I have a lot of things on my life list, but camping was never one of them. The whole idea of sleeping outdoors just never appealed to me. So when July 4th rolled around and my friends all decided to spend the weekend in a tent in the woods, with no electricity or running water, I was less than enthusiastic. I hesitantly agreed, seeing it as an opportunity to do something a bit different, and also to see if I could handle the great outdoors for three whole days.
Now, I have technically “camped” before – in Israel, we spent the night in a Bedouin tent. But when we started unrolling the sleeping bags provided for us and baby scorpions came crawling out, my sister and I decided to avoid spending the night in those conditions. Instead, we climbed a nearby mountain with some other people on our tour, which, when we got to the top, overlooked the pitch black Negev desert, with only one cluster of lights visible, a village somewhere in the distance. We stayed awake on that mountain while the rest of our group slept, until our wakeup call at 3 a.m. to ride up to Mount Masada, where we watched a truly beautiful sunrise over the expansive desert.
But back in America, three years later, I agreed to spend the long weekend sleeping in a tent, somewhere in upstate New York. I spent the days before the trip stocking up on bug spray, toilet paper, about 25 different forms of travel wipes, and reminding my friends that I had never done this before, and that I would be completely unhelpful if we encountered any bears, snakes or other forms of wildlife. I was also scared of a world where I couldn’t charge my cell phone. Screw the plumbing; we’re talking three days without INTERNET!
We arrived at Indian Head Campgrounds in Barryville New York on Friday night, and what I soon realized was that this was luxury camping – we drove our cars right up to the site, next to where we pitched our tents (my luggage never even made it out of the car), we slept on air mattresses in the tent, and we even got to shower in a public restroom at the site. Another bonus = no bears.
The first morning, I woke up, thrilled that I had slept at all in this outdoor scenario, and looked up to see that the weather proof covering to our tent had fallen a bit, and I could see up through the trees. It was a really peaceful scene, and at that moment I found myself feeling pretty satisfied that I had pushed myself out of my comfort zone and gone on this outdoor adventure. That day was spent on a six hour rafting excursion, floating down the Delaware River, boozing on a raft in the sunshine, with not a single responsibility. It was easily one of the best days of the entire summer.
Later that night, I was woken up by a loud bang, and then the sounds of rain on the tent. After suggesting we go sleep in the car and being laughed at, I calmed down and tried to enjoy the noise. The next morning, when I realized that the weather covering was still fallen, I had quite a different reaction from the serenity of the prior morning as I tried to mop up the puddle that had formed in our tent. It was still raining, so that day was spent putting up tarps and creating as rain proof of an environment as we could. Somehow it was still fun, and we all relished in the task at hand, although as my friends climbed trees, roped things off with twine and cut things with their pocket knives, I stood there, confused in a huge poncho someone had thrown on me, eating beef jerky.
The rain eventually subsided and we had a lovely night around the campfire (I even chopped a few pieces of wood myself! With an ax!!), where we enjoyed a lovely feast of steak, burgers, and obviously s’mores for dessert. Brendan played some sweet tunes on his guitar and we befriended some very eclectic foreigners at the neighboring campsites.
I didn’t miss my cell phone once. It was surprisingly refreshing to disconnect and be completely unavailable to the outside world for an entire weekend.
Overall, camping was a success. I’ll probably go back again next year. And I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t tried it, as long as you follow these simple rules: Go with people who are camping pros, people who know what supplies to bring, who know how to cook, can build fires, and people who still love you despite the fact that all you can contribute to the entire weekend is a bit of comic relief. Thanks to my rugged, outdoorsy and oh so tolerant friends.