Nancy Williams: To Camp or Not to Camp


With just a hint of chill in the air some nights and leaves starting to think of changing colors, the idea of ​​camping calls to me, “Naaaancyyy, come on…camping is a fall wonder.” Another voice in my head reminds me that “autumn” can be a season or can splash on a smooth, moss-covered rock.

In a few weeks, the weekend weather will override my usual feelings about camping, which can be summed up as “Hope you’re having fun”. Not particularly outdoorsy to begin with, I have been more of a nature tolerant than a nature lover. I’ve hiked and groaned many peaks to see the beautiful views, but these days I prefer the long range views from the top floor of a nice hotel.

I guess I would go camping, in theory, if the conditions were ideal. Neither too hot nor too cold. No rain or humidity. Not crowded. Little pollen and with a regular breeze. As I describe the conditions, there are about two days left a year when I would be in. And then it would have to be in a motorhome decorated with granite countertops and a home theater.

I confess that I regularly cross campgrounds. To look at the outdoor outfits that people put together. Some have gone to great lengths to build a temporary residence, emblazoned with their names on pretty signs and their favorite football teams. Satellites for Wi-Fi and TV. Outdoor recliners.

The activities seem to be setting up your site, cooking, cleaning the kitchen, and then sitting around waiting for the next time to start cooking. And watch the others sit and wait for the moment to start cooking again. Discuss each other’s camping gear. Nice rig you got there, what do you get… about 6 mpg? How do you like your cooler-coffee table-bathtub combo? What is your dog’s name? (Not many people seem to take their cats camping.)

I can’t afford a giant motorhome, but I’m drawn to the campfires and camp food. I’m thinking of hanging out in campgrounds and striking up conversations. I bet I’ll be offered a hot dog or a s’more. Are you a Clemson fan? Me too! A little further down the row…are you an Alabama fan? Me too!

As I “camped” in a house on wheels, my tent days are definitely over. I don’t want to sleep anywhere, I have to close the door or put on shoes to go to the bathroom. I’m done hanging food in the trees. But it’s fun to think, as it used to be, that a tent protects against all perils except rain. Most deep forest wildlife can smell you from a mile away…and the thin fabric of the tent won’t stop a lone bear, vicious fox or biting squirrel from sniffing you out. Now there is an invention to consider. Tents that block the smell of you from assorted creatures and so on. Brand name: Scent in a Tent…where your scent stays inside. Or Odorbubble.

Bugs are another reason I don’t camp. I’m done sleeping with bugs. I love temperature-controlled, bug-free living too much. Honestly, every six or eight legged winged pest in an area of ​​seven counties will serve me a buffet when I’m outside. I am to insects what a lickstone is to deer.

In addition to those attached by free choice, I also often had bugs unintentionally stuck to me. Using hairspray where gnats swarm means you’re sticking some on your head. You just accept it as a consequence of trying to look good while camping and ignore it unless they’re stuck up, but still alive and fidgety, making conversation with others awkward because they keep watching the little wing movements in your hair.

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In college, I went on a school-sponsored camping trip out west for three weeks. I came back with a boy from the trip who was “just a friend” when we left. I’ve since told single girlfriends to take a boy to Wyoming; he falls in love with the beautiful scenery, but thinks it’s you. The boy tells single men to take a girl camping and when she hears spooky sounds of wildlife in the night, she’ll be ready to come closer. True. In Yellowstone it was buffalo mating season and the park ranger told us to be careful as the buffaloes can’t see well and would try to breed with almost anything. We had to walk about 300 yards from our van to the campsite, which is a long distance when you’re worried about a multi-ton mammal charging at you looking for romance. Yeah, I’ll get close and hang out with you if you keep the bison away.

This trip was the first of many outdoor excursions we have taken over the years. I was camped and parked national to death. I have hiked, biked, trolled, bused, dog sled, snowmobile, sailed and swum this land…from the redwood forest (check) to the waters of the Gulf Stream (check).

I cut my knee on rocky shores in Acadia and broke my back above the clouds in Alaska. Fire-baked in dozens of states. Argued over the proper way to make a fire in most of these states. I got soaked by stalactites in an albino shrimp cave in Kentucky and washed my hair in Colorado and my clothes too, while they were still on me. I had a snowball fight on a glacier in June, spun my ankle in a field of lava rock in Hawaii, jumped off rocks into the lake near Mount Rushmore, screamed in Bryce Canyon and I was bad in the Badlands. (Not really, I just meant that one.)

However, I was honestly bad at the Great Sand Dunes which feature (drum roll…) big piles of sand. That’s it. Thousand degrees, mountains of sand and some dinosaur fossils. They try to make it interesting, but there are only so many ways to describe how much sand it contains. Like lining up sand-filled vans end to end, it would stretch from Earth to Jupiter. In desperation for stimulation, I tied a shirt around my head and played “Desert Sheik”. We recruited other players and busied ourselves describing the ideal mirage, pretending to lean and stagger against the hot wind (there was no wind).

My misbehavior annoyed other park visitors who felt that I didn’t take the dunes seriously. Guilty as charged. I was not. Bored with my mind, I wished for real dehydration if that spiced things up. I’m sure the dunes are interesting for lovers of sand formation. Not for me. What. So. Already.

A favorite part of camping is coming home to a hot shower and clean clothes that don’t smell of campfire. The delicious feeling is almost worth the dirty days. But I can stay home and not swim for a few days, to have the joy of cleaning myself without the hassle of camping. I generally describe my camping days as fun and complete. Good times in the great outdoors, but nothing more. Now I am a strictly indoors sleeper. Of course, I appreciate the night sky and the stars, so I go outside to look at them, then after a bit, I go back into the house to my pillow-top mattress.

Then that time of year arrives. Fabulous waterfall culminating around the corner. And I hear a voice in my head, “Naaaancyyy…go camping…it’ll be so much fun…”

Nancy Williams, Citizen Times columnist and vocational education coordinator at UNC Asheville.

That’s the opinion of Nancy Williams, vocational education coordinator at UNC Asheville. Contact her at [email protected]


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