If you’re over forty and fantasizing about getting back to nature before summer is over — perhaps contemplating dusting off the sleeping bags, digging the tent out of the basement, and heading for the north woods where you’ll build a crackling campfire, cook over an open stove, and slumber under a blanket of stars — you can forget it. And I mean that literally.
When my husband and I went camping for the first time12 years ago, we were clear-headed, younger individuals who had no trouble remembering to pack all of the essential camping supplies such as food, water, and those sorts of things. We discovered on a recent attempt at camping, however, that our combined brain cells were no longer adequate to handle the rigorous task of retaining even the most abbreviated mental list of survival provisions.
“I forgot to bring water,” I informed my husband halfway into our seven-hour drive north to our wooded property. Little did we know that we would get plenty of water that night — five and a half inches to be exact.
“Too bad we forgot to pack a tarp,” I would be heard to say to my husband around 2 a.m. the following morning as the torrential downpour formed deep, bulging lakes in the roof of our tent and water began to drip steadily onto our sleeping bags, our luggage, and the dog.
By now it would be a lot faster if I just made a list of all the necessary items I forgot to pack:
Citronella (but I did bring wasp spray)
Paper towels (I did bring one roll, but it got soaked during the night — inside the tent!)
Umbrellas (56 % of the country was experiencing a drought the day we left)
Garbage bags (stopped at the store on the way)
Coffee creamer (stopped and got some of that, too, but never used it because we didn’t stick around long enough the next morning to make coffee)
Noise machine (comes in handy at noisy hotels after camping trip gets rained out.)
My ulcer medication (no explanation necessary)
Tuna Sub sandwich that my husband asked me to pick up for his dinner (We stopped at McDonald’s.)
In fairness, to myself mostly, I did remember to bring charcoal — which we discovered the next morning leaning against a tree, wet.
I also remembered to bring the dog’s food — which we also found in the morning soggy and swollen. It grossed the dog out so bad he refused to eat for five days, and will now accept only canned food.
In an unusual twist of fate I actually remembered to bring extra batteries for the radio, which was rendered useless after spending the stormy night uncovered on the picnic table. Not that it was much drier inside the tent. Several times during the night, since we weren’t sleeping anyway, I thought of venturing into the deluge to move any possibly overlooked items into the gazebo that we spent two hours erecting after we arrived, but, go figure, neither of us remembered to bring our rain suits into the tent with us.
But the important thing is, we did remember to bring the rain suits.
Somehow I had the presence of mind to pack a number of provisions that seemed more important than water and garbage bags at the time, yet mysteriously remained unused:
Hornet and Wasp Spray
Extra bottle of Chardonnay
Peanuts in the shell, along with two-sided wicker peanut-eating basket ( a Christmas gift to my husband last year)
And then there was an inordinate number of completely unnecessary items that found their way into the van, all of which were gratefully utilized prior to the storm:
Fudge Covered Oreo Cookies
Gone forever are the days when my worst fear in the wilderness was encountering a wild bear. Now it’s opening the cooler and not seeing any ice.