I think of camping as the epitome of the simple life. Me. Under the stars. A distant cowboy singing, “Git along little dogies.”
It’s tar-black coffee poured from an enameled pot.
A fiercely independent act which makes no concessions for downpours or mosquito swarms.
An escape from the complexities of life.
REI and a posse of others have changed all that. Impeding old age hasn’t helped.
We test drove Covid travel with a weeklong road trip to my mother-in-law’s memorial service in northern Michigan. For three nights, outside of Traverse City, we camped.
We learned a lot on this trip. First, I believe we can travel safely. It’s not that complicated: wash your hands, wear a mask, maintain distance, eat outdoors and know your own risks and be true to them.
I also learned, camping is equal parts drudgery and misery. It’s dirty toes and sore hips. It’s lying in bed at 2AM and then again at 5, imploring a full bladder to go back to sleep.
It’s an exercise in excess.
Relatively speaking, we are simple campers—no solar-powered shower stall, no net-enclosed eating cabana, no six person standing-room tent or pop-up or trailer. Yet even our scaled-down version of camping is an SUV stuffed with duffle bags of who-knows-what.
It turns out, it’s a whole lot of work to live the simple life. To fall asleep to the sound of other yakking campers and a slamming outhouse door.
This is the opposite of hopping a train with nothing more than a credit card, a toothbrush and a clean shirt.
This is the opposite of things that make me happy—a well-cooked meal, a comfy bed, a flush toilet … hopping a train with nothing more than a credit card, a toothbrush and a clean shirt.
When we returned home from Michigan, I replanned our next road trip—shortened it by 9 days and moved as many camping nights to hotel nights as possible. I culled my personal packing to the bare necessities that can all fit in my backpack.
We leave tomorrow. Four weeks. Destination, Montana and Colorado.
Our packing is nearly finished. Pat has explained that we need to bring all our camping essentials whether we camp for one night or 30.
We’ll mash it into the way back where I don’t have to look at it. I’ll stash my backpack in the seat behind me and focus on the bits that truly make me happy—the simple act of going.