Naturally, “camping” means a wide range of things to a variety of people. There are those who can strap a small tent to their backs, hike for hours into the wilderness and happily survive like boy scouts with few provisions or comforts. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the RV’ers who drive massive vehicles that are larger than my first apartment, and are generally extended-stay visitors at their favorite campgrounds. They have brought all the comforts of home with them.
We lie somewhere in between. I think of myself as a Real Women Tent Camper. Yes, we are “roughing it” more than some of those RV folks, and I have friends who say “happy for you, but there’s no way I’d do that.” But over the years we have made some alterations — we stay at campsites with provided fire pits and some basic services, and we sleep on air mattresses, not the hard ground. We carry a large assortment of supplies in my husband’s van, so I feel relatively prepared for anything. I do give up a handful of conveniences, like the hair dryer stays home, we use lanterns and flashlights at night instead of electricity, and I know how to – and do when necessary – pee in the woods.
Our favorite place to camp is a small privately owned tents-only facility in the hills of Vermont. It is beautiful, quiet and at times we feel like we have the place all to ourselves. It is fabulous. Conversely, this weekend we camped in Maine at what we call “community camping” — lots of RV’s, close neighbors and virtually no privacy. It was clean, well maintained and the people were friendly… just not our usual kind of place. However, it did give me a chance to observe the other Real Women campers. There are those lucky natural women who can roll out of their tent or camper, splash water on their face, throw on hiking boots, and look beautiful. I believe these are the same women I mentioned above who can happily live with a bag of trail mix in the wilderness. Then there are the women who want to closely resemble the woman they are at home… I met a young lady in the public restroom one morning who was using the electricity there to use a flat iron on her hair; she had already done her make-up and was doing her best to look like she was NOT camping. However, I think the majority of the women were more like me. Staring into a small mirror, wondering if I needed to spend 50 cents for a 10 minute shower, or if I could get by with putting my hair up in a pony tail and putting on a bit of mascara to look presentable enough to venture into town for souvenirs.
Truly, there are pro’s and con’s to our camping weekends. The older we get, the less comfortable it is. Even in quite environments, we don’t sleep as well as we do at home. Rain can be a major and unwanted issue to deal with. Camping is dirty. There is no doubt we will end up smelling like campfire. And the packing and unpacking process can be a pain in the patoot. (Especially when contending with rain).
That said, I still believe the pro’s make the effort worthwhile. Camping is still much more affordable than hotel stays. The sight-seeing can be spectacular. We all step away from regular responsibilities, chores and electronics and actually talk with each other, read, and relax. Traditions are created, like making s’mores over the campfire. There are glimpses of simple joys like watching your son navigate the stream behind the campsite, or sleeping with his arm draped over the happily exhausted family dog. And you just can’t beat the feeling of either sitting out at night with the campfire, looking at the moon and stars, or waking up to the start of another peaceful sunny cool morning filled with promise and fresh air.
Tonight we are back home, the camping gear is stored away for the season, the multiple loads of laundry are started, I was blissfully happy to take a long shower and I look forward to the comfort of my own bed. But I’m also happy that we had perfect weather this weekend, made more tent memories, have new inside jokes between us, and a batch of fun photos for the scrapbook.