A comedy of camping errors. Or, how to lose your sanity in twenty-two short hours.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you must be a wee bit of a masochist if you chose to go camping in Indiana during July or August.  (Unless, of course, you have an air conditioned R.V.  Then you’re just living the dream.)

But this year the weather has been so nice and mild (oh Polar Vortex, I love you so) with very little humidity so I forgot that cardinal rule of midwest get-aways and we made plans to camp this past weekend.

I’m not sure if the jet stream was already in play or if God moved it especially for us once we made our reservations and paid our deposit, but this weekend, the two days we decided to sleep outdoors in a tent, the weather hit over 90 degrees for the first time all year.  When you add in the crazy humidity it felt like four million degrees outside.

Despite seeing the soaring temperatures on the weather forecast, my intrepid family decided to make the trip any way.  Surely the weather wouldn’t be that bad.  Surely everything would work out.

Disillusioned Me is shaking my head at three days ago Naive Me right now.

The first thing I noticed about our camping site was that we were pitching our tent under some of the biggest trees I had ever seen.  I’m pretty sure they may have been a group of Ents that had wandered away from Middle Earth and gotten lost.  All the foliage and tree branches made our site feel incredibly secluded and forgotten.  We were pretty much pitching our tent in the Forbidden Forest.  Eden took one look at the place and backed away saying, “This is not how I imagined it!  I feel like a million eyes are watching me!”

She repeated this refrain several times that night until we all felt  those million eyes watching our every move.

Despite the high temperatures we made a fire because there was dinner to be cooked and marshmallows to be roasted.  While the coals were heating up we decided to explore our surroundings.  The website had mentioned that there was a pit toilet in the tent area.  My husband went off to find it and returned a few minutes later saying, “Well, the good news is that the pit toilet is very close by.”

Knowing my husband I then asked, “So what is the bad news?”  He grimaced and answered “When I opened the door I fully expected to see a serial killer wearing a hockey mask and wielding a chain-shaw inside.  The roof and walls don’t look entirely stable and I’m pretty sure a rodent ran across the floor.”

I made a quick executive decision that we wouldn’t visit the pit toilet ever and we all went off to find the shower house and flush toilets that the website told us were “close by.”

“Close by” ended up being about a quarter of a mile away, which isn’t horrible when camping.  What is horrible is walking into a shower house and seeing mold and dead things on the shower floor.

It may not surprise you to learn that none of us bathed this trip.  Sometimes remaining filthy is the cleanest option you have.

By this time, everyone was starving so we retreated hastily back to our campsite and had dinner.  Between the fire, the humidity, and the heat we were all sweaty by the time we had finished eating.  While taking a bite of his corn on the cob, my husband remarked, “It’s like having bubbles full of boiling water explode in your mouth.”  We unanimously decided to skip the smores because no one wanted to stand in front of the fire long enough to make them.

Darkness had descended and the bugs were out in force.  At this point, we could hear the other campers in the distance.  They were all young college kids, which made me feel instantly better.  Everybody knows that it’s the young, sexually promiscuous college kids who die first in a horror movie.  Not the middle aged, legally wed, forty-one year old herding three children to a minivan.

As the other campers quieted down, we could hear all the nocturnal animals waking up.  Trinity kept saying, “What’s that sound?” every few minutes in a slightly panicky voice.  Then Eden, who had been an unwilling participant in every camping activity thus far, hugged me around the waist and buried her face in my side.  I could feel her chin quiver and she choked out, “If I die before you do…I’m just going to miss you so much!”

As you can see, Gentle Reader, morale was high.

After a group trip to the shower house to visit the marginally sanitary toilets (the family that pees together, stays alive together) we headed back to our sleeping bags.

This is when we heard the coyotes off in the distance.  As we quickened our pace through what had become the tallest grass known to man, I kept muttering, “Darn it, darn it, darn it” under my breath.  (When I was telling this story to my friend, she laughed and said, “You weren’t really saying darn it, were you?” She knows me well.  Honesty compels me to admit it was another d word that I was saying.)

Between the sound of the coyotes, the heat, and the knowledge that I would never make it until daybreak without having to visit the bathroom again (curse you tiny bladder!), it is safe to say that I did not experience the sleep of angels.

In the morning things went smoothly enough.  No one showered but everyone had remembered their deodorant, so things were looking up for the Bunkersdown clan.

We had made reservations to take a ten mile canoe trip down Sugar Creek and all seemed well as we picked out our life jackets and paddles.  My son and I were going to paddle one canoe, while the husband and the girls went in another.

As I prepared to propel myself into the bobbing canoe, my son morphed into his alternate identity as the Tiny Professor and instructed me to have “three areas of reference inside the canoe before attempting to fully step in.”

These were wise words indeed, and I said them to myself each and every time I had to climb back into the blasted boat after being stuck on some freaking sandbar in the middle of the creek.

Apparently water levels were low.  And my butt is big.  Unlike peanut butter and chocolate, these are two things that do not go well together.

After traveling three long miles and having to carry our canoes eight or nine times, we gave up.  This was not canoeing, it was hiking while carrying a boat.  After we checked in our paddles and climbed aboard the bus that would take us back to camp, I realized that my capri pants were completely soaked and that mud fully encompassed all my southern extremities.

It was the filthiest I had ever been and there wasn’t a sanitary shower for miles.

This is when I turned to my husband and whimpered, “I cannot do this anymore, we are going home now.”

And like the wonderful man that he is, my husband packed up the tent and all the camping supplies while I ate low sodium Pringles and attempted to get a grip.

After returning home and showering (twice) I turned on the television and saw on the weather radar that a huge thunderstorm was pummeling the area we had just been camping in.  Heavy rainfall, gusty winds, possible hailstones, the whole nine yards.

This is when I realized three very important things.  First, things can always get worse.  Always.  Second, sometimes you catch a break.  Sometimes.  And third, never go camping in Indiana during July or August.  Never.

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6 Responses to A comedy of camping errors. Or, how to lose your sanity in twenty-two short hours.

  1. Lissa says:

    I am sorry you had such a rough camping trip. (Even though i can’t help but giggle a little bit. More out of sympathy than anything else.) I am in Ohio so I can definitely understand the weather conditions. I didn’t set foot out this past weekend even to take the dog out to go to the bathroom.

    If it makes you feel any better I have a good camping story for you. We decided two years ago that we would try our hand at camping. There is a park close by that offers families the opportunity to camp on park grounds. They will provide camp fires and smore makings. There were toilets close by. So it was kind of camping “lite”. We borrowed a tent, bought sleeping bags, and set off on our adventure. We all had a lot of fun. My then 5 yo son ran around with lots of other kids and ate lots of smores. They went fishing. The weather was relatively nice. We all settled in snugly in the 4 person tent. (Who these 4 very tiny people are they measured the tent by I will never know.) So about 6:30a we were all awoken to a strange guttural sound. That of my 5 yo vomiting. Granted he managed to keep it in his sleeping bag. We were packed up and back home by 7:15a.

    We haven’t ventured out to camp again yet but we have a new tent and grand plans (without smores). 🙂

  2. Karen @ The Food Charlatan says:

    “Everybody knows that it’s the young, sexually promiscuous college kids who die first in a horror movie.” Ami, you’re right! I’m so glad I’m in safe zone!!! Also, I always carry boats when I hike. I don’t see what the big deal is. Man up.

  3. Robin Kramer says:

    Oh, goodness, Ami. That’s quite a 22 hours!

    It’s good to note that we haven’t had any days that have hit 90 degrees this summer — not one. Then again, my family didn’t plan a camping trip, so there you have it.

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