Before you fill up your knapsack and head for the great outdoors, let me give you a little hint to take with you. You can store it right next to your water filter and dehydrated beef stew. Here it is … tent camping is hard. It involves an enormous amount of packing and unpacking, hauling and trudging and tent stake driving among rather a lot else. I know there are folks out there who like nothing better than to test their shoe leather against the elements. Waiting patiently in my still-to-be-written-about list of topics is a piece on a local man who hiked every millimeter of the Appalachian Trail. There are about two hundred gazillion millimeters in the trail and I would be fascinated to know how this man sustained the will to traipse over them all. Now, if I can only find his phone number. …
As we get older, Steve and I find we grow ever more fond of comfort. This sounds vaguely shameful and cowardly and untrue to our Puritan forebears when you come right out and say it. The sad fact is the words “comfort” and “tent” are seldom found in the same sentence. And here is another badly-kept secret about tent camping. You sleep in, oh the humanity!, a tent. On the ground. Sleeping on the ground entails getting down to ground level, you realize. This is bad enough and rarely dainty but at least during this part of the process you have the unwitting aid of gravity. The next morning, unless you really really wish to become one with the earth, you need to get back up from ground level after having spent the night lying on a tree root. Or on a rock. Or on the last guy who tried to tent camp and couldn’t quite muster the strength to get vertical again.
As if the point needed even more emphasis, let me add that in the wilds there are, not to be overly dramatic here or anything, wild animals. Not around here, of course. The wildest things to be found around here are the occasional skunk and raccoon. At our house we are being overrun by bunny rabbits. Bunny rabbits are cute and fluffy and cartoony right up until the moment they start eating all the lettuce and sunflowers. If you see any hungry-looking coyotes or foxes or even humans with an appetite for hasenpfeffer, send them over.
In regions farther afield, though, are seriously wild wild animals, like bears. Bears bother me. There are no really good ways to go, but being eaten by a bear would have to rank among the top five bad ways.
We used to go fishing in a remote part of Canada that was accessible solely by float plane. The only drinkable water was about a mile boat ride down the lake and a then short hike through the woods to a spring. Every few days we would lug a couple of gallon jugs to fill. It was a pleasant trip and an easy walk. One day, after having filled the jugs, were making our way back to the boat. Squarely in the middle of the path a bear had deposited a heaping mound of droppings. (So, yes definitely, wild bears do. …) This was so unsettling I almost made a deposit of my own. Those droppings were not there when we had walked in but they were there now and they hadn’t been brought by the tooth fairy. Steve was far more sanguine about it than I was. “I don’t have to run faster than the bear,” he noted. “I just have to run faster than you.” (Scientific note: “Authorities” are divided about what to do if you encounter a bear. Some say run, others say play dead. Some say make noise, others say keep quiet. Personal note: if a bear comes after me, I will be running and screaming for all I am worth until I am overtaken by the bear and devoured. I figure this will take the longest thirty seconds of my life.)
The unease over the bear doo-doo was enhanced by the fact we were staying in a cabin built entirely of particle board. A fairly determined seven-year-old, much less a 300 pound bear, could have pushed the walls in. And since Steve can run faster than I can, the only thing between me and the bear would have been some dehydrated beef stew.
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.
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