It was about 10pm last night that I realized I am a much bigger fan of the concept of camping than camping itself.
Let’s create a fantasy together, shall we? Let’s go camping. It is us off the grid without anyone around. We will bring forth the tent & the gear, spread out our claim, and take in the forest and all that is pure about the wilderness. We are going to head out into the woods, where boys are men and pups are dogs.
Last night, the pup and I attempted to camp again. I won’t call it a fail, because we did camp just not for long. I wasn’t really in much of a mood for camping, but I wanted to try again before I needed to camp with folks come to Alaska soon. As I rode back to town, I realized that I need to change my concept of camping – because it is just that fantasy that we dreamed up together.
Let’s start with the obvious one — being alone with the woods. There is nothing about camping in a campground that says “alone”. Campsites are separated by less ground than what’s between houses. There aren’t fences to help with your privacy, just an occasional tree. Most of us sleep in a shelter made of thin fabric, which while water resistant, will never be mistake for noise dampening. All you need to be is one site away from some kids fueled by s’mores induced sugar rushes, or the college kids sipping from way too obvious paper bags, and there is enough noise to make camping to rival the intimacy of a Dennys during “kids eat free Mondays”. For you social people, you probably don’t really think too much about that, and maybe even embrace such a place. Seemed I had three or four people stop by and want to strike up a chat – but come on, I’m an introvert, I’m trying to be one with nature here. You’re not one with nature in a campground; you not even one with your dog.
The gear annoys me. I don’t camp enough to know what to bring, which usually means for me I bring everything I think I will need — and still end up not bringing what could screw the whole thing up. I have a major backpack tied to my dream of hiking my life away, and while that was filled for my single night camping, so were my day pack, and the backseat of my car. I had two sleeping bags, a water filtering system, two first aid kits, a bear bell & bear spray, four cans of dog food (he goes through one can a day, btw), 10 bottles of water (not wanting to recreate the dehydration we both had when hiking last week), and an extra t-shirt, shorts, and undies. I didn’t pack the right tent though, and brought my 1-man (not 1-overweight man plus 1-dog) tent. I didn’t bring utensils. I didn’t bring trash bags, cleaning items, or a bear bag to protect the site from visitors with good noses.
We went to Portage Lake, a lake created and fed by Portage Glacier, one of the largest in the area. Wind crosses over the glaciers here and funnels its way through the narrow valley on its way to Turnagain Arm. The air here was 15° cooler than Anchorage, which was a bit of a shock, more so when the wind hits you too – and the shade when the falls behind the mountains. Something forgetting a sweater or pants didn’t help. This was the deal breaker for me; I didn’t trust Alaskan camping to risk hypothermia (in June).
Camping in reality seems to be more about cooking. Think about what the experience is like, usually there is something cooked over a fire, or on a gas grill, or something outdoorsy. Then there are the coolers full of something. Then there is the roasted marshmallows, roasted hot dogs, roasted anything on a stick. Personally, I don’t know how to plan for that. What do I cook, how do I cook it, what other stuff do I need, does it take up space? In the end, I usually bring things that are easy open, good cold or hot, whatever I can throw together somethings.
I guess it’s the “where boys are men” line that is the biggest fantasy. Sure, we got chased from the campground because of the potential cold, but it was the mosquitos that really did a number on both of us. Poor Auggie still has bug bites on him, and I still feel the stick of the bug spray. I plan for bears, moose, rabid squirrels, but the bugs win.
Going to keep trying, though. Let’s be honest, I want that fantasy of camping, and I am sure I will get that fantasy here and there. But there is a difference between camping in forest and camping in a campground in a forest.
FYI – this is the 150th Bear Feed Post. Not all posts got published, but this is a milestone, so … yippie!!!