Sunday, October 12, 2008

Camping excursion

I just got back from camping, and am all cleaned up, and want to get some thoughts out onto this blog before I forget some details...
first off - On the way home, I drove through a lot of rural areas of NJ. Lots of farms. It's such a great reminder to me that the world (as I know it from my every day commute) is more than just strip malls, and shopping centers. There are farms, and woods, and trees, and fields, etc. So nice to be reminded of that. Anyway, on the way home, I passed several roadside "farm markets" ie: little shacks to sell mums, or pumpkins, or whatever is in season... well this one caught my eye as I thought it a bit unusual... 50lb bags of potatoes! Yep, a little shack, FILLED with 5olb bags! It's not so much the idea of a farmer having a surplus of potatoes, but rather WHO would buy 50lbs worth? That's a lot of tats!
So a little back story... I grew up where camping was a normal thing for our family. We all seemed to enjoy it very much. I loved it - getting dirty, playing with sharp instruments (knives and axes), burning stuff (in the campfire). What's not to love!? Well, As my family tended to fall away from the camping life style, I continued for just a bit longer. I used to go on a yearly trek to the upstate area of NY to an area around Lake Placid. I loved it up there. But alas (alas sounds a bit too dramatic), I eventually gave up on camping. part of the reason, I think, was because I lived in an apartment. I had no where to store my camping gear. Yes, my parents were VERY kind to let me store my stuff in their garage attic, but it was just one further 'hitch' in wanting to go camping.
Well, with my recent road trip to north jersey, I was taken by all the trees, and lakes, and streams, that it really made me miss my camping days.
I decided to give it go again. I pulled out the ol' cooler from when we were kids, and saw a checklist dated Aug '94. I think that was the last time I went camping 14 years ago! I was a bit nervous, and wasn't sure what to expect. Had things changed? Was there more of a serious reason I gave up on camping other than inconvenience? Time would tell.
I decided to just go lightly on the idea and plan a weekend overnight trip. One night... anyone can survive that no matter how miserable.
Well, I got my equipment out, (much to my surprise everything seasoned well, and needed little clean up). I did forget one KEY item when you go camping... paper towels! I managed to get by with an old pack of tissues :) (Note: That's another reason I like camping, it sometimes forces you to MAKE things in a DIY atmosphere). I ALMOST forgot my tent! What a nightmare that woulda been. I got about 1/2 mile away, and remembered, so that was a relief! Sheesh.
I also forgot to bring some newly purchased metal hotdog forks, for over the fire! But, with my handy pen-knife and a stick, I whittled the perfect hot dog cooker (complete with little barbs, so the hotdog wouldn't accidently slip off).
I got there around 1:30pm, and it was a beautiful day! All the trees and farm fields are changing colors with Falls arrival. It's unseasonably warm (Indian Summer?), but we still have cooler nights (more on that later). I proceeded to take my time in setting up camp (partly because I'm not as in shape as I was 14 years ago!) and partly because I just wanted to relax with no rush.
Eventually, I got all set up and kicked back in my folding chair (which after a while of slouching down into, is a Bi**h getting out of! :) I might have dozed off a bit but mainly I just relaxed and appreciated the woods. At one point a flock of small birds came to visit me. I heard them before I saw them. Lots of high pitched "tweeting". Then the more I looked, the more I could see them flitting about. Maybe about 20 gold finches, an un-told amount of chick-a-dees, a titmouse, and one other tiny bird (I think a type of finch) that I couldn't identify. I tried whsitling back to them, and in my mind had the impression they were talking back to me.
A little later a red-headed woodpecker showed up for a while too. (other birds this morning were a LOUD crow, a sqawking bluejay - who seemed to be yelling at the crow to shut-up! And off in the distance a hawk of some sort.
I really didn't explore much while there. I was going to go fishing, but forgot my fishing gear. It was ok though, I kept myself busy the whole time.
Eventually, the sun started setting. It seemed too early to cook up my hotdogs, so I practiced a test fire. I used to pride myself in being able to light a roaring campfire with only using one match! Well, first time out, it took me 5 matches! (hint: Leaves are bad! and it's all in the prep).
but eventually, I got hungry, and I built a second fire. This one I did right... took my time and boom, one match! I still got it! :)
I was a bit unorganized. I luckily brought a propane lanter (I hardly ever use that - too bright!) but all of my supplies of candles had melted into huge clumps of wax (I guess from being stored in the attic during the summer). I managed to re-create a lump of wax into a functioning candle, but it just wasn't throwing enough light. Propane to the rescue.
Side note: Hardly any bugs! I guess cause it's late in the season.
After a meal of just 3 hotdogs and a donut (wawa donuts were a lifesaver on this trip!), I settled into the chair with a book (H.P. Lovecraft's short stories!), an almost full moon, and a campfire on an october night. A bit spooky, but perfect! :)
As the sun had set, I put away my short sleeve shirt, and got out my long sleeve flannel. I thought this would be plenty. But as the fire burned, and my legs were nice and toasty (literally), I was still getting cold. Ok, I had a heavy hooded sweatshirt, no prob.
Eventually, I started getting tired and decided to go to bed around 10:30. (funny how rythms change when not around the TV or electric lights). I was surprised how cold it had gotten. I think it was only in the high 40's, but I'm tellin you, it was COLD! I decided to loose the sweatshirt (which was too bulky) and crawl into my sleeping bag with all my cloths on. (minus the bulky knives, cell phones, wallets, coins, etc). As I mentioned, I'm not as in shape as I used to be and just a tad bit older now. I found manuerving around on the 'floor' to be a struggle, but with an effort, I was ok. I get all situated, andsettled in, zipped up, and try to prop up my pillow (it was a little flimsy pillow I grabed at the last minute - I've forgotten a pillow before and that stinks... this pillow was just a hair above no pillow!) Lights out, and I lay down. Um... somethings wrong here. My head's starting to pound. DOH! I set up my sleeping bag, and pillow DOWNHILL! All the blood in my body was going to my head. This clearly was not gonna work. Back, up, and then you shoulda seen me in a "one man" tent trying to flip everything around - I had to laugh as it reminded me of the train episode with Laurel and Hardy. Finally... I'm settled in.
After a bit more reading, I fall asleep. But, shortly, I wake up again... it was FREEZING! My body was nice and toasty in the sleeping bag, but my head was like ice! I brushed my nose, and couldn't figure out why my mustach was soaking wet?! Then I realized it was from the condensation of breathing. Then, because I had my flannel shirt on, and it was a flannel sleeping bag, it was a lot like velcro! Every time I tried to roll over, or find a more comfortable spot, it was like some evil Lovecraft monster was wrestling me to the ground and wouldn't get off! I eventuall had to unzip my sleeping bag half way, in order to manuever... this was fine, if I faced one way, but if I rolled to the other side, my back now was exposed to the cold air!
So between all of that, fussin' and fightin' with the bleeping sag (as we used to call em), and the flimsy pillow that was like a rolled up T-shirt, and the -20 degree's, needless to say, I didn't get a very good night's sleep.

Finally - whew, this may be my longest post evah!
All said and done, I had a great time.
I'm not about ready to rush out again next weekend (the cold), but I think maybe I'm ready to get back into camping again.

1 comment:

JWD said...

Sounds awesome, bro! You just need to get a tuque for your head and that will keep your heat in while you sleep. Or a mummy sleeping bag.

This post made me miss our camping days loads. Maybe I'll be able to talk my guys into it here.

I'm so glad you went!