This entry in our story contest’s camping category comes by way of Randy in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a humorous look of a camping trip that experiences some surprises along the way.
Many among my friends and family find my love for camping to be frivolous, if not downright weird. A fine thing for scouts and church youth groups, perhaps, but an adult sensibility clearly holds that sleeping on the ground, skipping daily showers and cooking from a small propane stove is a silly way to spend precious vacation time.
It’s true, camping involves some self-denial, perhaps even a little discomfort, and a bit of planning. Bad weather, always a spoiler for any outing, is more acutely experienced when one’s shelter is small and nylon. Yet there are benefits, both tangible and intangible, to sleeping in a tent in a remote area and carrying in most of what you need.
Or so I argued to a fishing buddy, in persuading him to camp during a trip to Michigan’s famed Au Sable River in June. I agreed to bring all the gear and food in the back of my car. We could get a campsite in the Huron National Forest, within 50 yards of the banks of the Au Sable, for $5 a week, I argued, and save money by bringing our own food. The friend agreed to a 4-day trip to Michigan’s North Country (despite some grumbled predictions about backaches, respiratory distress and other discomforts).
After bouncing over a couple of miles of Michigan “two-track,” we pitched our tent in a secluded spot within a 3-minute walk of a fishing access point. It was late afternoon by the time we arrived, but after setting up camp we headed straight to the river. The Au Sable was flowing wide between its tree-lined banks, its waters moving gracefully on the journey to Lake Huron. We fished until after 10 p.m., stopping once to watch a mink make its way along the far bank. Then a barred owl inquired: Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?
Indeed, who would cook for us? We would, on a propane stove, by the light of our headlamps. And we would discover that I’d forgotten all the eating utensils. Surprisingly, my friend didn’t complain. We built a campfire, and used hunks of bread to sop up a pot of chili. I wondered how we would eat spaghetti without forks. As it turned out, I’d forgotten the spaghetti, too.
The weekend went on like that. Our close proximity to the river allowed us to be on the water as early as possible each day, and we could stay until the owls bid us goodnight well after dark.
On the final night, we stood in the middle of the river we had come to think of as our own, and watched as thousands of cream-colored caddis flies emerged above the flowing water. The dark shadow of a nighthawk passed over us, snatching caddis from the air. To have all this, a short walk from your sleeping bag, was a heck of a deal for five bucks, I offered.
My friend agreed.