Camping – the mere word conjures up bucolic images of loons, canoes and the theme song for Hinterland Who's Who. After enduring the brain-shrinkage from the Muskoka Novel Marathon and a rather stressful period at work, I was looking forward to a pastoral week of summer slacking in Algonquin Park.
If you've ever been camping, you know the short period between packing-driving-setting-up and taking-down-driving-unpacking is rather peaceful, lovely and exceedingly short. It's those bracketed ends of slave labour that do you in.
For me it's laundry-laundry-laundry in the days leading up to the camping trip because gawd knows there's enough icky camping laundry afterwards without adding moldering week-old underwear. I always do laundry leading up to any big event. Trips, parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs, tornadoes nuclear armageddon – I do laundry in advance. A whole town full of zombies approaching my front door to tear out my gizzard? I'd be telling them to hold off until the rinse cycle.
Shopping for camping is crazy. I don't know why this is but we always eat far better during camping trips than at any other time of the year. Maybe it's to make up for sleeping on a thin slab of foam and walking 40 miles to the loo. Yup, if I'm going to wash dishes in a plastic tub full of ice water and do without a bath for a week then I'm going to eat steak and cheesecake every night! Woo HOO! Let the righteous win! Let the arteries harden! Bring on the blessed bacon!
By the way, the high cost of steak and Jiffy-Pop is hard to justify to the bank manager when you're whinging and writhing on her office floor arranging a second mortgage to pay for it all.
When you've bought every last pound of bacon, bag of ice, sack of Doritoes and package of Twizzlers in the store you bring it all home and stuff it in the car. That and clothes, rum, pillows, rum, blankets, rum, sleeping bags, rum and pool noodles. Whatever you do, don't forget the rum.
The packing is an all day fiesta of carrying crap. By the time everything is loaded, you're toast. Burnt toast. And all you can think of, as you're driving to the park, with two kids fighting in the back seat and repeating "Are we there yet?" in a Marathon Man litany of pain worse than that endured during root canals sans freezing, is how, when you finally arrive, you have to get out of the vehicle and help your husband back a 21-foot trailer into an 18-foot campsite. I kid you not, this is the number one reason for divorce.
Suffice it to say, all I wanted to do after we got to the park and set up was nothing. A big blob of zilch. Dave sensed this (funny how massive amounts of whining in his ear sharpens his mind-reading skills) and set up the hammock for me. What a wonderful man he is. I crawled into the hammock and squiggled into the most comfortable position and watched puffy clouds float across an azure sky. Ahhhh, camping ....
That's when the hammock failed. WHOMPF. I landed unceremoniously butt-first in the dirt. I stared up at the puffy clouds and I swear they were mocking me. I started crying, big, ugly, mucous-endowed bawling while I felt around my butt to see if my hip was broken.
That's when I noticed the lady in the next campsite staring at me.
I pulled my hand away from my derriere and tried to act nonchalant.
"You saw that, did you?" I asked, a goobery plop of something gross hanging off my quivering bottom lip.
"Sorry, yes I did," she said. Then, whatever societal politeness she had been clinging to let go and a honking projectile bray of laughter spewed out of her cavernous, lipsticked mouth.
My utter mortification was complete. I closed my eyes and lay there like a well-trussed slug.
My butt still hurts. I didn't go near Killer Hammock for the rest of the week. Dave insists it wasn't my beatific buttocks that crashed the hammock; the ratchet strap slid through an eye loop or something.Yeah, whatever. This kind of thing never happens to skinny women.
The hammock wasn't my only ordeal. Two days later we were on a canoe trip along Sunday Creek (which should be called Bog of Death) and not once, but twice, I sank into the harrowing depths of a leech-encrusted abyss of muddy squelchiness. The first time, with one misplaced step, I went right up to my crotch. Pulling my leg out was like giving birth. I've been having nightmares about vacuum suction ever since. I've washed my formerly white socks three times since then, in bleach, and they still look like men's black dress socks.
The second time I just stayed there.
A week later, here I am, feeling much like a weiner in a Pillsbury crescent roll, watching puffy clouds (and turkey vultures) go sailing by.
I really do find camping relaxing ... don't you?