Time for another Writer’s Workshop hosted by Mama Kat. Part of the fun of doing these workshops is visiting all the other posts and seeing how differently everyone handles the same prompts. I suspect this week will be quite a mixed bag as there were lots of attractive prompts to choose from. However, due to my father’s lifelong need to drag us camping at every opportunity, I am pretty much obligated to choose:
3.) Describe a memorable camping experience.
I have such a wealth of camping mishaps that it isn’t even funny, including:
- a snipe hunt where I actually caught something
- the time we were setting up our tent in the pouring rain and eating soup that never emptied because the rain kept filling the bowls up
- the time a skunk went through our camp trash and we caught him eating out of a can of beans and became hysterical laughing (you know … because skunks stink and beans make you toot?)
- the time my friend and I were asked to move our tent in the middle of the night by the ranger because we were camping in a forbidden area
- the time I ate a half pound of grapes and pooped my pants on a hike (well, you heard that one already).
But why not start at the beginning with my very first camping trip? The one that pretty much set the tone for all trips to follow.
My Introduction to Camping — Setting the Stage for Lifetime of Avoidance
At age 9, I went on my first camping trip with my mom and dad. Not content to just take me on a simple overnight trip, my father — who would come to be known as “Death on the Trail” within the family — signed us up for a 3-day odyssey that involved hiking, whitewater canoeing and whitewater rafting. Way to ease me into it, Dad!
The first day was OK until it began to rain, the temperature began to drop, and the hiking trail started to go up, up and up. Miserable, uncomfortable and exhausted, I began to despise my father. The only way I survived was picking out the M&Ms from our GORP (a trail mix known as “Good Old Raisins and Peanuts”). When we finally stopped for the evening, I wolfed down my food and collapsed into the tent I was sharing with my mom. There was some concern that the heavy rain would cause the river we were camping by to overflow, but our guide thought it would be OK.
Sometime during the night, I woke up and experienced darkness like I have never seen before or since. It was so completely black that I began to panic — I couldn’t see ANYTHING — not even my hand when I touched my face. This type of darkness was beyond frightening — it was like the dark was a tangible thing that has swallowed me up. I don’t know if you’ve ever camped and experienced such darkness, but it is mighty freaky.
The next morning, we hiked to the starting point for the whitewater canoeing. Keep in mind that this was my first time canoeing EVER! Never one to do anything half-assed, my father was keen to have me experience real live rapids — maybe even a Class 4, he crowed! Because of my age, I was with the guide in his canoe (thank the Lord or I don’t think I would be alive to write about this today). Everything went pretty well until one lady in our group broke her ankle (she was on her honeymoon!) and had to be carried out. Because of this emergency, the guide decided we would do one last rapid and call it a day.
The last rapid was the fastest yet — and keep in mind that the river was running high because of the rain the previous day. You had to navigate your canoe through a series of fast-running rapids — avoiding rocks throughout. The end involved shooting off a small waterfall (about 3 to 4 foot high) and ending up in the river below. The guide reviewed our safety procedures with us before we went in the event that we capsized — follow the flow of the river, do not struggle, climb onto a rock, and don’t panic.
The guide took me and my mother down together. The whole ride down was a blur until the end when we shot off the waterfall and capsized. I remember that I didn’t panic — I let myself bob to the surface and faced downstream. I saw a huge rock so I climbed on top of it. Meanwhile, my mother was floating downstream screaming for me. Scared out of my mind, I couldn’t find my voice to call to her. However, the guide saw me perched on the rock and told me to stay there — he would come back down and get me.
Well, the guide tried about four or five times to get to me but each time was a failure — mostly because to get to the rock I was on, you would have to bring the canoe to a dead-stop after rocketing off the waterfall. Eventually, everyone realized it couldn’t be done so they told me to climb back in the river and float down to my parents.
Although there was another day of whitewater rafting to go, my mother made my dad take us home — and we both gave him the silent treatment all the way back.
And he wondered why it took me another 3 years before I (or anyone else in my family) agreed to go camping with him again.