For my birthday this year I reluctantly agreed to go camping at Crater Lake. This is a summary of that trip and my thoughts on camping as a result.
Les and I decided on a camping trip mostly because we are planning a nearly week-long trip to San Francisco for our 10-year anniversary, which is the first week of September and we wanted to something for my birthday that wouldn’t cost a whole lot of money. In the 10 years that we’ve been together we’ve never been camping even though he is a super-boy-scout who loves that kind of outdoorsy, dirty, bug-filled crap. I did agree to go camping last summer in Maine and New Brunswick, but then Les got laid off and we moved to Oregon instead.
Starting out I laid down some ground rules for camping. First and foremost is flushing toilets, I don’t pee outside, that’s my number one rule (not just in camping, in all things). The only other thing that was a real deal-breaker when it comes to camping is the bugs. I don’t like bugs, I really don’t like spiders, and I would rather not be a meal for them while I pay to live like a homeless person and sleep outdoors. This problem was solved when we purchased the Subaru. Les and the dogs slept in the tent and I slept like a civilized person with a real pillow and blankets in the back of the car, with a tight seal between me and the creepy crawlies.
I was going to do a play-by-play of our camping trip, but I was getting bored reading it just as I was writing it, so I’m just going to cover the highlights and share some photos, then wrap up my thoughts about camping as a whole at the end.
We found what I think was the best spot in the place (especially considering the campground was completely full not an hour after we arrived), it was behind the bathrooms so we had direct access without having to walk by anybody else’s site, it was near the water spout, and it it was away from the main road. It also had several signs warning about bears and a bear-proof container to hold all of our food. This thingamabob came in handy not just for protecting our sandwich makings from adorable but deadly animals, it also gave us a good spot to tether the dogs where they weren’t in the way but weren’t too far away either and it provided them with shade. Maybe this is a normal thing in campgrounds, but as I don’t visit campgrounds often, I thought it was pretty neat.
Before we ever left the house we had several lists and of stuff to bring. Somehow with all of these lists we managed to forget the piece that connects the propane to the grill, we had the grill and the propane but the little connector part never made it on to the list so it got left. Luckily we realized this before we left civilization completely and we bought some charcoal to cook with.
The first night we had cheeseburgers, which were surprisingly good, but they took a while because we had attempted to prevent the inevitable disaster of floating cheese by using dry ice in our cooler instead of the traditional frozen water kind. It worked, and it didn’t. The meat was so frozen that, even though we took it out before dinner, it didn’t thaw. Throughout the rest of the weekend it also froze the mustard solid, made half an avocado unusable, nearly exploded a soda can that somehow rolled closer to the ice, and made slushies out of our cider.
After we were done eating we did some stargazing, it was incredible. It had been a long time since I’d seen that many stars, since we left Washington. There just aren’t that many stars visible on the east coast, too much light pollution. The view of the sky was so incredible from the campsite that we decided to take the drive back up to the rim of the lake. It was totally worth it, it was freezing, but seeing that many stars over that still, deep water was mesmerizing. This part of camping is pretty damn cool, but I can drive to the middle of nowhere to look at stars and then sleep in my own bed pretty easily. I could also live in the middle of nowhere and see them and sleep in my own bed like we did in Washington, although that really doesn’t work on the coast.
I think my least favorite thing about the entire damn trip were the mornings. Les climbed into the car with both dogs at 6:00 a.m., because, “It’s light and I’m up.” Now let me take a moment to point out that I am not a morning person, and after 10 years Les knows better than attempt to speak to me at any single-digit morning hour without at least 1 cup of coffee, so my reply of,
“It’s a Saturday, it’s my birthday, get the fuck out of here, I’m going back to sleep! 6 o’clock in the goddamn morning, what the fuck is wrong with you?”
should have come as no surprise to him. The above photo is me 2 hours later when I did get up (still earlier than I would have on a Saturday, by the way) after he had made me some coffee so I didn’t have to murder him and then take 2 days and 2 transmissions to get back to Coos Bay in a standard transmission by myself. As you can see, I was thrilled to be outdoors in 40 degree weather at such an hour.
The other thing that made the mornings so bad was the “food” Les insisted is traditional camping breakfast. I’m sure that it is food, in fact I think I read a book that started with a poor orphan begging for some more of it. But I am not Oliver Twist and I don’t know why I had to be subjected to it. I did eat it though (well … most of it, the dog got the rest after it got cold).
Other than breakfast, the food was pretty good, at least once we got everything thawed. We grilled tuna steaks one night and had sandwiches or wraps for lunch. And all our lunches were at picnic tables, which the dogs absolutely love for some reason.
Then there were the parts that weren’t necessarily camping related, like the driving around the lake and hiking, I really enjoyed that, as did the dogs.
The conclusion that I came to at the end, when we were packing up to go, is there are some fun things about camping, but the bad outweighs it just slightly (keeping in mind that without the flushing toilets and sleeping in the car the bad wins overwhelmingly). The good things being: It was fun, I really liked looking at the stars, it was interesting to hear all the birds and bugs and other critters, I got to see lots of adorable critters (but no bears, I’m kinda pissed about that, I got my hopes up because there were so many signs), it was nice to be off the grid. The bad things being: It smelled terrible – the campfire smell got into everything and I washed everything we wore and all the blankets we used before I even unpacked the cooler, it was dirty, it wasn’t nearly as quiet as I thought it would be, nor was it as secluded as I thought it would be – I hate people and I was hoping I wouldn’t see so many.
But the thing that pushed me over the top is that everything took soooooo long and we needed soooooo much stuff. Packing took longer than it should have because we needed so much stuff and wouldn’t have an opportunity to pick up things we forgot. Unpacking took longer since we had to store everything in the Yogi-proof thingamadoodle. Cooking took longer, eating even seemed to take longer for some reason. It was just too much work for not enough result. If I go on a trip and stay in a hotel or with friends/family I can be packed for a week in less than an hour, three days of camping (and not even 3 full days) took nearly 3 hours. I think I’ll probably agree to some camping trips in the future, mostly to make Les happy, but in the end, I think it’s not for me.