“I used to camp a great deal back in the Pleistocene, but this was because I was poverty stricken, and couldn’t even afford Motel 8.” George, 1999
Earlier this spring, my grandson asked me if I’d like to go camping with him and his family. I demurred. I told him as politely as possible that I didn’t believe in camping out on purpose. It is too masochistic for me.
To me, spending a night out in the bush — with critters, crawly bugs, and things that go bump in the night — is a sort of insanity. The only time that I camp out is because it is the only way that I can get to where I want to be.
If I were to climb Everest or ski to the South Pole, for example, I’d plan to leave very early in the morning and so plan to return early to my bed. Tents are anathema to me.
Besides, Dave Barry, that other columnist, tells me that it always rains on tents. Clouds will turn around and travel against the prevailing wind for miles in order to rain on tents.
Aeons ago we planned to climb Mount Athabaska, up there in the National Parks. It looked like a long trudge over the glacier so we took a tent, a couple of air-mattresses, and a small stove, then trudged up high with bulging packs. It took an eternity.
There were four of us in that tent that night and we were trying to sleep across two mattresses and it wasn’t much fun. Each time one of us moved, the other three bounced about like corks.
Cleverly, in order to save time and the amount of gas for the stove, we had boiled some eggs before we set off and those eggs gave me indigestion so bad that I thought, as we made the summit, I might be having a heart attack.
I have grovelled in dank caves, squatted in squalid barns, endeavoured to find rest in the porches of abandoned chapels, and tied myself to a tree on a perilous slope of a mountain. I do not remember blissful slumber.
We arose one morning in Scotland to find that our (relatively water-tight) tent had somehow moved itself into the middle of a small lake. We fled; the next day when we returned to rescue our refuge we found that, overnight, it had been blown to rags.
I used to think that winter camping might be fun. After all, you’re not going to get rained on in mid-winter in Canada, are you? All it takes is a good fire consisting of one dry 20-metre larch tree cut into suitable lengths, an endless supply of matches, several hundred spruce branches for a mattress, a great inflammable sleeping bag and a tarp to protect you from snow avalanching off other, plus another idiot to share the experience with you. Oh, and don’t forget to take your boots into your sleeping bag or you’ll not get them on in the morning, if you survive.
So, even though I knew that my grand-son and his ensemble would be ‘camping’ in a vehicle as big as my house. They’d have electronic devices to serve all of their comforts yet, if I recall, they’d be surrounded by other noisy ‘campers’, some of whom might actually sit outside by a fire, and to me it would have been a tad like Dante’s Inferno with bugs and very little sleep.
I read recently about a woman who has a tent in which she sleeps (at home, I presume, safe from the elements) and attached is a machine that deprives her of oxygen so that she might adapt to higher altitudes. I am going to get one before I tackle Lakit Lookout again. In fact, I don’t intend to do anything energetic or inane before I have that apparatus installed.
I am becoming more and more thoughtful about what I put my ancient body through. Camping out on purpose, for example. I’ve been there, done that and have several grubby T-shirts to prove it.