Tent Camping: What The Hell Was I Thinking?

Back when my wife and I were hovering somewhere around the age 50 mark we decided get back into camping. Most of our friends and relatives were doing it. Why not once again join in. The last camping we had did was in a tent. So that seemed a reasonable option. I mean, why pay the back-breaking price of a camping trailer, and all the added costs that goes with it. After all, our memories of those simple times in a tent were good memories. Of course we didn’t take into considerations those memories were from when we were in our twenties and thirties. So off to the Camping World Outlet we went.

I diligently made a list of our basic camping needs. The wife’s responsibility were the groceries and utensils. I purchased a reasonably sized tent, cook stove, lantern, and, of course, sleeping bags. My only luxury purchase were two air mattresses.

Once at the campground up in the mountains, we found a wonderful location within a stone’s throw of the lake. The clouds were threatening, but our enthusiasm was high. I slipped the tent out of the box, and took my first look at the assembling directions. “Easy To Erect” were the title words. My kind of tent! Two hours later and enough colorful adjectives to send all the residence of a monestary into psychological meltdown, the tent was up. It looked somewhat like the one pictured on the box, with minor droopings here and there, the main problem being the tent stakes, or the lack thereof. Their penetrating qualities didn’t quite come up to the rock hardness of the ground. Like I told the wife, “Who would have thought to bring a jackhammer camping?” So I made do with large rocks for anchors, and ropes tied to trees.

I then blew up the air mattresses until they were antiquately firm. Sleeping bags over the tops, and our home away from home was ready. Next came the starting of the fire; the man’s job! Of course I had totally forgotten my lack of campfire making skills. It always amazed me that someone could flick a cigarette out a car window and start a major forest fire. I couldn’t start a campfire with dry wood, five gallons of gasoline, and a flamethrower. After ten pounds of newspapers, a half chord of kindling, and going through four Bic lighters, a smudge pot was started, with a trace of a flame flickering out of the smoke from time to time. It was then that the overhead clouds were finished with their threats. They got down to business. The rain came. It was then the thought crossed our minds that bringing a tarp would have been nice.

We made a valiant attempt at staying warm and dry by backing up to our smudge pot. But all that was accomplished was both of us becoming very nicely kippered. This was aided by something almost supernatural. No matter where we stood around our smudge pot, the smoke followed us. Through coughs and gags we finally came to the conclusion that we would have stood a better chance of running away from our shadow. Finally we retreated to the truck and turned on the heater. While dining on cold weenies I turned on the radio for entertainment. But because we were so far up in the mountains, we would have found more enjoyment listening to a shortwave radio signal. In desperation born solely out of complete boredom we invented a game called  “what am I drawing in the fog on the window.” Finally we decided to call it a night and crawl in our sleeping bags; a night that began at around 7:oo. Normally at home we would be just settling in to watch our nightly game shows, after a meal that certainly wouldn’t have included cold weenies.

We laid there with our eyes wide open, not even close to being sleepy, listening to the rain pelt the walls of the tent. And then we both began noticing a strange phenomena. Rocks were somehow migrating from anywhere in the immediate area to locations under where we were laying. The event became even more acute as the air in our mattresses slowly but surely found avenues of escape.

After just a little more than four hours of enjoying the great out-of-doors, my wife went postal. “That’s it!” she screamed as she bolted to her feet, her head pushing up on a bulge of water that had settled in the roof of the tent. “We are leaving!”

“What about all our camping gear?” I replied, while raising an arm to guard against any possible blows from my wife.

“We’ll leave it, and come back and get it tomorrow,” she bellowed as she stomped herself out of her sleeping bag.

“But someone might steal it.”

Her eyes took on a scary look. “Then they are more than welcomed to it! I’ll be damned if I ever use it again!”

And that was the end of our camping trip. We drove thirty-two miles to a Quality Inn and spent the night. The next day our deserted and sorry looking camp was still there waiting for us. Everything was sold at our neighborhood garage sale a couple months later, our monetary loss just a little less than the national debt.

We now own a 20 foot camping trailer with every convenience of home other than square footage. That is now what we call camping. Of course I am still required to build a smudge pot, much to the chagrin  of anyone camped within a 100 yard radius.


10 thoughts on “Tent Camping: What The Hell Was I Thinking?

  1. My wife and I camped every year in tents for quite some time, but a few years ago I bought a 30 ft trailer. It has ruined me for life I think. Now I have no wife and a Harley and have decided to tempt fate by taking a road trip requiring camping. Stand by for new material! Great story Richard.

  2. we too decided to tent camp. it all began at my father’s mountain cabin at the edge of the Black Mtn. Range in NC. Also along on our adventure were our kids and my wife’s sister and her family. about the time we got all seven tents set up (all the kids had to have their own little tents) and my bro-in-law had what we called the “tabernacle”, a monstrosity of canvas house, the rains began. I retreated to the cabin after about 30 minutes. Bro-in-law lasted slightly longer but caved in as well. The kids and women toughed it out. it rained for 24 hours – tropical storm Bill. We swore off camping for good – until about 4 years ago when our now grown kids talked us into going again. It still rains every trip… last time it snowed. Never again I said.. but wait til grandchildren want paw paw to go camping. Thanks for your great camping tale.. it is truth.

  3. I WILL NOT tent camp. I don’t think it’s a good idea for our marriage. I’m all for outdoor adventures but I cannot hack the idea of a tent. I hope the kid never gets the idea this could somehow be “fun.”

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