I do not come from campers, and I am not what you’d call “outdoorsy.” I’m no kind of prissy, mind; I’ve slept in train stations and airports. I’ve stayed at hostels and hotels so skeevy that I have legitimately worried about which picture would be sent to Unsolved Mysteries. But I am an urbanite, and I am accustomed to the basics–coffeemakers and outlets. But I don’t mind bugs, and given that the total amount of time I would spent at GIRLCAMP was about 24 hours, I jumped at the chance to give camping a try.
Having zero idea of what I needed or how to manage without electricity, I asked my mega-camping in-laws to load me up. They were more than happy to oblige. They taught me to pitch the tent and set up the cot. I got a long talk about what to do if it rains. I was given a dead blow hammer and a propane torch and warned that Wisconsin raccoons can work a zipper. I left for GIRLCAMP with a very, very full car.
I had my first lesson in camping the minute I parked: bug spray first. My bug spray was only 25 percent DEET. This was a mistake. It should have been 2000 percent DEET. Really, we should have just been required to donate a pint of blood at the entrance to the campsite.
I had my second lesson in camping not five minutes later: “toilet” is a broad term. I immediately stopped drinking water and resolved not to pee for the next 23.75 hours.
My next challenge was to set up my tent by myself. So, I have no idea how big a tent is supposed to be. When I set it up in my in-laws yard, it looked like a tent. It had the footprint of approximately a king-sized bed. I could stand up comfortably. I was told that it slept two. All of this seemed reasonable. When I laid out my tarp at the camp site, however, my “two-person tent” took up a solid third of the space, and it towered over the other pup tents in the site. I had brought with me the Tent Mahal. It was easy to stand up inside the tent and set up my cot, and I found that I had still had room for a couch, TV, and master bath.
I was unreasonably excited about the tubing adventure, and the eventful, four hour ride down a river has been covered elsewhere. By the time we finished tubing, however, we were hangry. Brooke suggested Culver’s, which, maybe, is not technically camping, but it was totally fine with me. Culver’s has fried cheese curds. Cheese curds are a Wisconsin thing. We were in Wisconsin. It counts.
On the other hand, making s’mores over a campfire is totally camping. I happen to love burnt marshmallow, and I learned that a viable alternative to searching the dark woods for a giant stick is to light the marshmallow on fire with the Bic lighter you brought on your camping trip. I still had s’mores in the woods, and they go great with cheap Target wine out of a metal mug. It totally counts.
My Moment came when we were putting the wine and chocolate away in the car. I looked at the completely unlit pathway to the campsite and realized that we were going to have to walk back down there and then go to sleep in what I’m sure are the same woods where Jason Voorhees lives. I weighed my options, remembered that the one motel we had passed had a “NO VACANCY” sign, and decided that if my life were at stake, I could outrun a non-verbal, indestructible, machete-wielding mass murderer for about a block until I could flag down a motorcycle. Unlike my co-campers, I was pretty happy about being along county highway 69. I still slipped my dead-blow hammer under my pillow before Officially Camping.
So what have I learned from 24 hours of camping? What great self-discoveries did I make while I was out communing with nature?
• I would camp again. I really have stayed in motels and hostels that were dirtier, seedier, and less comfortable than the Tent Mahal.
• It’s a lot of work. It was pointed out to me upon my return that this is what people like about camping. Oh.
• Bathrooms and showers are separate amenities. Do not assume that because you have one, you will have the other.
• Raccoons are bold as hell, but seriously cute.
• Twenty hours is, if you ask me, about the perfect amount of time to camp.
• Air conditioning is mankind’s best invention ever ever ever ever ever in the whole wide world EVER TIMES INFINITY PLUS ONE.