The teeny-tiny Minnesota town that I grew up in was 30 minutes from the Canadian border. Every summer there would be a mass influx of Canadian campers who would roost in the campgrounds right by the city pool. They would stare at us, we would stare at them, they would speak French and then laugh loudly in a way that made me certain they were making fun of me.
I loved growing up in that town and spending all day every day at that swimming pool, but even at that young age I had seen enough of the world to know that it wasn’t a superrad vacation destination. There were some bike trails– I mentioned the pool (very nice for such a small town), a river that I guess people could fish in… I really don’t know what else would draw so many people to these campgrounds–or why it was almost exclusively Canadians.
When I was 12, we moved to another teeny-tiny town, this one in North Dakota, and there was a lovely state park about 30 minutes away. This place had it all–woods, trails, a lake, beach–everything that I though proper camping should include. Yet my friends who were of the camping persuasion, would go out there, spend the night in a pimped-out camper with almost all the comforts of home, and then spend the day either back at their parent’s house on the couch, or hanging out with me–not enjoying (what I thought was) the appeal of camping.
My parents never took me camping– which is probably pretty clear, because they didn’t get it either. We took day trips to state parks, picnicked, swam, hiked, but then drove back home so we wouldn’t have to wrestle with putting up a tent, or what to do when it gets dark at 9:30pm and you’re really not hungry and have nothing left to say to each other.
Jewish Friend has been trying to shanghai me into going camping with her since I met her. She went to college in an idyllic town in upstate New York and spent her time there hiking and wearing flannel (from what I understand of it). I have now relented and agreed to camp with her in exchange for a visit to Washington Irving’s Estate, and possibly the mountain that Rip Van Winkle fell asleep on.
Now, in the quest to scare up some camping gear, I find out that more of my friends than I could possibly thought have a deep affection for camping. Sassy Redhead, one of my most refined chums, owns a sub-zero sleeping bag and told me, “I chipped ice from a frozen river to make tea.” Always classy, even in the woods.
This is similar to the bafflement I felt when I left the Midwest–Heartland of America, land of farmers– to come to the liberal Northeast and discover that all of these hipsters I was meeting also were or wanted to be farmers. That’s an exaggeration, but it was perplexing.
I’m down with nature, I think it’s great and try to preserve it, I prevent forest fires, but I also like showers and comfortable sleeping surfaces. Oh well, it’s an adventure.