Being at camp? Technically, I have never been a camper at a real camp. My older sister went to church camp, I remember…and even liked it, I believe. (Actually, she got the chance to do most things first, and if she didn’t like the experience or maybe because of my parents not being able to afford the expense, my younger sister and I didn’t get the same opportunities, but I digress.) My sons both went to camp. First, they and a friend attended Science Days Camp, where, among other science experiments, they dissected a cow’s eyeball and an owl pellet. When they were older, they went to church camp for several summers. They enjoyed the first summer’s adventures enough to repeat the process the following years. In fact, my younger son met his future wife at church camp, but I digress.
I have camped out a few times. My husband and I even have a tent and have spent a few nights in a campground on trips. I even stayed a week at a cabin at a state park a few times with all the resident hiking and canoeing and fresh air I could handle (and oh yeah, a bat flying through the cabin all night long and spiders and cockroaches…in retrospect, maybe I’m not cut out for the camper lifestyle after all).
However, having said that, the closest I have ever come to the real camp experience was with three of my friends from college. Jeanne, Robin, Becky, and I all decided to go to Mohican State Park the weekend after our spring quarter’s final exams. I don’t whose idea it was; it just seemed like the perfect thing to end the school year before starting summer jobs. It was mid-May, relatively warm, and a great way to celebrate the year’s end knowing we probably wouldn’t see each other until the following fall. Becky brought the tent and camping gear, and the rest of us contributed food and brought sleeping bags. Once there, we set up our camp, put up the tent, gathered firewood, and started a good bonfire for dinner.
Of course, the first night’s dinner was hot dogs, chips, and pop. We followed up with toasted marshmallows and s’mores. Despite the ever ubiquitous praise for the delights of s’mores, I have never been impressed because the chocolate never melts enough while the marshmallow is still warm and gooey. Just give me the essential ingredients of chocolate, graham crackers, and toasted marshmallows to eat, but please not all squished together.
After dinner, a short hike was followed by more toasting of marshmallows before we turned in for the night. Jeanne and Becky had traditional sleeping bags that were designed for camp-outs, but Robin and I had sleeping bags that were designed for slumber parties. Robin’s had large red and white flowers on a navy background; mine was covered with pink-clad ballerinas on a light blue background. As the night wore on, I discovered the difference between my sleeping bag and those of Becky and Jeanne. Despite wearing my spring jacket and clothes inside my sleeping bag, I shivered as I froze the whole night long. As I watched the sun start to rise on the tent’s walls, I finally got a couple hours of sleep.
Once all of us were up and going, we had a delightful day of hiking, laughing, joking, preparing meals over a fire, and just enjoying the scenery. It took me until noon and the sun’s rays before I was really comfortable and warm. We managed to make meals of beans and hot dogs, hamburgers and chips, and kept the fire well tended. As day turned to night, and it was once again time to climb into the tent for bedtime, I asked if I could sleep in Becky’s Suburban for the night. I said I couldn’t take the cold, that I felt like I had been freezing all night long. Neither Jeanne nor Becky said they had been cold so I knew it was just me. I grabbed my sleeping bag and climbed into her car. A few minutes later, Robin knocked on the door volunteering to sleep in the truck, too. Just to keep me company, she claimed. However, once inside the vehicle, she admitted that she had been cold all night, too, and had been dreading bedtime as well. We had a grand time inside the truck staying, if not toasty, warmer than the previous night. In the morning, after a good night’s sleep, we awoke to find that what had been our side of the tent had collapsed and fallen down. We rationalized that it was a good thing we weren’t there.
After another breakfast of cereal and milk, packing up the tent and the gear, the four of us parted company for the summer, taking off for DeGraff, Kenton, Wadsworth, and Marion respectively. It was a grand never-to-be-forgotten experience with special friends, but one I have never repeated. For me, at least during May in Ohio, give me a motel room with comfortable beds, TV, and a movie like The Parent Trap (the original with Hayley Mills, of course) for my camp experience.