When I think of camping, I picture a beautiful, idyllic setting where I can relax and be a part of nature. Delicious cookouts, light breezes, birds chirping, the sound of running water, the smell of campfires and pine.
The reality of camping, however, is nothing like my daydream.
A History of Camping
I went camping once when I was younger. My dad took my sister and I, along with another family, camping at CB Smith Park in Florida. We attempted to pitch a tent and were able to fully pitch it after the campsite next door helped. We brought too much food and enjoyed every bite we took. The next day we loaded everything back up and went home.
A few years ago, Nick and I attempted to go camping with friends. We bought a tent, a sleeping bag, and a couple of styrofoam bed rolls, along with the ingredients to make chicken fajitas. The four of us loaded up a single car and drove two hours from Lubbock to Palo Duro Canyon constantly checking the weather radar as we tried to beat a rainstorm so we could set up before it potentially started pouring.
By the time we got to the canyon - without a reservation - we were told there was a big bike race the next day and there were no campsites available. With no other options, we turned around, drove two hours back to Lubbock and cooked fajitas in my friend’s kitchen. Turns out it was for the best since a huge West Texas thunderstorm dropped way too much rain on the canyon right about the time we would have been setting up camp!
And then two years ago, my friend Lauren and I went camping for a single night at a Texas state park. We stayed in a shelter instead of a tent and had a grand old time besides the heat and humidity.
So with all of that camping experience under my belt, I thought it would be a great idea to spend the summer camping across America, while also staying with friends and family and hotels in between.
I want to like camping. I want to love camping, but after two experiences so far (yes, only two experiences, but isn’t two enough to know?), I’m pretty sure camping isn’t for me.
Why Isn’t Camping for Me?
Our first camping experience together and with our two great dogs didn’t get off to the best start. We arrived in Candler, North Carolina, just outside of Asheville, after a brief rainstorm. Everything was muddy and we had to park further away from our campsite than we would’ve liked. We took multiple trips back and forth from the car to the site, lugging all of our crap that we thought we needed (why did we bring so much stuff?!). We did get the tent set up despite poor directions and were able to figure out a place for the rest of our stuff.
Even though our campsite was right next to a babbling brook, it couldn’t make up for the poison ivy everywhere. Although I have yet to have a reaction to poison ivy - surprisingly - Nick is highly allergic to it, and we were hyper aware of everything we and the dogs touched and walked on.
Oh yeah, and there’s bugs! And it got freezing at night! And it was humid and everything was wet in the morning and muddy again. And my hair looked awesome.
Cooking is also an ordeal. You have to take everything out, cook, and then hike to go wash all of your dishes. After a lovely, hot meal of black beans and scrambled eggs, we opted for easy-to-make sandwiches the next night.
Although things did get better after the first night, we decided to cancel our last night to move on up the road. Then, of course, you have to break everything down and pack it all back up.
When you daydream about camping, you definitely don’t daydream about all the work that camping requires.
We drove up to Roanoke, Virginia, from North Carolina and spent two nights in a Red Roof Inn contemplating what to do next. Should we throw in the towel on our trip? No! We’re still on the East Coast. Should we throw in the towel on camping? Not yet? Maybe camping will be better in a different location. Maybe a state or national park instead of someone’s organic farm. Maybe in the New England area or out West instead of in the South.
So we decided to try camping again. This time, we chose Cowans Gap State Park in Fort Loudon, Pennsylvania. The park has great reviews and driving up, the landscape was pretty - green, rolling hills, mountains in the distance, cute little houses.
Our campsite looked better. But looks are often deceiving. More bugs than North Carolina. Less of a breeze. Bathrooms are farther away or you can take a shortcut through a small trail that has poison ivy.
Plus, we have two dogs with us. And while we love our dogs, they do limit what we can and can’t do while we’re camping. We can’t go off on a hike without them. We can’t rent a kayak. We have to take turns showering or going to the bathroom or getting water so that someone is always with the dogs. We have to make sure their feet are clean before getting into the tent. And the bugs are bothering them too.
That’s not to say we haven’t had any fun while camping. We’ve definitely had fun. But for us, right now, camping is our way of life.
We’re not going camping for a long weekend with friends and coming home to our own house and bed. We currently don’t have a house or bed. We have this. And we have dog-friendly hotels. And we have awesome friends and family who welcome our whole pack.
But if we don’t like camping and all the work that goes into it, then the focus of our kick-ass road trip is going to have to change. Maybe we ditch our camping gear. Maybe we go quicker around the U.S. than slower. Maybe we see who and what we want to see and then we head home, wherever we decide home is.
We still need to write about our awesome time in Decatur with Christina, Ryan, and Ranger, and our time in Roanoke!