Friday, June 24, 2011

Camping.


There are many-a thing which I've learned Oregonians love more so than other folks in the nation, or at least in greater numbers. Local and organic food--okay, local and organic ANYTHING; bike lanes; beer; owning lots of dogs (and cats); independent coffee shops; urban chickens; ironic t-shirts, etc. You know, the cliche things which were highlighted by Portlandia: THEY ARE ALL TRUE. Well, in the metro area at least. Once you leave city limits, it may be a different story. BUT, another thing that I've learned ALL Oregonians love and have all been doing since they were in diapers is camping. While I slept in platform tents in girl scount camp for many a year as a youth, neither Kathy's nor my family were really the camping types growing up. Upon moving here, we discovered the joy of yurts, as I discussed in here a long time ago, but we always knew we were faking it. Real Oregonians look at yurts with their eyebrows raised very high and very dubiously. Really? You need a door that locks and HEAT? Wussies.

Last week we were invited with some friends to go Real Camping. Like in a tent. (We obviously don't own a tent, but a friend let us borrow one.) We were only going for a night, but still felt a little anxious about looking like Foolish City Folk in the company of four native Oregonians (plus one native Washingtonian, which is basically the same thing).

We also didn't have any plans or reservations before we went. We were just going to, you know, drive up the mountain and find a place. This is also an Oregonian thing. "What, you need PLANS? Whatever man. It'll all work out!" This makes the Neurotic Overplanner in me freak out a little. But, we drove up the mountain, we found a place, it all worked out. (Although, okay, could it have been worked out a little quicker and more efficiently if we had had a plan? Yes. Just sayin'.)


Once we settled in and set up our tent (i.e. our friend pretty much set up our tent for us), we realized that there really wasn't a huge difference between yurting and camping. There were a few moments when I felt our camping inexperience coming through, such as this in-depth conversation that happened early on about the awesomeness of dutch ovens. This was how the conversation went in my head:


But later, I learned, this is what a dutch oven is!*


* Kathy and I remembered afterwards that our amazing friend Cliff had cooked us delicious pancakes in a dutch oven once, which we then all called Dutch Babies. (For some reason.) But this was the first time we'd seen dutch ovens used in the camping sense.

You cover it in hot coals and it cooks DELICIOUS THINGS! Like this enchilada casserole our friends made!


Here's what I learned this trip: camping is actually just all about sitting around and talking about, and then preparing and eating, food. Camping is awesome!

Here are the pros and cons we came up with of yurt camping v. tent camping.

Yurts:
  • The aforementioned door with a lock, and structure with sturdy walls, which is very helpful if you perhaps have fears of bears or coyotes or Crazy Homicidal People in the Woods (I'm still scarred by that one chapter in Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods) or other such things attacking your tent and eating you in the night. WhichIonlyhavealittle. Especiallyafterwetalkedaboutbearsforlikethirtyminutesaroundthecampfirebeforegoingtobed.
  • The aforementioned heat. We were pretty high up in Mt. Hood territory this trip--we encountered snow the next day, even though it's June--and it was pretty chilly, even in a sleeping bag.
  • There are beds with primitive mattresses, so all you need is a sleeping bag or sheets and blankets.
  • Since most yurts are in established state parks, there is always a restroom--with sinks and showers--nearby, probably along with a spout of running potable water somewhere. This is very essential. While this trip made us excited about camping, we're not exactly thrilled to be wiping our butts with leaves yet, aright. And if you're tent-camping not at a state park with all this stuff, you have to be even more prepared and bring more stuff, especially water, for washing stuff, cooking, and of course consuming.
Tent-camping:
  • Cheaper! (Once you buy all the camping equipment, of course, which is not cheap.) If you find a fee site, here in Oregon it's normally only around $5-$10 for a site to camp, whereas it ranges from $25-$40 to rent a yurt, or I've seen it even higher in other states like Washington. I also discovered this trip that there are some sites where you don't have to pay a fee at all, such as the small site where we stayed.
  • Much more availability. There are a limited number of yurts, mainly just in state parks, and they fill up fast. In comparison, there are probably 120938248973487 places to set up a tent in this state.
  • If you are NOT afraid of bears, you may feel closer to nature in a tent, and I feel like they can be surprisingly and enjoyably cozy and special-feeling. Unless you have a sleeping partner that rolls you into a corner of the tent and refuses to wake up or move despite your pathetic whispering and whining. Then, you might feel claustrophobic. Just sayin'
Things which are annoying about both:
  • Rolling up your sleeping bag (and your tent) into the little bag it's supposed to magically fit back in. It's clear some magic machine fit these things into these bags at the manufacturer, and then you buy it and are all HEY, LOOK AT HOW COMPACT AND CONVENIENT THIS BAG IS. THIS IS HOW THEY GET YOU. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO FIT THESE BACK INTO THESE STUPID #$*&^# BAGS. Okay, maybe not impossible. We normally get it done, somehow, but it takes both of us to work on one sleeping bag at a time and we are normally out of breath at the end of it, and instead of neatly slipping back into the bag, it's normally stuffed in in some type of forced lumpy configuration, which works until the next time we have to take it out of that @#&*$# bag.
  • Maybe real camping people are better at this. Don't tell me about it, if you are. The only way they neatly fit back into bags, in my opinion, is magic.
(Good) Things they both have in common:
  • The aforementioned campfire and camp food. Admittedly, our friends did most of this--the fire-making, and the food-cooking--this time, but I have faith in our ability to become better at both ourselves.
  • The greatest allure of camping: the general feeling of being Away From It All, away from any responsibilities or bills or bright lights or people, other than the people who are also enjoying the privilege of being Away From It All along with you. It's a wonderful feeling, and as soon as we came back to Portland, I was surprised at the strong urge I had to just turn around and go right back. Sometimes life just feels better after you spend awhile in the woods. 

This camping trip was also great since Kathy's friends from Vet Tech school obviously brought all their dogs (as they do pretty much anywhere they go), and they all have a lot of dogs, and they are all GREAT dogs. Only five are pictured here--there were many more. The only thing that could make any camping trip even better is A WHOLE BUNCH OF GREAT DOGS. SRSLY.

What was also so great about this trip was that it opened up the possibility of much more camping in our future. We are poor, but there are still so many places we want to see in the Northwest, and we are also planning on driving back across the country in a little over a year from now. When we drove here the first time, we stayed in hotels the whole way across, but I don't think our finances can afford that anymore. Being able to camp is opening up a world of nature-y, cheap possibilities. And I am pumped.

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