The first/last time I went camping, I was probably about 7 years old. My Uncle Jim & my dad took my younger cousin Emily & me to God-knows-where campground in bufu Ohio for a quick weekend in the woods. We probably stayed near a covered bridge, because my dad & my uncle used to explore them together. Neither of them is/was particularly outdoorsy, though (sorry, Uncle Jim), so I can't imagine we were very hardcore about any of it. I remember that a raccoon stole our food in the middle of the night & that we might've gone home early because of it.
As you can imagine, when my boyfriend Mike asked me if I wanted to go camping this month with him & his friends, I was both skeptical & enthusiastic.Mostly, I was very gung-ho about making my triumphant (ha) return to the activity of communing with nature.
Uh, did I mention that I am basically the opposite of outdoorsy?
I am so indoorsy, in fact, that Mike made fun of me when he arrived at my mom's house to pick me up. I had chosen to forgo my anxiety medicine in favor of being able to booze with the gang that night, so I was, shall we say, on high alert. I was all packed, with no idea whether I'd actually brought any of the right things, & no one was sure whether my parents' old tent, purchased circa 1992, still had all the right accoutrements to make it a passable outdoor dwelling. I had brought, like, four small bottles of Purell & was planning to subsist on PB&J sandwiches & small bags of goldfish crackers all weekend.
In other words, I was ready.
The campground where we were headed, Mohican Reservations in Loudonville, OH, is less than two hours away from my hometown, but the differences between them blew my mind. How is it possible that there's so much old-timey farmland just around the corner from my suburban oasis? On our drive south, we passed half a dozen Mennonite churches, three Amish buggies, two men standing in a field pushing a cow, & a man in overalls asleep on a riding mower in the middle of a field. Though we'd agreed to turn off our cell phones once we got in the car, I couldn't stick to it because everything was passed along the way was hilarious enough to deserve its own tweet. I felt like I'd time-traveled to the early 1900s.
When we arrived at the campground, I was surprised to find that it was nothing like I'd expected. I knew we'd be, like, on the ground in the woods, but I'd imagined it it to be much more "Fend for yourself" than "You can buy toilet paper & marshmallows at the general store at the center of camp." As it turns out, Mohican is basically a huge, open plot of land along a river (the Mohican River, incidentally), & there are literally hundreds of people camping there at any given time during the summer. This wasn't, like, stranded-in-the-woods camping. I was both relieved & disappointed.
We were camping with a group of about 30 (!!!), so we were relegated to a portion of the campground that was somewhat segregated from the rest of the guests. We could hear them, & certainly we could see them as we trekked the quarter of a mile to the outhouses in times of bodily need, but for the most part, we didn't have to interact with anyone else, which lent a more secluded vibe to the weekend.
And it went so well.
Our tent wasn't missing any pieces, even though we assembled it drunk. I slept on a sleeping bag set atop a yoga mat & somehow got a good night's sleep. I sweated so much that I had five bottles of water on Saturday morning & never had to pee. We tubed down the river, full of beer & covered in mud, & I somehow wasn't afraid of aquatic life. We cooked copious hotdogs over the grill & a very kind veteran camper let me make breakfast bacon on her grill (OK, she mostly did it for me). I did not eat a single PB&J sandwich, but I did consume a lot of PBR & exactly as many Goldfish crackers as predicted.
I don't know what I was expecting, but I didn't need that Xanax, after all. I sneezed more than usual, but not as much as expected (thanks, Zyrtec). I wore zero makeup but lots of extra-strength deodorant, & my organic bug spray miraculously shielded me from every single mosquito that might've bitten done me harm. I rinsed off in the campground's communal showers after floating down the river, & I felt like it got me cleaner than I'd ever been in my life. My back hurt from sleeping on the ground, but at the end of the weekend, my heart was so full that it didn't really matter.
Camping had me out of my element, to be sure, but it was also one of the most relaxing, enjoyable experiences I've had in a long time (not mention one of the sweatiest). I'm already hoping to do it again - but maybe I'll wait until autumn?