Camping trips

I am not a camper, happy or unhappy.

The closest I ever got to camping, besides being sent to camp during summers growing up to give my mother a break where we slept in cabins with rudimentary but working toilets, was the summer a few years back my son and I stayed at the National Park Service’s lodge on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. It is exactly that– perched at the brink of the rim of the canyon, with a lot of small cabins behind it. It is equipped with 2-3 restaurants serving some of the finest food I ever tasted, a saloon, and a gift shop. So maybe it’s not camping, exactly, but there are cabins and they are in the woods.

This Christmas I was invited to go camping with some people out in west Texas, at Big Bend National Park, arguably one of the most beautiful and stark natural places in the country. I know this because I have a cousin who has a hunting lodge there, near Marathon, on the Rio Grande, and I have seen pictures. I know pictures rarely are an adequate representation of a place or a person, but I also drove through it when I moved home to NC from northwest New Mexico. It was getting dark, but I could see shapes, feel the expanse of the place.

But camping? In tents? In the cold? With no bathrooms?? No thanks. Maybe the bears are asleep, maybe the spiders, snakes and scorpions are not so active in the winter either, but I am of an age where I am not ashamed to covet my creature comforts– heat, running water and indoor plumbing, protection from the elements, warm food and easy accessibility to anything else I may need.

Besides, these are not yet truly friends, but acquaintances who I have not known very long and do not know well. I suppose I should be flattered that they thought to include me in something they love to do and have done for years, but do I really want to struggle in a tent to change clothes, find a nice running stream (with no snow melt) where I can splash my face in the icy water and brush my teeth among people I hardly know? Or do you just forego those niceties and risk gum disease, tooth decay and whatever perils await when one wears the same undergarments for days on end. See, this would not have been just for a couple of nights, this was for 10 days. I am not so sure I would still know myself after that length of time with veritable strangers and the vacuum of only the natural world.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d take nature over so-called civilization any day. I think nature’s rhythms are far more reasonable and practical than what people come up with. I mean, take a hurricane. It’s just nature’s way of purging its water systems, clearing out the deadwood and reclaiming itself. But let one big storm like that hit a widely-populated area and you’d think the affront was to people, not to the environment they stole.

But still, nature is bigger and stronger than I am. And it does not know me, not personally. The only thing it takes into account is its own balance. Not sure my equillibrium at this point in my life could mesh with that.

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