Folding the Tent on the Idea of Camping

By Jason Menard

I can’t tell if I’m just getting old, getting fussier, or just getting smarter, but when it comes to getting out and experiencing the great outdoors, I’ll be avoiding the local campgrounds, thank you very much!

I hope I can be forgiven for expressing such a blasphemous sentiment in this Great White Northern land of ours. For many Canadians getting back to the woods is supposed to be a panacea for our urban sins — way of renewing ourselves and getting back to our roots.

Well, I’m sorry but I have no interest in channeling my inner coureur de bois! I have no interest in getting away from it all – in fact, I’m quite happy being plugged in, wired, and connected to the modern conveniences. And it’s not that I’m incapable of camping. I can do it, have done it, and will probably end up doing it again because we have friends that think it’s fun – but it’s certainly not my idea of a good time.

In fact, I can find a million things better to do than to sit and eat in the dirt, swatting away the mosquitoes, flies, and other winged companions that share the Great Outdoors with us. No matter how good roasted marshmallows may taste, they’re not worth everything else that comes with camping.

If fact, when you get right down to it, camping is downright anti-Darwinistic! Our society has progressed to the point where we don’t need to sleep on the floor anymore! That’s why we created motels, guest bedrooms, and day-trips – all to avoid the inconvenience of sleeping on a hard, dirt-covered, floor.

I suppose my problem isn’t with the hard core campers – the ones for whom the word portage means more than carrying the cooler from the minivan to the 10-person luxury tent. There’s a certain appreciation for heading north, far away from the modern world, and testing yourself against the rigours of nature in its pure form. Just you, your backpack, and the open wilderness.

What I don’t like is that pseudo-camping in which most of us engage. The one where we find a not-so-quiet place, just outside of the city, where campers are piled up one on top of the other in a circular formation around the public washroom. This type of pre-fab camping – finger-quotes may be required – is our city-dweller way of getting back to it all, without being too inconvenienced.

It is painfully obvious that modern technology and modern conveniences has completely stripped away any of the remaining façade that camping is actually an outdoorsy event. When visiting family friends who were at a campground, I wandered over to the communal washroom (complete with dish-washing station!) Along the well-carved path, I was able to check out the campground’s other residents.

Whether they were in their modern trailers, playing their hand-held games, talking on their cell phones, or pulling out frosty beverages from their electric coolers, the concept of camping seemed to be getting lost in the translation. In fact, one couple were sitting at their park-supplied picnic table enjoying a dinner of fine cheeses washed down with a bottle of red wine – a far cry from beans in a can cooked over an open fire, washed down with questionable water! If there’s no fear of dysentery, then it’s not really camping now, is it?

This type of not-too-roughing it only cheapens the actual experience for me. We’ve sanitized camping to the point where it’s nothing more than a suburban getaway. Fortunately, camping was not something my wife and I did often, as neither of us really enjoyed it. And in our youth, camping was often used more for providing a more exotic place to drink and party with friends than it was to commune with nature.

But when you strip away the numbing effects of beer, what exactly are you left with? Dirt, discomfort, and the burning desire to get back home to a hot shower, a cold beverage, and all the comforts of home. If I want to commune with nature, I can take a walk through the woods, sit alongside a lake, or just lie in the grass staring at the trees and the sky – I don’t need to head off to an overcrowded campground for that.

So next time I decide to go for that authentic modern camping experience, I’ll simply fire up the grill in the backyard, throw myself on the ground and roll around in the dirt, and sleep on the floor – it’ll be just like being there!

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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