Sunday, September 11, 2016

I. Went. Camping.

A couple of weeks ago I got to thinking about how much I hate camping and how I don't trust anyone who claims to like it because it's not possible to like it and if my Mormon pioneer ancestors knew they were crossing the plains so we could all be homeless a few times every summer and poop into holes in the ground they probably would have just stayed in Ireland where they wouldn't get skin cancer or have to learn how to make doilies.

But then I saw an REI commercial and I was like, "I would look cute in those clothes." And I wasn't wrong.

So I planned a backpacking trip with Anna and Emily, which we embarked on this weekend. We decided to go legit camping. None of that "drive up to a campsite and sit around a picnic table" crap. Actual lost in the wilderness with nothing but true grit to rely on for survival.

We drove up to nearly 11,000 feet in the High Uintas in Utah, abandoned my car, and then hiked several miles off into the wilderness until we identified the most secluded spot we could find. And then we built our civilization. With our bare man hands.

You guys. We created a fire pit. I used a hatchet and gathered wood. We purified drinking water from a river that ran next to our camping spot. We cooked our own meals. We sang campfire songs. We looked at the Milky Way. We listened to the absolute silence, literally thousands and thousands of miles away from civilization.

A bear took this picture.

And I was like, "OMG, Eli. Maybe you like camping. You look super good in these clothes. Your hair looks AH-MAZ-ING. And it's kind of peaceful and pretty out here."

And I'm not kidding about it being pretty and peaceful out there. Look:

Then we climbed into our sleeping bags in the three-person tent.

And that's when I rediscovered that the person who invented camping did the worst thing that anyone has ever done to another human being in the history of the world and I'm even including the guy who started the mullet trend.

What happened over the next eight hours in that tent should be documented on a memorial twice the size of the Washington Monument. People should have to clap for me when I get on planes from now on for surviving that night. They should name schools after me. TWELVE schools. AT LEAST.

By midnight the temperature had dropped to the 20s. And let me tell you right now, there is no sleeping bag in the world, no matter how much the creepy man at REI tries to tell you otherwise, that makes sleeping in 20-degree weather even remotely bearable.

I shivered so hard that Anna got whiplash and it caused earthquakes in Djibouti.

But even if it was warm this would have done nothing for the insane torture that comes with sleeping on the ground. I remember being a child and having sleepovers and sleeping on the floor and having no problem doing this.

Someone please explain to me when my bones became incapable of handling the basic impacts of gravity.

Also Anna swears she heard a bear outside the tent trying to get our food bag, which we had tied up in a tree. But this didn't faze any of us because even if the bear had attacked, this would not have been the worst part of our camping experience. Because hashtag sleeping on the ground.

When the morning came I heard myself break the depressing silence and say to the ladies, "well, that's what we in the business call 'a terrible night.'"

They agreed, and immediately suggesting going home early rather than spending a second night in that staked down flappy piece of hell, as we had originally planned. I told them we had to stick it out. We had come all that way. I simply couldn't live with myself if we turned around early.

Bob and Cathie did not claw their way into this country so I could quit when things got hard.

So we spent the entire day trying to do anything we could to get warm. We hiked. We saw things. We cared a little less about these things than we did the day before.

Eventually we began cooking dinner and preparing to go to battle with winter for our second night in a row.

The sun was starting to set. We finished gnawing on whatever "food" we had just prepared. It was silent.

I started thinking about why I was doing this. And I was like, "Eli, you already got your camping merit badge when you were 12. Also, you aren't a Boy Scout anymore. THANK GOD. So why are you doing this?"

And I remembered that although my body is no longer capable of sleeping on the ground without subsequent physical therapy thanks to not being 12 anymore, the best thing about being in your 30s is that you don't have to do this kind of crap. It completely makes no difference in my life if I refuse to go camping. Nobody can hold anything over my head that matters to me in any way.

And then these words came out of my mouth: "So camping is terrible LET'S GO HOME."

Anna and Emily broke the sound barrier taking the tent down. Also, they suspiciously already had their bags packed. And we quite nearly sprinted to the car, which was several miles away from us.

It was dark by the time we drove away from that horrible place. We were free. We were happy.

Until we crashed into a baby deer. I slammed on my brakes when I saw it and then implicitly shut my eyes and screamed every obscenity I never want Cathie to know I've heard when I realized there was no way I could avoid it. Then I spent the rest of the evening feeling like a monster about it and searching for animal abuse charities to donate money to.

And THAT is why camping should be illegal.

And now, please enjoy this week's Strangerville Short wherein I share my 2004 Ukrainian appendectomy story.

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. Oh, that is so sad! Is your car okay though? I don't know about baby deer, but adult deer can really damage a vehicle. How sad to kill a baby. :(

    On a more cheerful note, I laughed out loud when I read your caption of "a beer took this picture."

    We live in Mexico, near the Texas border, and my kids are desperate to go camping. My husband said no way. He apparently does not approve of camping in locations with rattle snacks, scorpions, and tarantulas. I guess a little fabric doesn't make him feel safe. So, we'll wait to camp until next summer when we're in the Midwest. The glorious green, humid Midwest.

    And camping is worth it just because my kids love it so much.

    You do look very good in those clothes.

    And sleeping on the ground is surprisingly difficult these days.

    This is already an unnecessarily long comment (and overshare), so I'll continue! Speaking of cold campouts, we lived in Virginia a few years ago and were enjoying a nice warm summer. Then I took the kids to visit my parents in Michigan, near Detroit. Then we went camping up in northern Michigan, near the peninsula. I had packed clothes that were appropriate in a Virginia summer. They were NO WHERE near appropriate for a northern Michigan outdoor camping experience. Daytime was fine, but at night time, I had to have my kids wear three outfits, and my poor baby was wearing multiple outfits and my jacket, and I had nothing left and was very cold, but my baby didn't freeze, so I'll call it a win. (I bought myself a long sleeve shirt when we went to Mackinac Island, so that helped a little for the end of the trip.) (Have you ever been to Mackinac Island? Cars are illegal. And I think there may be more fudge than people on that island . . .)

    Bravo, slow clap, for going camping. And being hilarious.

    I think I'm going to finally end this comment. The end.

    1. Wow. I wrote "beer" instead of "bear" and rattle snacks. That second one actually is kind of funny. It should be a thing.

    2. Yeah, I'm pretty sure you're the rattle snack in that scenario.

    3. Having ridden a bike around the entirety of Mackinac Island I can confirm that there is more fudge than there are people, the entire world should model their population after Mackinac Island.

    4. A) People from the south should not attempt camping in the north - your blood is too thin. My friend from Florida wore turtlenecks in 75 degree weather in Michigan

      B) You noted you camped near the peninsula. Michigan is made up of two peninsulas . . . the upper and the lower. I presume you mean near the lake (as in one of the Great Lakes).

      C) I love your typos!

      D) Bravo for going to Mackinac Island - I know way too many Michiganders that have never been - I'm going to start shaming them by telling them you went.

      E) Bravo also for the long comment and overshare . . . I attempted to pay comment in my reply to it!

    5. And now that my reply is posted I see my own typos!

      that last line should say "I attempted to pay homage in my reply to it!"

  2. We had a similar realization while camping with our kids last summer. After a long two days and one night of "sleeping" (no sleep was had) we were miserably getting kids ready for another night in the tent when it dawned on both my husband and me: we are freakin ADULTS! We can just drive ourselves home if we want to! And we did. Best decision of that entire trip. Bravo to you and the ladies.

  3. I loved all of this!!! LOL!!!

    Except the part about the baby deer. I am so sorry.

  4. And HELLO why didn't REI sell you one of those self-inflatable sleeping mats. Lifesavers! Maybe around $100.... About 10 years ago when I bought some. You can't feel the rocks. Promise.

  5. Seriously, they do have things to keep you up off the froind! And warmer! But kudos to you good sir all the same. For going, and coming home. And kumbaya to the baby deer.

    1. Your typo might be better than mine.

    2. My typo for the win!! In my defense I was typing with one eye shut bc it wouldn't open bc I was still too sleepy. Haha. Yes I read stranger sometimes to try and wake up before seminary. It's like coffee for me I think.

    3. Exactly. That's why I am just speculating here. It might be more like those Oreo cookies people keep telling me are more addictive than heroin. Not that I know what HEROIN is! Or OREOS!!

    4. Heroin, Oreos, and coffee aside—Ames, let's definitely go camping together this summer. Maybe we can manage to not lose any of our children next time!

  6. For someone who says he doesn't like camping you sure do a lot of it. I don't like camping and haven't gone camping in 4 years. It's not too difficult. But I did develop the gene that allows me to say no. Where you apparently did not.

    1. If you offer a class on the art of saying no and ask me to pay you $12,000 to take it, I'll say yes. Because I won't have graduated from the class yet.

  7. My favorite camping rebuttal is from Jim Gaffigan: "My wife says, 'Camping is a tradition in my family.' It was a tradition in everyone's family until they invented the house." And by the way, it's "fazed" not "phased." And your hair looks amazing.

  8. I swore off camping in a tent last time we went... and I had an air mattress and a box fan in the tent. Nope. Over it. I had terrible allergies and headaches. I'm sure my Native American ancestors would be really embarrassed. Listen, I live in Texas. It's hot in the winter, no.
    The only way I'll go again is if we have a CAMPer.

    1. Camping ONCE led to the purchase of a CAMPer for us-- best decision ever. Do it. You'll love it.

    2. Our pop-up camper has air conditioning and heated beds . . . .best thing ever.

  9. Tent camping is for people who hate their own bodies and want to feel like a hundred year old; hammock camping is the way to go!

  10. We tent camped once... We even had power and a/c, and it's STILL not my thing. After that trip, we got a camper-- Best purchase ever.
    Now my "camping gear" involves t.v.'s, dvd players, and classic movies. I have a bathroom and shower, refrigerator, and an indoor dining area. Ahhhhhhh. Camping. Yeah. I like camping. ;)

  11. Camping is amazing! My favorite campground is right by Disneyland, actually. It's called the Grand Californian.

  12. So basically, your inability to endure one more night killed a baby deer. Your lack of self discipline and inability to follow through killed a baby deer. Excuse me while I notify PETA...

    And also, I feel strongly that after you drove away the Q of C came along and ate that baby deer. And now the baby deer ghost is going to haunt you. It needs a name.