Travel Diaries: Tales from a Campfire

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I was in 6th grade when I had my first pseudo-camping experience. My girl guide troop was helping host the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts World Conference. We pitched a massive tent in a playground so we could attend all the festivities without having to commute from our homes. We weren’t out in the wild, contending with the forces of nature, so I knew that wasn’t real camping.

For years, I had no desire to go camping because I didn’t want to encounter the real wild face-to-face. Creepy-crawlies in the bedding, a bare minimum of facilities, if any, and the smell of smoke in my hair have never sounded appealing. Still, I put camping on my bucket list because I like to try most things at least once.

When I joined my hardcore camper friends at their forest campsite a week ago, they had already been camping for two nights, one of those a rainy one. I was glad it wasn’t a hot, humid afternoon, but I sorely wished for greater warmth after sunset. I sat close to the campfire after dinner, but still felt the chill at different points in the night, even though I wore three layers when I finally crawled into my sleeping bag.

Hanging out with the campers was a lot of fun, though. I laughingly told them that, based on my experience, I have concluded that camping is about eating. Over the roughly 24 hours I was there, they plied me with food at almost every waking moment. When we weren’t eating and gabbing away, we had opportunities to play games, fish, swim and engage in other forms of outdoor fun.

Children toasted marshmallows on campfires after dinner, while adults sat in a circle, sipping hot chai and swapping stories. Once most children were abed, I shared some of my poetry. As always, it was fun and it generated some wonderful discussions, which lasted late into the night. Ad hoc DJs played music and some people danced much of the night away.

I couldn’t bring myself to shower at the public facilities on the campsite (I’m a bit of a germaphobe), so I was glad that I was camping for only one night. Thankfully, no creatures appeared in our tent or bedding–that has always been one of my greatest concerns about camping. All in all, it was a memorable first camping experience. Next time I may camp on a beach. Maybe two nights.

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