Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Leave Only Footprints, Take Only Photographs

I went camping this weekend! The lady and I packed up and headed north to Kettle Moraine in Wisconsin. Scheduling and financial concerns have weighed heavily on my mind recently, but the thought of topography and stars and some time away with a person I like overrode all that. When she said "I want to go camping!" I didn't hesitate. There was a thirty-two-hour hole in my schedule and we took it.

Bought a new cheap tent (old cheap tent is nowhere to be found!) and sealer. It's a cute little orange and grey thing--the big scientific advancement over the tents we used in Scouts ten years ago is the electrical cord inlet built into the front panel. Her air mattress took up almost the entirety of the floor, leaving some very convenient triangular recesses for clothes and stuff to sleep. We packed up a surprisingly spartan array of stuff, gassed up old Adam Corolla, and hit the road.

When you get to the rural Southeastern corner of Wisconsin, you become aware of three preponderances. The first is of hills (not big ones, but nice ones, like the topography of volleyball players without the mannish walk). The second is of cornfields (which quite honestly didn't strike me one way or another except to keep me on the alert for, and disappointed by the lack of, wildlife.) The third is of McCain/Palin posters staked into almost everybody's front yard. I'm not afraid of spiders or bears or coyotes or cougars, friends, but those blue-and-white signs gave me the willies. I guess here in the political insulation of the relatively reasonable modern American city, we can pretend that those loopy bastards are a fringe cult and not a valid electoral force.

At least one of those loopy bastards turned out to be alright. The firewood guy just off Rte 12 on County H was selling 3 bundles of split fuel logs for ten bucks. You just put your money in the can at the end of the driveway and carted your wood away. It had a very Norman Rockwell or maybe Waltons feel to it. I kept looking around Eagle, WI for two old spinsters handing out "Recipe" to benighted travelers.

So we got to out to campsite 760 and I was pleasantly surprised to find it at once convenient and nicely secluded by heavy foliage and just the right amount of distance between plots. It would be morning before I know that all the nearby sites were occupied, mostly with college students by the fours and families with kids.

When we'd reserved the site, she had been very firm that she wanted a no-frills site. Looking at our options, of which there were tons, she'd decided it would be "Class D" camping for us. Pit toilets a walk away, a fire ring, a concrete strip to keep our car from backing into the tent area and everything else was just woods. At the time, I was (with some admitted prejudice) nervous that she'd regret being so gung-ho from the comfort of her computer chair.

It turns out our rustic little site was just perfect. I felt a little butch after we pitched the tent and called dibs on fire-building privileges. I felt positively exhilarated building my little scout fire. We'd brought a ton of stuff to cook and cook with, and when it came right down to it we kind of ate like barbarians. First we made Jiffy Pop. Henceforth, we used the little Jiffy Pop pan to cook everything else. The beans we left in the cans, and after we washed the cans from the beans and orange wedges, we boiled our carrots, potatoes, and hot chocolate water in them. Marshmallows fell off their sticks and still tasted good. The stars came out on the bluest, clearest night I've known since I moved away from Howard, Pennsylvania eleven years ago.

The night was cold, and I under-dressed for bed, which meant a lot of tossing and turning for me and, for her, probably a lot less sleep than she deserved, having put on layered flannels and a hooded sweatshirt like a prudent person. At six thirty I was up and building a breakfast fire and then she was up with me and it warmed up fast and good snuggles and delicious sausages were to be had and I was in absolutely no hurry to leave.

We cleaned up the site and then plopped back down in the tent on what had turned out to be a very indulgent air mattress and by the time we decided to get up and do our actual outdoor activities (the hiking and exploring and taking pictures bit) we had just enough time to roll up the tent before the rain came. It became a great day for a lazy drive and she fell asleep and I sang along with the radio all the way home.

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