Every year, around this time, someone brings up the idea of camping out. "It’s a good, inexpensive, entertaining way to get away from everything."
I’ll usually agree and let it drop at that. After all, if I told them what I really thought, they’d probably never speak to me again.
You see, I’ve tried camping many times over the years and as far as I’m concerned, I can sum camping up in two words: IT SUCKS!
My camping career started way back when I was in grade school. I read a Hardy Boys book on camping out and decided I’d like a little of that action for myself.
I worked on my mom until she finally agreed to let me pitch a tent in our back yard. Actually, it wasn’t a tent. It was two blankets strung up on our clothesline and held by clothespins with the bottoms of the blankets kept in place by bricks.
It was a good plan. Except I picked a bad night. A couple of big bolts of lightning lit up the sky and by the time I got into the house, we must have received an inch of rain.
A few years later, I became a Boy Scout. One of the appeals of Scouting was a week in a tent at Camp Mitigwa each summer.
I soon found myself in a genuine factory-made tent on a real cement slab at good old Camp Mitigwa.
It rained so much that week that they closed the swimming pool because it flooded. One night the water flowed through our camping area, washing away about half the tents.
I had my clothes in a new cardboard suitcase under my cot. The suitcase, along with all my clothes, eventually floated down into the river.
The next summer we skipped Mitigwa and did an overnight camp on Big Creek (back when it was just a creek.)
That night it rained too. Problem was, when I tried to get out of my tent, I slipped on a tent rope and ended up in the creek.
That pretty much ended my camping experiences until Uncle Sam came along.
This time, instead of Camp Mitigwa, it was Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and I was a member of the U.S. Army, knee-deep in basic training.
In early December they had this little treat in store for us called bivouac (camping out army-style.)
Rumors around the barracks had it that if the temperature dropped below freezing, we wouldn’t have to go. As we packed our gear on a chilly Sunday evening, hopes ran high that it would be called off.
Monday morning, as we marched and marched and marched toward the bivouac area, the word was that we would be heading back to our barracks after dinner.
That night, as we beat our tent stakes into the frozen ground, someone said that as soon as we got our tents set up, we’d be riding back to civilization in trucks.
The rumors continued the rest of the week as we awoke to snowstorm after ice storm. We would arise each morning to discover the entire inside of our tent filled with frost. It seemed a great way to spend the first week of December.
The real fun took place one night as I headed out for my turn at guard duty. Little did I know that the cooks had dumped all their waste water in a deep hole. (I suspect someone had dug it a few months earlier for a foxhole.)
As I came marching along, I suddenly stepped on the hole, covered with a coating of ice, and went tumbling in like a rock. I didn’t thaw out the rest of bivouac.
For the next five summers, I would go for a two-week encampment at such picturesque places as Camp McCoy, Wis., (home of sparrow-sized mosquitoes) and Camp Guernsey, Wyo. (home of the sharpest cacti I have ever slept on.)
Yes, camping is an experience. One that everyone should enjoy. All I ask is that you enjoy it without me.
(Ed Rood is former publisher of Tri-County Times. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Cambridge.)