Friday, March 9, 2018

Why I Don't Camp

My family didn’t go camping, but my friend, Diane’s, did. In the summer of 1959, her folks asked me to go with them to Yosemite, where they reserved a campsite each year. I was excited because they always had such a good time. Heck, I’d have gone anywhere since my family never went on vacation. Besides, I’d be with one of my closest friends.
After a long drive, during which we listened to and sang along with some of our favorite music of the day, we arrived in Yosemite. It was gorgeous, as advertised.

Diane’s folks set up the tent where they would sleep. They blew up air mattresses and arranged sleeping bags outside for us. It sounded like a great adventure—until the next morning when I awoke. A red streak ran up the inside of my left arm.

I showed it to Diane’s mom, but told her not to worry, it would be okay, and it didn’t hurt. However, she insisted on having a doctor look at it. This entailed a drive to the nearest emergency room. (So much for the first day of vacation.)

The doctor said he thought I’d been bitten by a scorpion and had blood poisoning. “If the streak goes to your armpit and reaches your heart, it will kill you.”


He gave me an antibiotic shot and a prescription for pills, which Diane’s folks paid for. Oh, and I couldn’t go into the water. Since the weather was unseasonably hot—over 100 degrees—I roasted for the rest of the week. I couldn’t shower either. At the time, I wore my hair very short. It stuck straight up because it was dirty, and I couldn’t wash it. I immediately acquired the nickname “Blue Jay.”

Since I had been bitten while out-of-doors, we took the tent while her folks slept on the ground outside. I can’t believe how good-natured they were about the turn of events, but I felt like an albatross and a burden for the rest of the trip.

There were good moments. I remember how great food tasted when cooked outside. I got to see the “firefall,” and it was spectacular. And, of course, the surroundings were lovely. But I was hot and miserable.
The first summer after we were married, Larry decided I need a good camping experience to change my mind. So, we went to Sequoia, where Larry had spent time during his childhood. Larry always slept out-of-doors, so we only took our sleeping bags and pillows. We borrowed my in-laws’ metal cooler for our food and filled it with ice.

We drove up in our 1958 Thunderbird. When we stopped on the way, I asked Larry to get my sweater because I was chilly. I had given it to him to carry to the car while we were packing. He looked stricken. The sweater was nowhere to be found. He had set it on top of the car and hadn’t put it inside. Since it was dark when we left, I never noticed it, either. Of course, this sweater matched two pair of pants and two skirts and was a unique color…

When we arrived, we opened the trunk to discover the cooler had sat directly on the tailpipe, the ice melted, and all of our food was ruined. But we decided to spend the night as we’d planned. We lay our sleeping bags on the ground.

Folks in a neighboring site stopped by. “You’re not going to sleep outside, are you? We’ve had bears in the area the last couple of nights.”

Larry was confident, however, so we lay down. A few minutes later, we heard a trash can crash up the hill. Several minutes after that, another one went over—closer than the first. At this point, we decided to sleep in our car. However, although the ’58 T-bird was supposed to have a back seat, it didn’t really qualify. I tried to curl into a small ball, and Larry lay across the driver’s seat, over the center console, and onto the back seat. Needless to say, we got no rest.

Exhausted, we packed the car to drive back home, but as we left, we heard screeching of metal-on-metal. We limped into the only service station near the park. They did not take credit cards. Fortunately, we had some cash with us.

The mechanic listened to the noise and determined the front breaks were the issue. He replaced them, and we paid him. As we drove out, we heard the screeching again. Turns out, the back breaks were the problem. He replaced those, too, and we gave him the rest of our cash. Fortunately, we could use our credit cards for gas on the way home.

I still hadn’t learned my lesson.
When Kim was little, Larry (and she) decided she needed to go camping. I wasn’t enthused, but we had a truck with a camper shell, and Larry convinced me this time would be better.

We reserved a campsite several months ahead. When we arrived, we discovered it was just wide enough for the truck because the other half of the site was filled with a large tree—complete with a huge hornet’s nest. We had to eat our meals inside the cab of the truck to avoid the hornets.

Right across the way, however, was a large, corner site. Larry went to the ranger’s station to see if we could trade.

“That space is reserved for bear research.”

Bear research?

Sure enough, the next day a group from UC Davis arrived with a huge bear trap and set it. Larry wondered what would happen if a bear sprang the trap and missed. He’d have come directly for our site!

Nevertheless, we stayed. One day, we decided to drive down to Chrystal Cave. Part way down, the familiar sound of metal-on-metal began. Yep. The brakes went out. Larry had to use the hand brake to slow the truck.

We drove back out and to a service station where, once again, our brakes were replaced. This time, however, they took our credit card. But, of course, our vacation funds were depleted.

I’ve learned my lesson. I’m a jinx when it comes to camping. When I was a Girl Scout leader, we either “camped” in the back yard of the scout house or did a “camp-in,” where we slept inside. I had a camping chair who took the kids camping, and a couple of times, the dads took them. I never went.

Nope. Not camping. Never. No way.

Do you like to camp? If so, please tell me why, because I just don’t get it!


  1. Hi Lorna, Geoff and I also DON'T CAMP because of the great variety of 'creatures' lurking in the Australian outdoors. Loved your story and it just proves how delightful a 4* hotel really is. Cheers

  2. My major requirements are a hot shower, a real bed, and walls.

  3. I’ve had a couple of nice experiences camping when I was younger. At this stage of my life I prefer a hotel/motel or a cabin/ lodge. Camping is more of a workout than a vacation. I am quite accustomed to hot showers and flush toilets —bathrooms in the forrest do NOT appeal to me!

  4. Haha, I loved reading this - but I'm afraid to say, I LOVE camping! One of my favourite things to do in summer is head off on a new adventure, but to be fair, we don't have to worry about bears and scorpions in Scotland. Having said that, some would argue that the dreaded midges are a whole lot worse! When the weather's good, I love nothing more than leaving the office on a Friday afternoon, stopping off at home to pick up the dog and a tent and driving - music blaring - to wherever I end up. Freedom, fresh air and new friendships - that's what I love about camping ��