Camping Isn't For Everyone

Camping Isn’t For Everyone

I have what I hope is a cordial relationship with nature. It seems intent on killing me, therefore I stay indoors. I like being indoors. Sarah Vowell described herself as indoorsy and I think that is the best description of a personality trait ever.

Don’t get me wrong, I go outside. I love nothing more than a north facing covered patio. I am known to go to the beach but I bring a huge towel and no fewer than two umbrellas and guess what? Everyone who smirks at my setup is usually at one point or another huddled under one of those umbrellas because here’s a newsflash, the goddamn sun is hot.

There was a time in my life when I regularly went camping. Before you begin to feel impressed, I went to Carpinteria State Beach Campground which is really just paying to sleep in a public park. The layers go like this: ocean then beach then parking lot then campground then train tracks then a town full of supermarkets and restaurants and a McDonald’s.

It was great. We once had a pizza delivered to our campsite. There was some pointing and laughing but then the delivery guy returned no less than three times that night. We all have big plans to cook over an open fire but then the kids are tired, sunburned nightmares. And the the guy whose idea it was to go camping disappears to the brew pub for three hours and so it’s Rusty’s Pizza to the rescue.

One time, a couple decades ago, I went camping deep in the woods. We drove the truck to a pack station where there was a pit latrine, better known as an OUTHOUSE, and a bunch of horses and a couple guys who lived in a tiny cabin I hope was downwind of the outhouse because they were kind of jerks. We left the truck there and the guys brought our shit in ON HORSEBACK. The people I went camping with knew what they were doing. They set their tent up near to a little stream and left it there all summer then brought it home in the fall. It was pink because it had faded from bright red. It was canvas and had a bunch of aluminum poles you fitted together then hung the tent from the framework of poles. I had no idea the tent was hard to put together. One of the horse guys dumped the bundle of poles and canvas near the stream and told me to put it up. I did and everyone was impressed. I had never been camping and I had never put up a tent but it seemed pretty straight forward. This is not humble bragging. This is outright bragging. Putting that tent up remains one of the most impressive things I have ever done.

That was my last camping superstar moment. The rest of the week was just me trying not to die. There was a bear that came by the campsite every single day to just sort of check in? It scared the shit out of me every time but one of the women I was camping with liked to get out her video camera and film it. I was hoping it ate her first, just for being stupid, but it didn’t seem interested in eating anyone. It seemed mostly interested in shambling around the woods, scaring the bejesus out of people who had no earthly reason for being there.

We rode horses all around the woods and along some heart-attack inducing cliffside trails. I cannot for the life of me figure out why we kept riding around on these poor animals. It would have been much easier to just walk.  They kept giving me this very tall, blond horse that thought he should always be in the lead. Problem was he was stupid and so this led to a lot of problems with the shorter, smarter horses. Finally, on the third day, I had a stern conversation with Horse and he stopped trying to lead. I didn’t tell him he had no brain for leadership. I just told him that if we were in the lead and something awful rushed out at us from the bushes it was highly likely we would be eaten first. He responded to this line of reasoning and we happily settled into position in the middle of the line.

I know that awful things rush out of the bushes at all points along a line of horses but I told you Horse wasn’t very smart. He had a name but I forgot it almost as soon as one of the horse guys told it to me so I just called him Horse. He didn’t seem to mind. Putting a saddle on a horse is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life and I did it what seemed like a hundred times that week. And the endless brushing. I mentioned the horse was tall, right? At least I didn’t have to pick things out of Horse’s feet or get the bridle on and off. The horse guys did that. Horse teeth are scary.

Anyway, that week was just endless work. Saddling and water hauling and keeping dirt out of the tent (then getting all the dirt that somehow managed to get into the tent back out of it). And there were so many trees you could only see patches of sky. One night, someone said, “Let’s go hike out to that big clearing so we can see the stars!” And I said, “Okay, that will be fun.” And then, I shit you not, a bunch of wolves started howling. I went into the tent and covered myself with as many sleeping bags as I could find.

Why am I telling you this?

When you are newly single sometimes your friends and family (for reasons I cannot figure out) enjoy showing you dating apps and dating sites. And one of the things everyone on these electronic matchmakers seems to say about themselves is that they are outdoorsy. They camp or ride bikes or swim or stand on surfboards and paddle around lakes. They climb up and over things then take pictures of themselves standing in bright sunlight wearing form fitting clothing.

I don’t want to do any of these things. I have greeted a bear as it casually strolled past my tent and talked a stupid horse out of leading me off a cliff. I have hidden from wolves under sleeping bags and eaten meat I cooked over an open flame.

It was okay but I have zero interest in ever doing any of that again. I can’t be the only person who just wants to go to the movies or go for a walk or eat something delicious and talk about what we read since the last time we saw each other.

But the dating apps don’t have a button for that. But they do have an option of describing yourself as ‘heavyset’ which is a term I have not heard since my mom used it to describe Orson Welles. Do not get me wrong, I think all these services are great. They weed out a good portion of people who will just irritate each other. But I am not ready to be a part of it just yet, mostly because every time a man opens his mouth I think, “Oh, please don’t say something stupid.”

And how would my essay on match.com go?

Heavyset, middle-aged, indoorsy and judgmental white lady seeking someone to occasionally ‘hug and kiss’ but really wants to be left alone most of the time…uh, yeah. No one needs that in their lives, least of all some nice man just looking for someone to go camping with.

But if I ever do start dating, rest assured I will tell you all about it.

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