dad – but I’ve noticed some things about camping that I never realized when I was younger. Here are some of those things:
Bug Bites. I honestly don’t take as much notice of these as I remember taking as a kid. Maybe I’ve built up a tolerance, or maybe I’ve finally caught on to the wisdom of “If you don’t itch that bug bite it won’t bother you.” Maybe the mosquito and black fly populations are less, or maybe I’ve just not been outside at the “right” times to notice them.
Rain. Camping with my parents, I liked the rain. I think this had a lot to do with my imaginative spirit – rainy days in the woods meant persevering, splashing through puddles, and almost always marked the day we were to go home. In the past few years, every camping trip I’ve taken has come with rain. The rain would either show up on one day or not let up all weekend, but there’s always been rain. This past week I camped almost exclusively, and the rain came on the two days we packed up our site. On these days, one of my favorite things – camp breakfast – cannot be enjoyed as thoroughly, because it’s cold and you just want to go back to bed. The tent – a place of solace, protection, and coziness – becomes a monstrously annoying burden that needs to be taken down, folded up, then crammed into a corner of a car where it will minimally touch all of your somewhat-dry items. I’m sorry, mom and dad, for taking your campsite packing-up skills for granted and wondering why, upon arrival at home, everything had to be “unpacked now and laid out to dry.”
Greasy hair. The only thing I really can’t stand about being in the woods, [mostly] away from running water or the lush facilities of my own home, is greasy hair. My hair needs to be washed every day if it is to retain its nice texture and shine, and on day-long or week-long camping trips with maybe one shower or when I’m swimming every day, although my hair becomes soft, it also becomes a slick mass on my head. I know compared to other things that could happen on a camping trip this is at the bottom of the importance/risk list, but it’s one item that has started sticking out to me – perhaps I’ve grown a little more superficial in my old age.
But regardless of bug bites, rain, and greasy hair, camping will always be a summertime must-do for me. Through all of the changes in my life, it is comforting to know that I still have the need for adventure and simple soul that my 8-year-old self did. I will admit, it’s much more difficult to clear my head of stress and worries than when I was 8, but it’s more feasible and easier for me now to take more camping trips – and voluntarily subject myself to bug bites, rain, and greasy hair.