A Baby Boomer relinquishes the last vestige of Youth in sorrow.
I remember the day clearly, as I wrote the check to the man at the counter. He pushed the package across the counter and I was off and running. The sleeping bag, pup tent, mess kit and the one little burner Coleman gas stove gingerly was put in the trunk. The luxury of the single blow-up mattress was my next great desire. Sleeping on the ground bonded me to nature in the best primitive way. As Tonto, from the Lone Ranger, placed his ear to the ground to learn the rhythms of the land, so could I feel the stability of the earth below my body, and, I loved it. The pint-sized cooler held all nourishment needed. At twenty-five years old, I splurged on the equipment with the hopes of the financial efficiency of wilderness and campsites. I was not disappointed.
I quickly learned to make one extra purchase. The second sleeping bag assured companionship in my tent, as there would be plenty of room for two. I was ready to venture into the wilderness and to campsites.
Matching Nylon Jumpsuits and Rhinestoned Poodles
The distance from the oversized apartment closet out to the trunk of the car was not far and the camping equipment fit perfectly. Hiking boots and denim and the obligatory plaid flannel shirt was quickly stuffed in a duffel bag and I was on the road. The first destination was still unclear, but I would find the ideal campground. Youth is resilient. The sign said “JellyRock Family Camping” and the price was cheap. The site had the campfire stone ring and was back from the small paved road. At twilight, with the baked beans and hotdogs well digested, and the flames inching up from the campfire, beverage in hand, what could be wrong? I paid little attention to the others around the “Family Camping” area, until the strolls of residents began at dusk. There is a style to seasoned trailer campers that includes a travel cocktail tumbler, a sporty nylon windbreaker jumpsuit outfit and a little dog on a bedazzled leash. These folks all knew one another and appeared in for the season, each with a “Howdy!” as they passed by. The next outing was certain to scope out a true forrest, where my pup tent blended as one with nature. A requirement never to be forgotten. Or, so I thought.
Finding Nature’s Bliss
Soon the equipment graduated to a quality of comforts needed for the “experienced camper”. The queensized plush-top mattress, with the electric air pump started the mission. How could anyone sit near a fire without lucite brandy snifters? The demands of the day required the nonstick pancake griddle to be supported by the Coleman double burner Camp Stove. These in no way hampered the living off the land. In fact, the purchase to the six-person umbrella tent and camper fly awning, was only a mere forty pounds. One cannot expect to camp on the coastline of Maine without an aluminum and nylon 10 by 20 foot dining tarp; the weather so iffy. I so enjoyed the campchairs, they bringing comfort off the damp ground. The Coleman fuel lanterns gave off the glow that assisted the cuisine preparation on the aluminum prep table. Chilled properly, steaks and food supplies can last days in that 25 gallon cooler! A fine camp chef need his resources, right?
The Quality of Life on the Earth
Ok, I do not have the knowledge of when it started. It was not quite a tipping point. Maybe it was the camping vacation for five days when it rained buckets every day. A few, no, several, slugs climbed up my legs the week. There was the fall leaf peeping trip to camp on a Berkshire mountain side as the temperature plummeted to below freezing in several hours. I can love children and families while camping, but the several little ones shining the laser flashlights into my tent that one night was a bit much. Maybe it was a seasonal event that one July weekend, as the mosquitos were the size of small sparrows. I believe a blood replacement transfusion would have made me feel better. There continued to be several more incidents of equal and forgettable outings. Oh, those “cheap” camp fees ceased to be anything but cheap over the years.
A Four Poster Bed and Down Comforter
The families that run the small county inns and bed and breakfasts know me. They feel my pain. Some have perhaps been in my shoes. What they do not have is my camping equipment. That all now belongs to a great younger friend with an oversized closet and a good sized car trunk. I do not have a small dog with a rhinestone collar and never did have one. What I do have is a knowledge of the loss of my youth to retain the creature comforts of warm baths, linen table dining, and inn-keepers happy to keep me off the ground.