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Column: Getting up close... but not too close... with nature
Sleeping in a camper trailer during your wilderness adventure may or may not be cheating.
6/9/2012 10:03:00 PM
By Casey Martin
Last weekend, I went camping with the boys, the guys, a ... bunch of dudes.
(What is the collective noun for "dudes," anyway? Is it a bunch? A herd? A stank?)
I first went camping when I was a wee baby, only a few months old. My parents were terrified that I would get cold, so they gave me the lion's share of the blankets. Apparently, my parents and older brother were freezing that night, but I stay just as toasty as could be. I'm sure I was pretty smug about it. I was a smug baby.
And I still enjoy camping. There's nothing quite like getting back to nature. To feel entirely independent and free of the modern world. To rely on nothing but your own wiles and intellect. To realize that food and shelter are what's important in life, not status symbols. But, this weekend, we couldn't get the DVD player to work in the camper. And the microwave took about twice as long as our microwave at home.
Okay, we didn't exactly "rough it." Back in the day, my wife and I used to do quite a bit of camping. As poor college kids, it was often the only way that we could get out of town for a few days. Load up our tiny car with camping supplies and food and zoom! Drive an hour or two to the nearest mountain (there are perks about growing up in Wyoming. Of course, living in Prescott, we actually live ON a mountain. So, yes, Prescott, you win).
And we also used to do quite a bit of backpacking. In fact, we first fell in love with Arizona when we started a yearly backpacking trek down into the Grand Canyon during spring break from our college.
Backpacking is sort of like advanced camping. Everything that you need to sustain you, to protect you from the elements and starvation, is right there on your back.
Of course, I was also very concerned about those things that would protect me from boredom. Not content to merely sit on a rather sharpish rock and take in the magnificent scenery, I always managed to stuff a Frisbee in my pack. Every single time we went backpacking, we never played Frisbee.
But the most foolish thing that I always took along with me was a book. The first time that we went into the Grand Canyon (and indeed, the first time I ever went backpacking), I brought along a very thick copy of Plato's Republic (I really did. I had homework, after all. Of course, that homework could've waited. Live and learn). After that, I always brought along much smaller paperbacks. I always had them but rarely read them.
So this weekend, my buddies and I stayed in a camper. No tents or uncomfortable sleeping bags for us. (Please note the "camp" in "camper." See? Camping. It's not called a "cheater," so it counts.) I've found that staying in a camper has its own perils. Sure, you are no longer exposed to the elements, but that also means that when one of your camper-mates has thoroughly enjoyed a large helping of beans for dinner, the atmosphere can get quite toxic.
As I've grown older and, admittedly, softer, I have to say that camping in a camper is certainly the way to go, if you can afford it, or if you can wheedle one out of a kind relative (thanks for the loan of your camper, Ron).
It's truly wonderful to take in nature, to breath fresh air, to listen to the birds, to sit quietly as the wind moving the tree branches makes a "shush-shush" sort of noise.
But it's also nice to leave nature outside where it belongs, and lock yourself inside, safely away from mosquitoes and wolves and hockey-mask wearing serial killers.
As noted outdoorsman Henry David Thoreau once stated, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Poignant words, Hank. I bet he had a camper.
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