Chronicles of Camping (In Which I Kick Sand in the Face of Danger)

This year, I found myself thinking that I hadn’t been camping in a very long time, and that I might like to go. Tragically, I had this thought some time in the middle of August, and drastically underestimated the amount of people that enjoy reserving camp sites in the middle of September. I say ‘reserving camp sites’ rather than ‘camping’ because I can only assume, based on the number of reserved sites in the month of September (many) compared to the amount of actual live people at the campground (none), that people are getting their kicks from sitting at home on their computers and making campground reservations for the sheer thrill. As a result, Bryan and I got pigeon-holed into camping at the end of September. (This conveniently coincided with the week of his birthday so that I can pretend that we went camping for his birthday and not feel bad for not doing anything special even though he doesn’t really like camping.)

That is not to say that the camping trip was bad. It wasn’t. It was a great trip and, considering that it took place in the middle of the fall, could hardly have gone better. We were largely prepared for the cold weather, which surprised us by being balmy and beautiful (for September), and we didn’t expect to be able to swim or tan or anything like that, so we weren’t disappointed. The thing that I didn’t take into account was the fact that the last time I was camping I was literally responsible for absolutely nothing. I had no say in, nor responsibility for any of the organizational aspects of the trips. My parents ran the whole show, and I was pretty much completely oblivious as to all the finer details of camping. After hitting this realization like an electric fence, I asked my wonderful mom for some helpful advice. She proceeded to tell me things that I am sure seasoned campers will take for granted as common sense that I had not even begun to think of. For example, freeze things before you go. Don’t just put kind of chilled food in a cooler and expect it to keep. Keep your cooler under the bench of a picnic table so that animals can’t get into it. (That one I found to be particularly ingenious.)

Speaking of animals, since the park that we were able to scrounge up a reservation at was located on a tiny, sandy peninsula in lake Erie, one side of it was nothing but a great big beach, and the other side was nothing but a giant squishy marsh, with a bit of solid land in the middle to set up tents on. (Our campsite was on the beachy side, so the ground cover on the whole site was sand.) As a result there is a distinct lack of wildlife at this park aside from snakes, toads and seagulls, which we saw in abundance. Other than that we encountered approximately two animals. (Approximately.) One was a very tiny black turtle that I rescued from the middle of the deserted road and didn’t think to take a picture of. The other was a furry mammal of some kind that thought it would like whatever was in our garbage bag. (This goes back to another piece of what I suspect is camping common sense: Take out your trash every night. Or at least put it in the trunk.) Bryan and I were sitting around the fire on our second (or maybe third - I really don’t recall) night there, and there was a snuffling sound around the picnic table. I got up to investigate, forgetting that the animals of a provincial park are so acclimatized to humans that just walking near them is not enough to make them go away. I walked over to the picnic table, mostly blind as I didn’t think to bring a light, and thought to myself “What did I think I was going to do about this? I walked over here like I had some kind of purpose, and since my mere presence isn’t enough to scare it away, I guess I have to do something.” Except this whole thought process took place in about 0.4 seconds, so really it was something like “Oh-gawd-it’s-not-leaving-and-I-can’t-see-whatdoIdo?” KICK. My reflexive reaction was to kick sand at the beastie in hopes that it would go away. Immediately following this decision I realized that it was pretty stupid, thinking that it could be an angry porcupine at worst, or a particularly brave raccoon at best. To my great relief, rather than shooting quills at me or jumping on my face and maiming me, the animal trundled off and hid under the car for the next several hours. As it waddled away, I was still almost entirely blind, so I took the opportunity to check the animal out a little. All I could tell was that it was very light in colour, and I didn’t really think anything of it until I reached forward to pick up the garbage bag that it had been rooting through. Then I noticed the smell. I then ran away and hid behind the tent, babbling a little bit. Bryan was suitably confused, and I had to explain to him that “I just kicked sand in a skunk’s face.” He laughed at me and I came out from behind the tent and disposed of the garbage (armed with a lantern this time) and then we sat by the fire some more. So, like most of my stories, the end is a bit anticlimactic: “And then it ran away.” I didn’t get sprayed, and it didn’t come back, and I didn’t chase it down with a stick or anything, but it is the most interesting of my non-mushy camping stories, so there you have it. I kicked sand at a skunk and lived.