Here I am, lying down in a five-man orange tent, trying to get some sleep. Oh wait, I forgot. The temperature is close to the ice age and I’m stuck in the middle of a forest, about to get eaten by a bear. I’m wearing three pairs of socks that are doing about as much to keep me warm as, well, not keeping me warm. My nose is probably more red than Rudolph’s and I’m pretty sure there’s enough snot coming out of it to turn the tent into a swimming pool by morning.
That’s if I’m still alive by then.
My immense displeasure for camping started when my mom had this “genius idea” to spend her birthday weekend going camping with my brother’s boy scout troop. Naturally, she forced me to come too.
I envy my younger brother. He has guts. He’s brave. He walks into the flame of danger with a mocking smile on his face. I’m a coward. In my very first violin concert when I was three, my mom had to come on stage, kneel behind me, and hold me up during the concert. I was too scared to go on stage for my preschool graduation. And when I got in a small argument with my best friend in third grade, my brother was my bodyguard when I went and apologized.
Don’t laugh. It’s not that funny.
Okay, it is.
Our car ride to Arkansas was like the Trail of Tears. Sitting in the backseat, I could hear my parents chatting about how excited they were to experience nature firsthand, how hiking was fun and how proud they were of my brother for being a dedicated and brave scout. Meanwhile, I was desperately trying to devise ways to knock some sense into them and get us back home.
When we arrived at the campgrounds, it was near midnight. Okay, I thought, this isn’t too bad. We can just set up our tents here and crash for the night. Right?
Wrong. The correct answer is a half-mile hike.
My brother and his fellow scouts were cracking jokes as they hopped from rock to rock while crossing a frozen river. Juggling two bags of clothes and sleeping pads, I was more concerned with preserving what was left of my shattered public image.
By now, it was pitch dark and most of the prepared scouts had already set up their tents by the time we reached the campsite. Hmmmm, campsite.
All I saw was a bunch of trees, rocks and a few rotting benches. My dad dropped a bag from his shoulder and started pulling out random poles and metal spikes. Thirty minutes later, we were lying down in a giant pumpkin-like tent that didn’t really prevent wind from turning my face into a giant piece of frozen meat. Mental note: never stay at an ice hotel.
The very next morning, we awoke to the chatter of excited boy scouts running around the campsite and getting ready for a day full of hiking. Some were packing up tents, others were eating Pop Tarts and other snacks for breakfast.
We had other plans. As soon as we got out of our tent, my mom, dad and I raced the half mile to the Honda CR-V like a bear was chasing us and turned on the heater.
And we sat there. For literally 30 minutes.
I don’t know how my brother does it. He goes on trips like these all the time, and has the time of his life. My first (and only) camping trip gave me an insight into Mother Nature’s way of poking us and saying hey guys, I’m still in charge. It gave me a deep respect for boy scouts and what they do. It takes more courage to sleep in a forest than to play in a violin concert in front of a bunch of parents. It takes more courage to go sailing on Clinton Lake than to say sorry to your best friend.
That’s why when a scout troop leader asked me if I wanted to join the troop when we arrived back in Kansas, I gave him my sincerest and most honest answer.