Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Happy Camper...

Hello Friends.

This piece appears in the August issue of Saskatoon Well Being Magazine. Pick up your copy today or read it online here:

Hello Saskatoon,

I love a Saskatchewan summer. More accurately, I love what passes for a Saskatchewan summer. Those few weeks in July when I tuck a $5 bill into my winter coat pocket before putting it in the closet and think, “Man, I hope this weather lasts long enough for me to forget that’s in there.” I enjoy the trappings of summer as well. I enjoy a day at the beach, a twist of lemon in a beverage and the occasional blockbuster movie where aliens invade or a town blows up and nobody comes to terms with anything. But there’s one summer staple I can’t appreciate and it causes me grief every single year. I don’t like camping.

Being a person who doesn’t like camping is, I’d imagine, similar to being a person who doesn’t like dogs. People say things like, “You don’t like camping? But camping is so fun! Have you ever actually been camping? Do you know what camping is?” (Incidentally, my example is speculative. Of course I like dogs, as I am not a monster). I do know what camping is and I have been camping and I haven’t enjoyed it. However, people do not accept my rejection of camping as a matter of taste. Every single year, I field invitations to sleep in a bag and not shower, and every year I decline, but it seems unavoidable.
This month, in fact, I am attending a wedding in the foothills of Alberta, which boasted in its invitation that it was “close to some amazing camping” and to “reserve your spot as the grounds fill up fast!” What? What in Heaven’s name would possess a wedding guest to “camp out” for someone’s nuptials? Do you iron your dress shirt on a rock? Hang your blazer from a tree? I shudder to think what would happen to my fancy wedding hat! The point is, I stand to miss out on some great summer memories by consistently avoiding this tradition. Well, no more!

DREAM: Learn to love camping.

GOAL: Achievable. Things I used to hate that I now love: Chinese food, jazz, a side part, James Spader. If I can switch my opinion so completely on those things, surely my mind can be changed when it comes to camping. 

PLAN: Ensure that my next camping experience is completely ideal by solving
all the problems inherent in this summertime excursion. Problems like…

TENTS. The cliché that they are hard to set up is very true and one would think that with all the effort that goes into it, the end result would be more than a piddly neon dome that smells like hot dogs and stale beer. You can’t stand up in a tent, making changing your clothes nearly impossible and there’s no place to plug in your humidifier. Plus, tents aren’t suitable in any weather conditions. Any rain at all will leak through and soil the toupee you’ve removed for the evening. Any wind will threaten to uproot the tent entirely, so you have to awkwardly ask your fattest companion to hunker down in the most vulnerable corner (and they know what they are there for). Even in calm, sunny weather, tents conduct heat like…heat conductors, I guess, and you just roast in there.

THE FOOD AND DRINK. Beer and hotdogs are fine, but I’d rather have vodka and pad thai, personally. And it’s every night with these foods, always some variation of a barbecue staple and beer. These things are fine once in a while, but stretched over a long weekend, one becomes a bloated, lethargic outdoorsman whose job it becomes to hold down the vulnerable tent corner.

THE SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS. What is it about a sleeping bag that makes this whole situation acceptable? If a friend invited you to sleep over at his house, then said, “We don’t have a guest room, but we put a blanket on our kitchen floor and you can kind of roll up in it,” you’d leave in a huff, madam! But we wriggle into these cloth tubes every night that resemble a hideous cross between a coffin and a condom and sleep the night away. Well, I’m sure some people sleep. I toss and turn and think about the worms that must inhabit the patch of dirt that’s acting as a third-rate mattress. They really ought to be called awake tubes.

THE PLUMBING. Again, if you went over to a friend’s house on a Monday and they casually confessed that they hadn’t showered since the previous Thursday, you’d leave in another huff, madam! Similarly, if the water in your home was turned off for more than a day, you’d deem it unacceptable and call your MLA or whoever deals with that sort of thing. But we accept that complete lack of plumbing on a camping trip as just part of “roughing it.” Look, I don’t need to deep-condition and exfoliate every day (but gosh, wouldn’t that be heavenly?), but a shower is something I sorely miss when it’s gone. Not to mention the undeniable fact that there are no toilets anywhere. I’m not going any further into my discomfort with this issue. If you can’t figure out why it’s a problem, put down this magazine and head for some kind of care facility.

THE BEARS. There are bears in the outdoors, people. That’s where the expression, “There are bears in the outdoors” comes from. And I know a busy campground is unlikely to attract many bears, but like Advil, one is often enough. If you leave any food out or otherwise attract bears (like with a siren song or whatever), your camping trip/life is effectively ruined.

THE COMPANIONS. I love my friends, but I’m not about to spend an alternately drunk and hungover week sleeping on the ground next to them with unwashed hair having just relieved myself within earshot of both my pals and a bear. And I can’t imagine going on a camping trip with a partner. I’m certain failed camping trips (see: camping trips) are the reason for the high divorce rate.


I guess in order to combat all of these problems, I need to camp in a solid structure with plumbing, various food options, a comfortable bed and little to no bear access. I think I’ve found just the place that might become a new summer tradition. This month, as we head off to our dear friend’s wedding, we’re camping at a lovely spot called The Ramada. Luckily, my beloved has the same disdain for camping that I do and the closest we get to “roughing it” is accidentally leaving the Do Not Disturb sign on the door all day and not getting our beds turned down. Call me soft, call me a wimp, call me any name you like. Just don’t call me a happy camper, because you’d be wrong.

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