Award-winning writer: Jackie Papandrew

Airing My Dirty Laundry!

Camping for Dummies

There should be a certain progressive evolution in a family’s method of camping. You should start out, when you are young, vigorous and too naïve to know better, by camping in a tent. Then, as your family and your waistline grow while your flexibility and patience decline, you should switch to some kind of pop-up trailer that at least gets you off the ground.

Finally, in the golden years, when you are wise enough, wealthy enough and cranky enough to insist on taking it all with you – bed, bathroom, TV and kitchen – you can commune with nature in a way that doesn’t allow nature to commune right back. You can buy a recreational vehicle.

I’m sure this is how our pioneer ancestors, who worked so hard to tame the wilderness, would have wanted it.

Last summer, my family disregarded this character-building camping system by skipping right to the everything-including-the-kitchen-sink phase for our first campout in the mountains of Colorado . We rented an RV. And it was great.

This year, we were once again eager to explore the Great Outdoors. But thanks to my husband, we backtracked from our very civilized home on wheels to a couple of musty tents that left us wet, whiny and at least in my case, whimpering with embarrassment.

Claiming that our previous RV experience did not allow sufficient bonding with Mother Nature and each other, the man I married suggested we borrow tents from friends and head for the hills. Although I suspected my cheapskate spouse was actually trying to leave enough room in the family budget for a new set of golf clubs, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and foolishly agreed to his plan.

Our bonding started off with a bang when we attempted to put up the tents. After what seemed like hours and with several far-from-harmonious verbal exchanges over who knew less about what we were doing, the tents appeared to have assumed their intended shape. So we decided to go for a hike.

At first, things went well. We drank in the beauty of the mountains as we walked along the trail. The sun was shining through the trees. The air was crisp, cool and dry. So dry, in fact, that I emptied my water bottle within the first couple of hours of the hike. And soon, I felt the need to answer nature’s call.

Being a descendent of pioneers, I did not panic, even though we were a long way from the nearest toilet. I explained the situation to my loved ones and then went off the trail to find an appropriate place to do my business.

Our campground was crowded, and I was concerned about other hikers coming down the trail. Each bush and tree I examined seemed either too short or too thin to provide the necessary coverage. But I finally found just the right spot, well hidden from the trail, and I proceeded to, as the English so colorfully say, spend a penny.

What I failed to realize was that there was another trail just above me which merged into our trail a little further on. And that I was fully exposed to this other trail. I found that out when, squatting in my secluded spot, I heard a highly amused young voice quip, “Nice view.”

And he wasn’t talking about the mountains.

I whirled around, yanking my pants up at the same time, and found myself staring at a group of college-age hikers, every one of them grinning from ear to ear.

Without responding, I ran, mortified, toward where my family waited. When I told my group of miscreants -- most of whom I’d brought into this world -- what had happened, they laughed so hard I thought they were all going to need medical attention.

Weak-kneed, they grabbed on to each other for support and laughed some more. They were bonding, but it wasn’t exactly the kind of bonding I’d imagined.

By the time we made it back to our campsite, the mercurial mountain sky had clouded up, and it had started to rain. We huddled together in our tents to wait it out. The others soon got cold, but I was still warmed by humiliation. Curled up in my sleeping bag, I sulkily pondered the fact that I’d managed in only a few months to accidentally display my derriere on two occasions. Perhaps professional help is required.

Unfortunately, the rain didn’t stop. After a while, our supposedly waterproof tents began to leak. And with each drip of water, we got wetter and whinier. By the time darkness fell, we were ready to pack it in. We threw everything into the car and headed for a warm and dry motel.

Our pioneer ancestors must be rolling in their graves.

~  © Jackie Papandrew 2007 ~

Jackie Papandrew is an award-winning writer, syndicated humor columnist, coffee addict and mom to a motley crew of children and pets who provide a steady stream of column ideas and dirt. She's also wife to a very patient man who had no idea, years ago when he still had time to escape, what he was getting himself into. Visit her website at:  JackiePapandrew.com

[ by Jackie Papandrew Copyright © 2007, (me@jackiepapandrew.com) -- submitted by: Jackie Papandrew ]


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