The Wikipedia definition of camping is misleading.
Camping is an outdoor recreational activity. The participants (known as campers) leave urban areas, their home region, or civilization and enjoy nature while spending one or several nights outdoors, usually at a campsite.
“Enjoy” is not the right word.
Last weekend Dan and I decided to go camping in the Adirondacks. We were counting on spending the night in a lean-to overlooking Pharaoh Lake–an isolated lake accessible only by foot. 35, 376 feet to be exact. Due to a late start and a lost wallet, we ended up spending the night in a lean-to in the middle of a marsh. This was where the
Dessert dreaming: We broke the cardinal rule of camping. We packed not one bar of chocolate. While I had packed a Milky Way with every intention of eating it for dessert at camp, I ate it in the car. At the time I think I justified it by thinking that it was one less thing I’d have to pack on my back. There is nothing quite like needing dessert in the middle of a marsh in the middle of the night. With the nearest chocolate many miles away, I began to fantasize.
We had arrived at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and we were setting up camp next to the river.
Dibs on the best bed: Sleeping bags scare me. I never know if something is hiding in the bottom of the sack. Something like a sock from a previous trip or something like an animal that is alive. We had packed no bedrolls or cots, so we had to spread out flat on the hard, cold, wood floor. In an effort to forget about the uncomfortable boards beneath me, I began to fantasize.
I was seven years old and in my parents’ warm waterbed. (I am now 24 years old and they still sleep in that waterbed.)
The I-want-it-my-way cafe: After a restless night in the lean-to, the first thing I wanted when I got (notice how I didn’t use the word “woke”) up was a cup of coffee. I don’t do black. Half milk, half coffee, two spoonfuls of creamer, and one sugar packet. Two of those. I drink two cups just like that every morning. Except this one. I found myself looking into a cup of instant coffee that Dan had made using most of the last of our drinking water. I was sitting on the edge of the lean-to wondering if that was a mosquito floating in my cup, and then suddenly, I wasn’t.
I was sitting in the most comfortable chair in the back of a cafe in Soho where I could look up from my copy of The New York Times to see a barista and a thousand dollar espresso machine.
Horseshoe Pond Pharaoh Lake: After one cup of instant and some crushed cereal followed by a mushy banana, we began our five mile hike to Pharaoh Lake. It was brutal. The trail was a joke. Tacking up blue trail markers does not a trail make. Especially when the bushes are so thick and tall that you can’t even see the trail markers. After doing two miles in two hours, we saw a body of water. The map said Horseshoe Pond, but I saw something else.
Pharaoh Lake–sure it was smaller than expected, but it was also closer than expected. Meaning we could be out of these woods and back in the car by early afternoon before anyone had a chance to steal our things!
Did someone say fresh fish? After reapplying bug spray at Horseshoe Pond I heard a growl. It sounded like a black bear, but it came from my stomach. When we finally reached Pharaoh Lake hours later, we were both exhausted and ready for lunch. Dan had packed a fishing pole, and we had planned on catching fish to fry over the fire. But instead of reaching for the fishing pole, we reached for the pouches of tuna that we had packed as Plan B. I sat on a rock in the sun, shooed a snake away, and watched my tuna transform.
Our lunch was fresh lake trout and fried plantains. Dan and I had caught the most delicious school of fish. We even had enough to share with the dog!
Ice-cold and fresh-squeezed: Tuna begets thirst. Unfortunately, we had depleted our bottled water supply. We had foolishly packed only two bottles of water for two days. We used one to make that morning’s instant coffee, and the other one fell out of Dan’s backpack when he tripped mid-hike. (Perhaps he should have been wearing tactical boots instead of tennis shoes?) We didn’t notice that it was missing until we were at our thirstiest. Dan took out his camp stove and boiled some water from Pharaoh Lake. Sweating from the strenuous hike and the sun beating down on me, I gratefully took the cup of hot lake water that he handed to me, and I began to drink.
The ice cube to liquid ratio was ideal. My tongue tasted the most refreshing lemonade in the world, and I marveled that I was drinking it lakeside in the Adirondacks instead of in a booth at Applebee’s.
How could I forget the Herbal Essences commercial? We left Pharaoh lake in the early afternoon so that we could make it back to the car before dark. We had to take the same lousy trail that we came in on. Dan had jumped into Pharaoh Lake but that lasted about two seconds because he was immediately bit by two fish. I decided that I was content with my many bug bites so I stayed out of the water and remained as sweaty and dirty as the dog. With hours of hiking ahead and indoor plumbing many miles away, I had to improvise.