Well, I did it. I am officially deflowered. It was dark, awkward and uncomfortable, but the deed is done. That’s right, I slept outside . . . for a whole night . . . in the wild. I did not fall into a cavern, get devoured by wild animals, or sustain any major injuries unless you count general paranoia and lack of sleep. It wasn’t that bad, but I can’t say I am jonesing for my next hit.
There has been some . . . discussion over my style of camping. Which has been described by some as more “glamping” than actual “camping”. Personally, I think your first time should be a bit glamourous, like a swanky hotel room after prom, so I make no excuses for my “frivolous” additions to our camping supplies. E: Flower centerpiece! D: Champagne glasses! Regardless, Denita and Emily wanted to peel back a layer or two of comfort before they took me into the snow. That’s right, I said snow. Emily assures me people do this, but I am equally assured she is nuts. However, for this next round, we are going to the beach! Visions of sand, sun and volleyball floated through my mind, but then the fact that I could see my breath brought me back to reality. It’s winter and the Pacific Ocean of Northern California can induce chattering teeth in the heat of the summer. Still, the waves, the sand, the sunsets . . . ah, the beach is a happy place. Now if we can just make it through the weekend without another baby hurricane.
I have been told we need to cut down on the “extras”, which means no champagne glasses or French cuisine. E: We’ll see how much French cuisine and stemware we’ll end up with once you have to carry it all on your back Jess. I coolly agreed to their terms, but then quietly reached for my phone and called in reinforcements. I assembled the most bourgeois of crews I could find. The Techie: my husband, who cannot and will not leave technology behind on any adventure. The Beauty: my sister, who believes nature is no excuse not to look good. The Chef: my brother in law who, like me, believes nature is no excuse not to eat well. And finally, The Back-Ups: Leon and Andrew, who not only know how to glamp, but do so fabulously. They think I am bad? Well, let’s just give them some perspective. D: She was fooling no one, but how she got them all to camp in the winter is beyond me.
Gear time! Here is what I have learned so far: Light, that bright shiny stuff that emanates from fixtures when I flip various switches, is something I take for granted. While camping, it is a bit harder to come by once the sun goes down. And since it is what keeps you from tripping over rocks or running into trees I will need to bring it with me. Lanterns are great for car camping and the occasional power outage. However, no matter what, you should always have a headlamp. They are convenient, lightweight and free up your hands for all sorts of things. Next, wool is my friend; I need more of it. Breathable articles of clothing now make sense! Puffy vests are a wonderful item to have handy in your wardrobe when the temperature drops, plus they make me feel very outdoorsy, so at least I look the part. Last, but definitely not least, a tent is an important investment in your future sanity.
After much research and poking, I plunked down some cash for my very first tent. The Big Agnes Jack Rabbit SL4. I figured it was light enough to haul around on my back, big enough for the occasional guest, and most importantly, looked sturdy (still no force field – darn it science, catch up with George Lucas already!).
For this trip, we turned once more to our favorite gear guy, Billy Brown. Since we liked our MSR kitchen toys so much last time, he recommended their Flex 4 cooking set, lent us a Coleman Pack-Away Camp Kitchen (it looks so handy!) and grabbed a couple Coleman Lanterns due to the aforementioned epiphany on light.
Denita wanted to get a pack on my back before we pulled off the band aid of modern civilization completely. Her words . . . D: I don’t want to nature rape you. So the plan was to embark on a day hike with me carrying 30ish pounds on my back.
We set out midday on a Friday. The rest of the group was meeting us there, so it was just us three riding shotgun in Denita’s truck. We soon found out that Denita drives just like my dogs walks . . . a barely restrained bundle of aggression with an overwhelming desire to be in front. Emily and I couldn’t help but laugh when we came upon a caravan of cars so long any sane person would just resign themselves to their fate. Denita, sanity questionable, simply muttered through gritted teeth, “I have a whole lot of passing to do.” And then she began to do so as I internally debated whether death would be less painful plummeting down the cliff on one side or slamming into the rock wall on the other.
We made it just in time to unload and get the tent up before dark. I put up my shiny new tent in a nice little spot hidden by trees. E: D and I conveniently found other, more pressing tasks to take care of while Jess struggled to set the tent up solo. It took some effort and a boatload of unladylike phrases, but she did it! And since I didn’t want a repeat of waking up in a puddle, this time I remembered water runs DOWNhill and picked a high spot. Almost on cue, giant raindrops started descending from the sky. Really? Again? We sat around our fire in protest getting drenched for a good 30 minutes. Note to self – buy rain pants. Then as soon as we caved and drug out the pop-up, it stopped. Then my crack team of glampers began to arrive. As they started to unload, my plan was becoming more and more apparent. Leon and Andrew set up their Taj Mahal complete with full bedding and end tables. They also brought a camp stove with more firepower than my range at home and bin after bin of kitchen gear and comfort items. Combined with the Coleman we nearly had a full kitchen. Then my husband showed up with his ‘tent’, which looked suspiciously like our SUV with the back seats removed, in additional to enough bedding, lights and tech gear to entertain a gaggle of teenage boys, or you know, just him. And my sister and her husband were late. Not just later than expected, but wee hours of the morning late. My plan was falling into place. D: Their ridiculousness does not lessen yours!
While we were getting set-up for dinner, a bag of food fell off the table. No big deal. However, when we walked over a minute or two later to retrieve it, we found it had disappeared. We quickly surmised that it was drug off by a cute little forest creature and went about our business. Then five minutes later it happened again. This time we were standing mere feet away from the table and caught a glimpse of the ballsy bandit. A raccoon, bigger than my dog, had stolen tortillas and hamburger buns. D: Not the onion buns! How are we supposed to eat hamburgers with just plain buns?! He looked at us with dead eyes and flashed his creepy opposable thumbs before he sauntered back into the brush. Sauntered, like a boss. E: Back to its bramble-nest just out of reach, littered with food wrappers from other unsuspecting victims. This was clearly not the first heist. Well, now we had been bested twice by a rodent of unusual size and decided to transfer all food into the handy little bear box. This only pissed them off. Oh, did I say them? At one point I walked out of camp to head over to the bathroom and as soon as I was alone a whole gang of those creepy, giant a-holes surrounded me making weird hissing noises. I tried to chase them off with my superior size and animal-like noises, but the beasts remained unfazed. They were obviously some kind of territorial street gang demanding we pay some kind of food toll for the right to camp on their turf. Our camp shifted to high alert, which basically meant we were ready to unleash the hounds on them. The hounds consisted of my dainty vizslas, one super chill boxer and one baby boxer; all not incredibly interested in securing the perimeter. Cowards! They are lucky they are all adorable. Still, the dogs mere presence seemed to be a fine deterrent. However, once they had the cover of darkness, the giant rat-ninjas descended on our camp like a voracious stampede. Every surface in our camp was covered in their muddy claw prints. By the way, those little lids on the top of larger coolers . . . just as handy for raccoons as they are for humans. They didn’t get away with anything as precious as the onion buns this time, but those little thieves are crafty!
After we cleaned up their filthy paw print and food wrapper debris (not just thieves, but littering thieves!), we secured the camp as best we could against the inevitable follow-up attack. After a counterattack was ruled out, we took in the morning. The clouds had given way to sunshine and the temperature was pleasantly fixed in the 70s. We wandered down the beach and readied my sack of goodies for our hike. It was a pretty easy 3-4 miles along the coastline with dalliances up to beautiful vistas or down to rocky beaches. We explored the shade of canopied forest trails, poked squishy, green sea anemones that resided in the tide pools, climbed jagged rocks and accidentally scared off seals. Dammit! We only want to love you, seals!
Everyone we passed looked at my 60 liter backpack with curiosity and raised eyebrows. If you are wondering what we stuffed it with, well, we made ourselves a delicious little gourmet picnic and filled the rest up with beer, which, of course, we had to finish before we got back. It was a beautiful day, and the extra load wasn’t bad. Although, there was one spot we had to climb that made my quads and rear burn like crazy. However, that likely could have been remedied if I was capable of exercising without having to trick myself with organized sports. In fact, the whole thing would have been a breeze, if I didn’t have the a 30 pound orangutan clinging to my back. As the sun started to drop we rushed back to camp to enjoy cocktails and the sunset beachside.
We got to bed pretty early that night, as I suspect happens quite a bit while camping. I recorded my personal best for most sleep in one night while out in the wild! My guess is I clocked five total hours. Feeling more rested than any other night camping, my brain was excited and ready to go . . . at 4am. This, for me, is completely and utterly preposterous. I glared at the top of the tent and played on the internet until six. Then I rallied and left my cozy Therm-a-rest sleeping cocoon. Begrudgingly, I admitted the sunrise was beautiful and the beach was quite tranquil predawn. Since I was bored and alone I attempted my first campfire. It was perfect. E: So perfect that it warranted a “First Fire” selfie. This was probably due to the inordinate amount of cardboard I utilized, so I will have to try that again with less manmade products soon. Unfortunately, the ruckus I made while starting the fire (or potential my enthusiasm over getting it started) woke a few of the group. Leon, Emily and Denita found their way over to the fire. From his tent, Andrew told us to pipe down. After I loudly waxed poetic about the beauty of nature’s sunrise (mainly to be a brat) through the tent walls, he said “text me a picture” with a grunt. I obliged and have included it for posterity’s sake. He may have issued some choice words, but I couldn’t tell over the roar of the glorious fire I had built.
Soon the girls, Leon and I were sipping hot cocoa. My brother in law’s pit-bull Porter was now present, so the thieving little coons wisely kept their distance. His sentry skills are legend. We took our dogs for a walk and enjoyed our serene surroundings. The littlest pup Izzy got to stay in her preferred snuggle spot of the weekend the entire time. We had a delicious breakfast, which topped off our weekend of delicious camp meals, and packed up.
I had a good time and the campground was beautiful, but I must say I don’t get the allure of car camping. We could just as easily (but for slightly more money) have rented a house on the beach somewhere and enjoyed these same vistas, hikes and experiences. It was a pleasant and relaxing weekend, but why do we have to be in a tent? I am curious to see if the allure of hard to reach places and adventures make me change my tune. So, with the exception of the raccoon hunger games, if you are thinking this sounded pretty tame and let’s just say it, a little boring, I concur. However, I am beginning to realize that camping isn’t all about non-stop excitement. You can’t always be fearlessly leaping into black pools of piranha infested water. E: Fearless? Bravely tromping into the unknown with steely reserve, or jumping out of the way when you promise to catch your friend jumping off a rock. D: Hey! I missed the excitement and maybe the slight amount of danger involved in the waterfall jump. E: You asked for it – one order of hard-to-reach, hike in adventure coming up! But this time we’ll let you ditch the tent.
Maybe it’s a good thing that our next adventure has me wishing I had taken some sort of outdoor survival class . . .
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