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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Diary of a Wimpy Camper

 I made a deal with my husband Garth when we were first married. He wouldn’t ask me to go camping and I wouldn’t ask him to go shopping. This seemed like a fair trade-off, since he could enjoy his favorite pastime with his buddies and I could do the same with mine.  He kept up his end of the deal for a long time - until the call of the wild got the best of him. That's when he began to extoll the pleasures of the great outdoors, begged me to join him hiking and fishing at one of his favorite spots in the California Sierra’s. I struggled to hold on to our original deal, because the closest I had ever come to roughing it was a motel with an outdoor pool. But, in a weak moment, I agreed.
I didn’t really mind hiking. It was one of the few outdoor activities I enjoyed – unless the hike took place in woods that teemed with wildlife whose bite required emergency evacuation.
But I wasn’t too keen on fishing. My only recollection of that activity was when I threw a ping-pong ball in a bowl and won a goldfish at a carnival. I also worried about sleeping arrangements.  I’d already paid for my chiropractor’s new car, so huddled in a bag on the ground would just give me another big pain in my back - and wallet. The more I thought about it, the less attractive the camping excursion became.
            Determined to discourage Garth from pressing the issue, I created a fool proof prerequisite list and presented it to him.

            “I’ll do it, as long as there is a sink with running water, a stove to cook on, a bed to sleep in and an indoor bathroom - with a shower.”  

“Can it be a group shower/bathroom facility?” he asked.
 “No way - private or nothing.” I was sure I had him on that one.
A few days went by and I heard nothing more about the camping adventure. I relaxed, convinced I’d delivered an impossible request.
My Meriwether Lewis was not daunted. “Okay, I found a place that meets all your requirements.” He handed me information on the campsite, complete with photo of an A-Frame cabin nestled among some trees.
“I see woods.” I said.
“Not dense, just scattered trees.” He answered.
“What’s the catch?” I countered.
“No catch. Well, just a little one. The cabin sleeps eight and there’s just the two of us.” For some odd reason, he found this paradox ridiculous.
“Perfect.” I groaned and sealed the deal.
We arrived at the A-frame that would be our ‘camp’ for the next week. My hubby opened the door and said, “Wow. This is awesome. What a great place.”
I stood in the doorway, stunned into silence.
The old wooden floors had so many layers of earth ground into them they were now part of the décor. A wall, black with soot, surrounded an ancient pot-bellied stove which required wood be chopped and hauled in to heat the cabin. Greasy kitchen cabinets sported threadbare fabric door fronts which hid dented pans and plastic dishes. Dirt being my nemesis, I was afraid to touch anything.  And when I spotted a vermin carcass on the floor in the corner, horror struck. Ready to bolt out the door, I remembered my promise to Garth.
Resigned to my fate, I resolved to be a good sport, put on my “happy camper” face. I did my best to join hubby in his enthusiasm, but didn’t move a muscle until he’d he removed the dead critter to those great outdoors. I rallied in the knowledge that at least I had my indoor toilette.
The next morning I applied moleskin to every square inch of my feet. This was an important precaution to prevent blisters from the hiking boots that I had only worn twice before. It didn’t help.
We headed for the hills, hiked to hubby’s favorite fishing spot. I looked away as he positioned the poor little worm on my hook. I followed his instructions and cast my line out as far as I was able. Beginners luck, I caught the first fish - a nice trout.
The resistance of the fish as it struggled on the line made me shudder. I eased off and gently tugged on the pole.
“Harder,” Garth yelled, “Pull it in, pull it in…harder.”
I envisioned the hook caught in trout lips. “But I don’t want to hurt the fish.” I whined in response.
“Don’t be ridiculous.  Just reel him in. Fish don’t have any feeling in their mouths,” declared Mr. Heartless Fish Expert.
“How do you know? You’re not a fish.” I flashed on The Old Man and the Sea as I tried to reel in the trout. True, I was no Santiago and this was no marlin but the struggle felt the same.
 “It’s no use,” I panted to Garth, “I can’t do it. You pull him in.”
In one quick swoop, the fish was out of the water, on the ground, flapping for dear life. I couldn’t look. We decided to strike another deal. I’d catch ‘em, he’d reel ‘em in. Our system worked perfectly, since I was the only one who caught any fish that day.
As days passed, things progressed in much the same way - deal after deal, compromise after compromise. However, towards the end of the week a strange phenomenon occurred. I came to appreciate the solitude, the delicious fresh fish dinners and the romantic warmth of that crazy stove. I even admitted to Garth that I’d enjoyed our time in the Sierras.  
            But even though I loved my great outdoorsman, his notions of future wilderness treks with me would have to be re-lived through memories of snuggles in the A-frame with his little “Sacajawea” and photos of our week together. One adventure was enough for camping wimps like me.

©Marcia Smart 2013 all rights reserved

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