I’m not one to go camping very often. Not that I’m averse to it; in fact, I quite enjoy it, and I went camping quite frequently as a kid with my family. No, it simply comes down to the fact that I am lazy, and the effort required to pack the car with a tent and clothes and food for the weekend usually seems like an insurmountable Everest after a tiring week’s work.
Nonetheless, we did manage to plan for a weekend at a campground recently. It was an enjoyable weekend, getting in touch with nature, drinking hot tea off the kerosene stove in the cold mornings, roasting hot dogs and corn-in-the-cob over the fire, and generally doing nothing. There were several things I learned by contemplating the environment around me, and I’d like to share them with you today.
Entertainment: Apparently, people these days don’t know the meaning of the phrase “getting away from it all”. Most of the denizens of the campground were of the “kitchen sink” variety, meaning they packed everything, including the above. And radios. Loud radios.
It was a dissonant experience, hearing crickets and birds chirping out of one ear, and dance music out of the other. THUM thumpa THUM thumpa BIM bimba BIM bimba . . . Seriously? Folks, a disco ball is not going to come out of nowhere and the forest creatures start partying like it’s 1999, no matter how many Disney movies you’ve seen.
Then there was the guy who couldn’t leave his sports for the weekend. As a result, we too were able to listen to every single move of a baseball game. The poor souls announcing the game on the radio were desperately trying not to leave spaces in their monologue by discussing anything and everything. When they ran out of banalities about the players’ athleticism, they discussed the pickles and ice spilled in the hall of the stadium. For five full minutes.
The crowning touch came as we were walking back from the toilets one night, with the glorious stars overhead and the Milky Way clearly visible. Notwithstanding, one campsite had their 1080p projector going with a cartoon movie.
Lesson learned: You can take the boy out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the boy.
Nature’s beautiful vistas: As we went on an extended hike along the park trails to see the park beauty, we finally left the noisy hordes behind. Exiting a tree-lined trail to a beautiful rolling prairie, the vista that opened up in front of us was jarringly interrupted by the giant metal pole barn for the park vehicles, perched on the very top of the local hill overlooking the entire valley. The bat boxes mounted in front of the building did not redeem it.
Lesson learned: Even the DNR is out of touch with Nature.
Discipline: You may think that a campground would not be a place where you would learn interesting disciplinary measures. You’d be wrong. One night, as an apparently fed up parent or older brother passed our site, we heard him say, “If you do that again, I’m gonna rip your head right off. You understand? Your head? It’s gone!”
Lesson learned: Camping can bring out the Charles Manson in the best of us.
Ferocious wildlife: Apparently, my car got on the bad side of a territorial cardinal. It flew up, landed on the window ledge, and proceeded to attack the side view mirror with vigor. It would then perch on top of the side view mirror, take a breather, and go back to venomously attacking the bird in the mirror again. This was not an isolated instance. I chased him off a few times, and he’d be back a few minutes later. The next morning when we’re still in bed, we hear a fluttering scraping noise begin again, and my wife murmurs, “The cardinal’s attacking the car again”. By the time we left, both of my side view mirrors were half covered with a mix of cardinal spit and berry juice and the door ornamented with berry-colored bird scat.
Lesson learned: Cardinals don’t like Volkswagens. The chipmunks, however, think they’re just the perfect shelter.