by Lillian Csernica on August 3, 2014
I live in Northern California, amid the coastal redwoods. There are lots of campgrounds in my area. Some are the dirt-and-firepit variety, some have these little cabins you can stay in. Many of my friends think camping is one of the greatest activities there is, for friends and family alike.
I do not share their opinion.
I will admit that when it comes to the Great Outdoors, I’m something of a sissy. Yes, I can chop firewood and I have done so. Yes, I have caught and cleaned fish. I carry field guides so in the event I get stuck somewhere and have to forage, I don’t pick the wrong berries or mushrooms. I know how to take care of myself in the Great Outdoors, but that doesn’t mean I go looking for opportunities.
What do I have against camping? Bad memories of all the times I was forced to spend weekends away from home in the company of My Cousin The Eagle Scout. I am a writer. My natural habitat is a library. This has been true since I first learned to read and write. When I was in grade school and junior high, I’m convinced there was a conspiracy to break me of my bluestocking habits and train me to become some kind of wilderness survival expert. This didn’t go well.
I remember a night when I had to sleep in one of those tents that looks like a gigantic international orange wind sock. I was and still am incapable of pitching a tent anywhere but over a cliff, so My Cousin The Eagle Scout set it up. Only later did I find out he’d set it up on top of an ant hill. What’s more, ten feet away on the other side of a thick growth of bushes was a fifty foot drop into the river below. If I’d gone the wrong way in the dark looking for the outhouse, I might well have died before anybody realized I was missing.
I worked at various Renaissance Faires from age 18 to 28. I was young then. My body hadn’t suffered some of the major damage it’s taken in the course of car accidents, torn muscles, and all the changes childbirth brings. It was easy enough to camp out inside the booth where I worked. The worst part was the dust, which contained hay from the hay bales along with the chemicals Faire used to fireproof everything. Not the best breathing space for my asthma. As time passed and I accumulated more mileage, camping out became more and more painful because of the damage I’d taken to my left shoulder, hip, and knee in the big car accident. After I got married, I’d camp out on the grounds of the fencing booth in a much larger, somewhat more luxurious tent. My husband knew about camping.
Once the sun goes down on a Ren Faire site, a whole world comes to life that most people never know about unless they’ve been part of it. Given that I worked a twelve hour day managing a pewter booth, I wasn’t really up for the kind of partying most people enjoyed. I also wasn’t up for the yellow jackets, the spiders, the snakes, the skunks, and the occasional drunken reveler who mistook our tent for his own. One night we did have a cat wander by and demand entrance. The kitty curled up between me and Chris and went to sleep. Come sunrise, the cat meowed politely to be let out.
I’ve slept in cars, I’ve slept in RVs, I’ve slept in campers, and one unforgettable night I even slept in the back of a pickup with only carpet remnants for a blanket. I was not born to rough it, even though I seem to have done a lot of that in my adventures. So please forgive me if I’m a bit of a killjoy on the subject of camping. In the words of one of my Ren Faire employers:
“MY IDEA OF ROUGHING IT IS DRINKING DIET SODA!”