Remy and I went on a camping trip this weekend. I realize that’s a strange thing to say on a Saturday. We got a head start by leaving very early yesterday morning and we stayed for over 24 hours. But I decided to end the trip early on account of a few issues.
The first problem was the rain – it began shortly after I pitched the tent and continued on all the way through to the early afternoon. Cool temperatures and overcast skies meant that the rainwater was in no hurry to evaporate. I generally don’t mind rain at all – but we weren’t prepared for it. I intended to cook meals over an open fire, but all of the wood was soaked. I couldn’t start a fire to save my life.
The second problem was the self-inflating sleeping pad I brought along. I hadn’t tried it before. But frankly, it wasn’t very comfortable at all.
The third and final issue – really the deciding factor – was a nasty toothache that developed. On a longer trip, I’d have more provisions, but on this short trip, I brought next to nothing. I decided it was in my best interest to return home and take care of my dental health.
But It Was Still Nice
Those issues notwithstanding, I enjoyed the trip. We stayed in Nicolet National Forest – in a cozy little spot on NFR 2140, less than 10 miles due east of Eagle River. The forest was extremely peaceful and tranquil. Other cars passed by to and from nearby campsites at a rate of less than one per hour. We were about a half mile shy of a dead end at Butternut Lake, so there weren’t many spots beyond us. The lack of people, the lack of noise (apart from the wildlife), and the lack of cell phone reception made for a perfect recipe for serenity.
The light traffic permitted me to let Remy off the leash. I had been giving her more liberties off-leash since Independence Day weekend and she had slowly earned my trust. I tied her out while I was preoccupied with setting up the tent. But after that, she remained off-leash for the remainder of our stay. I admit, I was nervous. The thick woods provide an easy means of escape if she decided to bolt – particularly after dark. But she didn’t betray my trust.
I know this is going to sound silly… My favorite parts about the trip were hiking through the woods with Remy and taking my shirt off. For most people, that’s not a big deal. But I’m not exactly in great shape, so walking around shirtless is something of a luxury for me. I was able to do it because I realized that we were quite isolated and had near absolute privacy.
Around 3am this morning, I was having trouble sleeping and I decided to take Remy out for a short hike into the woods. I didn’t bring a leash, shoes, a shirt, or even a flashlight. It was just me and Remy, walking through the woods in the middle of the night, under the soft glow of the moon, and listening to wolves howling in the distance. It felt raw and primitive and savage. For a fleeting moment, I felt like the only person on the planet. It was a simple, but exhilarating experience.
Although this was only a weekend trip, I hoped that camping would give me a chance to practice everyday tasks that are made difficult in the absence of running water and electricity. For this reason, I’m sad that I had to cut the trip even shorter. Though it did expose a few things that I have overlooked.
There are many ordinary, mundane tasks that we all engage in on a daily basis. We take for granted our modern conveniences. Long-term travel and dispersed camping force you to consider how you’re going to accomplish simple things. Without ready access to indoor plumbing, tasks like taking showers, washing laundry and dishes, getting a drink of water, and even going to the bathroom all require advanced preparation. Cooking and charging cell phones are challenging without ready access to an electrical outlet.
Of course, I don’t want to over-dramatize the point. Many of these “obstacles” are quite simple to work around. Much of it depends on what style of travel you engage in and how much you’re willing to invest in tools that can play substitute. But it is important to be aware that these challenges exist and have to be addressed – one way or another.