As I promised in my introduction to this blog, my posts won’t necessarily always be about writing, or the written word, sometimes they might just be a bit of a rant. I was talking to someone the other day about camping. They were talking about it as if it was something mystical. Hmm.
I don’t get the whole camping thing; I wish I did, people including my own sons seem to really enjoy it, but at the end of the day why would I leave my comfortable home and stay in a tent? My idea of an exciting adventure is a five-star resort, a one-bedroom suite, a choice of international restaurants and preferably a spa. And it’s not because I’m advancing in years, I’ve always hated it, even in my teens when I went camping in Britain with friends. It wasn’t like it was wilderness camping either; we camped in farmer’s fields and walked to the pub every evening. Sure it was fun, the visits to the pub anyway, especially the time we got a vicious swan drunk on whisky-soaked bread to discourage it from attacking us every time we walked past its pond, but the sleeping in the tent bit? That was awful, and you can only take so much of my friend Steve’s flatulence and his habit of eating cold baked beans straight from the tin. No, the connection is not lost on me.
When I tell people that I don’t like camping they don’t believe me. “You haven’t really experienced it properly,” they will say. “It’s great, you should come with us,” as if their company will miraculously turn the ordeal into something spiritual. Campers are an evangelical bunch; they believe that everyone should experience the magical power of nature – commune with the earth.
So, this is the deal; you want me to leave my warm, dry, safe home, my Sealy Posturepedic, pillow-top mattress, my flush toilet, heaters for when it’s cold and air-conditioning for when it’s hot; oh yes, and let’s not forget solid walls that provide privacy?
Okay, what do I get in return? A 75-denier polyester wall for privacy (my grandmother had stockings thicker than that for goodness sake!). I also have the privilege of sharing my bedroom with a variety of bugs, some of which may well be carrying the West Nile virus. I get to sleep, or at least try to, on a foam mattress the thickness of my laptop. Oh, and when I need to empty my bladder in the middle of the night, I have to clamber out of my sleeping bag, find my shoes, locate a flashlight, do a Houdini act with the tent zipper and walk half-a-mile to the washroom block, or risk peeing on a raccoon, or worse, stumbling into a patch of poison ivy.
It’s then that people say I’m exaggerating, and that I could choose campsites that have washrooms with flushing toilets and hot and cold running water. Been there done that; have you seen some of the people you have to share those facilities with? I remember a campsite on Lake Cameron where I came face to face, or actually face to butt with a 350lb naked guy bending over to dry his feet. The image is burned into my brain, located in a folder titled “Camping – aargh!” It’s true; when camping people seem to lose all their inhibitions; late at night those polyester walls are no match for the mating prowess of one’s fellow travelers. The power of being at one with nature, I suppose.
But, sarcasm doesn’t work on avid campers; they just shake their heads and smile, in that patronizing way they have; it’s as if they’re talking to an atheist who is yet to realize that he will burn in hell for all eternity if he doesn’t see the light. It then becomes their mission to save me from myself and lead me toward the light (a hurricane lamp, I suppose).
Actually, I really like the outdoors. I’d love to hike the West Coast Trail, all 75 km, and 5-7 days of it. When I tell friends this they roll their eyes and remind me that there are no hotels along the trail. They think they have me cornered at this point but I have a plan; I plan to have a helicopter pick me up at the end of each day (I can dream, can’t I?); it will pluck me off the beach and transport me to the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort and Spa, where I will make good use of their many facilities. Every morning my helicopter will drop me back at the exact spot where it picked me up the previous evening, lest I get accused of doing anything less than the complete trail; after all I want the tee-shirt that proudly declares ‘I Survived the West Coast Trail’.
I tried RV’ing once, under the illusion that it might be a softer form of camping, but after two weeks touring northern Vancouver Island with friends, I came to the conclusion that it was just camping on wheels. Sure, I now had walls thicker than a butterfly’s wing, and an inside toilet that flushed, sort of, but even that was an illusion. I soon found out that my RV did not automatically connect to a septic system every time we arrived at an RV park. This discovery was quickly followed by the fact that I had to regularly empty the sewage tank at something called a sani-station. This was not my idea of jolly holiday fun. When the connection broke on the outflow pipe and I had to jerry-rig it with a tomato tin, I knew my relationship with any form of camping was coming to an end.
I suppose I shouldn’t tease my hiking and camping friends so much. I genuinely understand the attraction of getting back to nature, the fresh air, sleeping under the stars, escaping the urban warfare that epitomizes our normal lives.
But for me, I am more in tune with the American writer Dave Barry, who said, “Camping is nature’s way of promoting the motel business.”