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Funny Story About City Girl And Camping

Updated on August 28, 2012

Camping was not something I grew up on – hanging out in trees or on the roof yes – actually going somewhere and preparing for it and being taught in the ways of camping – no!

When I met Bob, it was in 1975 and he had just finished a round-the-country camping trip that involved going to as many national parks as he could in a 6-week period and camping out. It sounded so romantic – little did I know that he expected me to know anything about it!

I do have to say in my defense that I think I handled it very well - although probably as usual - comedically.  I like to think back on it and remember it as a great learning experience.  It was also a great chance to get to know each other better - and luckily he decided not to ditch me afterwards!


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My First Camping Experience

We had been dating a few months and were pretty much inseparable by this time. He was going to school and working full-time. I was at the ripe old age of 20 but had been on my own since age 17. I was a hard worker and a bit of a bohemian type of girl but admittedly, I knew little about the wilderness and even less about camping 101. We had both been working pretty hard though and when he announced to me that he wanted to show me Yosemite and take me camping, I was more than stoked! It was September but I figured growing up in southern California, I could handle just about anything (har har) – so bring it on.

He had to work until afternoon and I did as well – so we made arrangements for me to get together some food, procure a sleeping bag, and pack my stuff – he would finish up at work and school and swing by to pick me up and off we’d go for a 3-day weekend, starting out by camping on the shores of Lake Tenaya. I did as instructed and was so happy to be going off on my very first camping trip!  

It took pretty much 8 hours of steady driving for us to go from San Diego to Yosemite and by the time we hit the mountains, it was pitch black and nearing 11:00 p.m. We had not been out of the car in hours and I was still in my cut-offs and sweater with my new hiking boots on for good measure. When we finally pulled in at 11:00, both of us dropping from fatigue, I had no warning but stepped out of the car into FRIGID air. Oh duh – we were in the mountains – hello!!!! Too late for that thought – Bob was totally exhausted from the driving and work and wanted nothing but to get the stuff hauled out, the tent up and to drop into the sleeping bags. No problem! 

I proceeded to scurry around to the back of the car (freezing my you-know-what off because it was so damned cold so it behooved me to scurry) and whip out my suitcase. I can still see the stunned look on his face in the flashlight arc. ‘You have GOT to be kidding me – you brought a SUITCASE?’ I was totally befuddled – ‘Well, of course I did, silly – what did you expect me to put my stuff in?’ Eye rolling – that was I think the first day I saw it and it has continued for 35+ years!!! ‘You do not – I repeat DO NOT – bring a suitcase camping’. ‘Well of course you do, silly – because I have one – right here, see?’ (I am so not making points)

He sighs the painstakingly weary sigh of someone who is used to dealing with the retarded – at least I did not have on HIGH HEELS – give me a break! Geez – who knew I was pairing up with Euell Gibbons - Mr. Mountain Man! He just finally grabs the suitcase and says ‘Let’s go – I need to get to bed’…..I’m supposed to be holding the flashlight for him as we trudge across the terrain – which I should mention I cannot see – where are the street lights? Are they insane having people out there trying to trudge through the dark? I’m stepping every other step into a gopher hole or god knows WHAT hole – and even in my hiking boots as opposed to my high heels, I’m not having a good time of it – I’m down more than I am up – and he is totally pissed. ‘What the hell are you doing back there?’ (I think in retrospect, I have heard this phrase from him at least 1 million times over the years and frankly, I just don’t understand it! Can’t he TELL what I’m doing back there?) 

Okay – so he drags my 300 pound suitcase (in my defense, I did not know what I should pack so went with basically everything because I wanted to impress him) – over the hills and dales to wherever he figures we are going to camp – in retrospect I have no CLUE how he found where we were because I was totally lost (in more ways than one). He throws down the suitcase and trudges back for the cooler (which I might add here probably weighed more than my suitcase but hey – who’s counting) – and goes back yet again and again for various and sundry other parts of our camping experience. Whew – who knew that camping could be so much work? I stayed where I was because he told me to – I think he was getting the flavor that I didn’t know what I was doing? 

He finally got the tent up – who knew THAT could take so long – and I was holding the flashlight all that time, too! He is muttering to himself by now and I really don’t know what is up with that either…..I’m not blonde but I think he said something about that or called me some kind of goofy names under his breath – but oh well – we’re there to have fun and we are going to! It’s of course now after midnight and we are going to go ahead and get ready for bed. Suddenly, I realized that I had not seen any signs for bathrooms or showers or anything, so I asked him very politely which way I should go to pee and which way to the showers. He just waved his arms – I said something like ‘What are you waving at?’ He kept waving – then he adds ‘You’re looking at it’ – ‘WHAT? Are you crazy? I don’t pee in the woods – I don’t pee in front of people! What are you saying?’ He very calmly explains to me that we are in the wilderness, on the shores of Tenaya Lake, and that wherever I want to relieve myself, feel free – and if I want to have a shower – go jump in the lake – literally.

Well! No one told me about THIS! I think I will be holding it for quite some time buster – and don’t even THINK I’m dipping into the lake – by now my teeth are chattering by the way and when did he fail to mention that we would be doing arctic camping? Oy vey – this is not going well – if I’m thinking the guy is going to be interested in marrying me, I probably should have thought twice about that prospect! I finally succumbed and had to go pee in the vicinity and hoped to god that something wild did not jump out of the woods and grab me – heaven forbid that my body would be found with my pants down! I quietly snuck back to the tent where Bob was not even waiting for me but already snuggled into his down sleeping bag and trying to go to sleep. He probably was hoping I got carted off by a bear!

Hmmph – well – we were going to have a chat about this tomorrow – this was way more than I signed up for pal! Too bad you didn’t mention to Miss California Girl here that we were going to the North Pole to camp – and how was I to know about the luggage faux pas? I must have missed the memo or the article in Cosmo about what not to do with camping etiquette. And since when is the world our bathroom? Good lord – I was a civilized (albeit clueless) girl! 

Hmmph – all that hmmph’ing and I’m realizing that it is like 80 frigging below zero in my sleeping bag!!! Good god – does it get any better? I had borrowed this stupid piece of crap from my sister who used it to camp at the beach – where it is like 60 degrees at night! She told me that it was a good sleeping bag and all that but AGAIN – Mr. Wilderness failed to mention to me that it might be a good idea to have a sleeping bag that was good for anything below 60 degrees.

Now I’m getting steamed – If you think I’m going to be laying here all night long freezing to death, mister, you have another think coming! I very politely shook him – okay – so he’s not happy – he’s butt ass tired but hey – whose idea was it anyhow to go on this little ‘luxury’ vacation? He is not budging, so I start to really shake him – he finally wakes up with a ‘WHAT NOW?’ I proceed to start crying – I really had no other choice – this is all just too much for a city girl. Between sobs I’m able to croak out ‘I’m freezing to death – you make me pee outside and I don’t even want to think about people seeing me trying to get clean in the lake……you have a DOWN sleeping bag and you have the nerve not to tell me what to bring? You hack on me for the suitcase and now you are sleeping while I’m laying over here turning into a popsicle?’ ‘ I want to go home’ I wail – ‘I just want to go home – or to a motel!!!’ 

Bob, bless his heart is always the noble one – he finally admits that it is his fault – about damned time! (not really) He offers magnanimously to give me his sleeping bag and he will take the ‘good to 60 degrees piece of crap’ sleeping bag and never mind. I suggested putting them together and maybe we’d be good to oh 40 degrees – since it was about 10 degrees outside. We piled everything we had on top of the 2 bags and chivalry not being dead, he did take the colder one and gave me the down bag – I slept like a LOG! 

The next morning found me sitting outside the tent – still in my cut-offs and hiking boots (thank god for the sweater) but I was getting the hang of it – I was sure though that some guy was filming me across the lake trying to use the ‘facilities’ and I longed for a motel room (which I finally talked my way into) – but I learned some important stuff that weekend. First – don’t bring a suitcase camping – it will only cause you grief. Second, always ask what the accommodations are – if you are going to be sleeping in an area and having to use the facilities in the open – you should know so you can dress appropriately. And lastly, know your equipment – meaning if you are going to the mountains, you probably should have something better than a ‘good to 60 degrees’ sleeping bag to sleep in.

Who knew camping could be so complicated? I thought it was just about throwing crap in a car and going somewhere and sleeping like you did at home! The weekend did turn out to be great – if you discount the parts about me whining like a well -  girl – about having to bathe in streams and rivers and freezing my bahooomi’s off every minute. Then there was the night he was putting the tent up again next to a rocky outcropping and I started to see some shadows while I was holding the flashlight. Okay – so I panicked and I might have sucked in my breath and started to scream – I thought it was a bear!  So I scared the living crap out of him – sorry – my mistake! He took it well – he threw the flashlight down but at least it didn’t break. Whew!

Over the years, I of course got better at it (I’m sure from Bob’s perspective there would be another session of eye rolling inserted here) but that is for another day and yet another story to tell.



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