Camping: Initial reactions

More or less in the order in which I remember them, here are a few recollections and reflections of our recent camping trip– before photos and video, which I haven’t had a chance to process yet. That’s coming soon.

  • I was out shopping on Thursday in preparation for our Friday trip and talking on the cell phone with my colleague and friend Linda. She asked me what I was doing and I told her that I was getting ready to go camping. “Really. Really?! Really?” was more or less what she said for a few moments. This seemed to be a common reaction from friends and colleagues.
  • On said shopping trip, I scored what would prove to be an excellent purchase, a Coleman GeoSport Shade canopy contraption that was on deep discount at Target. We’ll get to the usefulness of this device in a moment.
  • The drive up to the Pinery was dominated by construction and then by lying to the border patrol (“No, we didn’t have any alcohol or food in our car in preparation for a camping trip; why do you ask?”).
  • The Pinery itself is a provincial (e.g., state) park in Ontario on the shores of Lake Huron about 45 miles or less northeast of Port Huron, Michigan. I mentioned our trip to several long-time locals here and it seems like everyone in this part of Michigan has been there at one point in time. It’s quite nice, a very large park with lots of camping and a nice combination between camping in the forest (e.g., “pines”) and the beach a short walk away over dunes that are kind of like Sleeping Bear but without the crowds and with smaller dunes.
  • We got there later than we wanted but still much earlier than Jim and Rachel and their kids, and we set up our camp in some wind but no rain. And this brings me to my first observation about camping: it seems to me that camping is a “meta” activity in that much of one’s time camping is setting up, cleaning, rearranging, fussing with, and, at the end of the trip, packing up the camp stuff. So this setting up part was one of the more important and amusing activities on the trip.Thankfully, we rehearsed putting up the tent the week before and the instructions for assembly are much more clear than you might think.
  • Observation #2: what counts as “camping” is very much a variable. It reminds me a bit of living in Richmond, VA when I would have conversations with folks from places like Alabama about what it was like for me to live in “The South” and they would say to me “honey, this ain’t the south.” (FWIW: as someone who was born in Wisconsin and who grew up in Iowa, when people claim that Michigan is the midwest, I pretty much always say “honey, this ain’t the midwest.”) In other words, our version of “camping” involved a car backed right up onto the camp site, a large tent, an air mattress under our toasty warm sleeping bags, the previously mentioned large canopy, a battery-powered iPod player, and a plastic cocktail shaker set. One of the other “camping” amenities we had once Jim and Rachel and kids arrived included a camp stove (indispensable for future camping, in my estimation). The “comfort station” (I love Canadian euphemisms for toilets and showers) were about 100 yards away. So, is this camping? Well, compared to the people who pull up in their 800 square foot RVs, yes. Compared to people who want to go and spend a week in the back-country and poop in the woods, no.
  • Hey, pop quiz: What can make camping really unpleasant? Why, rain, of course! And what did we have plenty of off and on for the first 18 hours or so? You guessed it! Rain and wind and cold. Wind was like white noise outside the tent Friday night– good sleeping for me and Will, but not so much for Annette. In more pleasant weather, I can see the appeal of spending the day on the beach of Lake Huron, basking in the sun as the kids frolic in the waves. In the weather we had, we went to the beach Saturday about 11 am and said “Holy shit, it’s cold and rainy!” and returned to the camp a bit later. Fortunately, the previously mentioned GeoSport Shade and the coverings that Jim and Rachel set up provided more than enough cover to sit around and enjoy fireside cocktails.
  • It was also cold, cold, COLD. Like in the upper 30s at night, and highs in the low 60s (maybe) during the day. The plus-side of this is it was good sleeping weather and there were almost no bugs.
  • Will’s favorite part of camping by far was running wild with Jim and Rachel’s kids on the beaches, the dunes, and a forest area they called “The Wasteland.” I don’t think it was an Eliot reference. My favorite part was the food. I suppose this might be different if the weather had improved a bit (we did get a chance to hike around a bit on Sunday), but the food experiences were excellent. Jim and Rachel cooked a great beef dish over the grill on Friday night, and we made chili over the fire with a newly purchased camp Dutch oven Saturday night. The breakfast coffee, sausages, oatmeal, and other treats just seemed to taste that much better in the out of doors. There were plenty of other tasty camp snacks, and I made some pie pan concoctions, including midnight (or so) Nutella and banana grilled sandwiches that I thought were magical. So, based on food along, camping has a lot of elements that I could definitely get behind.
  • So, an overall successful camping trip, depending on your definition of “camping.” I can easily imagine more trips in our near future, though probably not until it warms up a bit again.
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