’Tis the much anticipated long weekend in the season of mosquitoes, surprise thunder storms, restless children and even more restless adults. In other words, it’s camping season!
People everywhere spend their weekdays wringing their hands, chomping at the bit — the call of the wild ringing in their ears like a bad case of tinnitus.
Impatiently waiting for the almighty capital “W” Weekend, when countless hordes of campers exodus the towns and cities in one massive moving wave of overloaded vehicles.
We seek the solitude of the lake, the bush, the forest, the mountains, the backcountry, the frontcountry, any country.
Looking for a few short rejuvenating days in the great outdoors. Recharging the old inner batteries; enjoying a little R&R or a lot of P&Q. Getting away for a while, even if it is in a leaky tent or an old trailer with an odd smell that you can’t seem to get rid of.
Ahhh, to sit, stroll, eat and enjoy many hearty camping beverages around a quiet soul-stirring campfire in the middle of Mother Nature’s pristine privacy far away from the hustle and bustle of Hustleville and Bustle City. The tweeting of birds and the bubbling of brooks. . . .
In our dreams. What we usually find in fact is a jam-packed campground loudly hustling and bustling with tents, trailers, fifth wheelers, motorhomes and motorcycles, quads and dirt bikes, several thousand of the loudest children on Earth, several hundred adults who are even louder and behave worse than any children, and an endless menagerie of household pets, most of whom are tied to trees at the campsites and are there for the sole purpose of barking as loud and long as possible.
Camping is a pastime of extremes. At any given camping spot, you may see a single rider on a skinny 10-speed bicycle, with only a tiny backpack, a blanket and a granola bar. And right beside him, a hotel on wheels.
A 45-foot RV with a custom paint job, four or five sliding rooms, a portable garage for the SUV that is being towed behind, satellite TV with a built-in big screen home entertainment complex, gourmet kitchen, master bedroom and several bathrooms with tubs, showers and a sauna.
No wonder these people want to go camping.
The only drawback is the large tanker trailer that they have to tow behind the SUV so that they can fill up the behemoth motorhome with gas every few kilometres.
But as they say, camping is camping. OK, no one has ever said that, but it does mean that it’s time for another instalment of: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly:
Good: how do you know when you’re having a good camping trip?
• The mosquitoes only attack at night.
• The fish are biting.
• The food is hot, the beverages are cold, and the weather is sunny, warm and dry.
• There are some nice hiking trails with places to sit and rest every few metres.
• Your tent or trailer doesn’t leak this time.
Bad: how do you know when you’re having a bad camping trip?
• The mosquitoes have developed into mutants that just can’t get enough Deet.
• The fish are not only not biting, they are swimming by, sticking their little fish tongues out at you.
• All you have is a large bag of ketchup-flavoured potato chips, a packet of grape Kool-Aid with no water and it’s windy, cold and raining.
• You have to dive into the bush every few minutes when a quad roars by on the hiking trail.
• Your tent or trailer only leaks when it’s raining.
Ugly: how do you know when you’re having an ugly camping trip?
• The mosquitoes are so large, they carry away several of the smaller pets.
• The fish are getting together in gangs and tipping your boat over.
• All your food has a green fuzz on it, you’ve run out of beer and the weather’s so bad that it’s Sunday and you still haven’t made it from your truck to your trailer.
• The entire forest is now a designated quadding area and every other camper has at least two quads and none of them have mufflers.
• When you get back from a short stroll dodging quads, your tent or trailer isn’t where you left it.
So another long weekend is quickly disappearing into the past tense and now that you’ve finally unpacked everything at the campsite, it’s time to begin packing up again.
You get to spend the rest of the weekend trying to find a place for the food and the lawn chairs and the bikes and the quads and the pets and the toys, etc., etc., so that you can carry it all back home again.
In fact, sometimes this weekend camping experience gets so complicated that it’s only until you are halfway home that you realize that you have forgotten at least one of your children back at the campsite.
The good news? Even if your camping weekend turned out to be way more ugly than good, there’s always next weekend.
Or, if you really want peace and quiet, there’s always staying home. On account of the city is pretty well empty. Everybody is away. Camping.
Harley Hay is a local filmmaker and freelance writer. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate.