Roughing It … Part One

Apr 11, 2011 by

We were warned.

You prepare as best you can, but preparing for what might be and what actually happens doesn’t always line up. Reality highlights what you didn’t prepare for. What you forgot.

Nevertheless, we were at the dock. Our transportation, a steel barge straight out of a WWII Normandy beach invasion, was a clue. So was the fact every inhale was followed by a pfftt. In fact, several pfftts. Gear, more gear than I’ve ever seen assembled at such a launch, was strewn about. The dock resembled a boy’s room where the mom walks in and starts mumbling about tornadoes. Now multiply that by 19.

And the chorus of pfftts was increasing. There is a scene in the movie Apocalypse Now where Robert Duvall, who plays a commander of a helicopter detachment in Vietnam, says, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

I assure you I do not love the smell of DEET in the morning. And the increasing chorus of pfftts was the result of trying to exhale the hundreds of gnats you just inhaled. And then you’d use your fingers to try to remove the gazillion gnats you couldn’t get out with countless pfftts, which of course made you slightly nauseous because your fingers were covered with DEET.

Fortunately, but not soon enough, it was time to load up. Hopefully the breeze from the barge would lessen the cloud of bugs. Time to move. Time to camp.

Destination – a national wilderness island.  Fifteen Boy Scouts, four dads.  

I always thought there were two types of camping. The first is car camping – where you bring everything, including the kitchen sink. Roughing it in total comfort. And if you forget something, you have a car and there’s a Wally World somewhere nearby. You bring the big tents, the big propane stoves, the camp chairs, myriad ice chests and way too much food. Some will throw in a generator and big screen so as to not miss the game.

Then there’s backpacking. You scrutinize everything, because the transportation is your back. Instead of several daily clothes changes, (car camping) you consider making it with what you’re wearing – for four days. You bring very small stoves, or decide to eat cold. Oh, and you carry your food – again, on your back. Ramen Noodles are a delicacy.

With backpacking, you think in term of ounces, whereas with car camping weight is limited to what you can stuff inside.

And then there’s island camping, a somewhat hybrid of the two. Partly car camping, as we are off for four days and have a barge (water car) to transport stuff. So you’re bringing the car camping gear. Partly backpacking, as once on said island, there is no accessible Wally World. You’d better not forget anything.

We are told carts await us at the island to transport all our gear to our campsite. And here is the first lesson, that perception does not always line up with reality. I say that because when someone mentions the word “cart” and “transportation,” I think of something along the lines of a golf cart, or one of those ATVs.

Apparently not so in this case. The carts are motorized by humans, or scouts in this case. Good old-fashioned push cars. That didn’t pose too much of a problem as the camp was not too far off. Which was a good thing because everyone is digging into their backpacks trying to find the mosquito netting. We looked like a convention of bee keepers within minutes.

But we make it to camp. And the gnats and whatever other devil spawn insects that live on islands made us welcome. Four days of this type of companionship was not my idea of “fun.”

And then God showed His incredible grace.

I say this because readers know there are two things I miss, really miss, on camp outs: flushing toilets and ice. Now I can do my business in the woods as well as the next guy, and I don’t complain. But there’s just something about the porcelain throne that simply blows away using a tree as a backstop. And ice is, well … ice, and one of those things you never thing about until you realize you’ve been drinking tepid water for the past three days and you would kill something – okay, something small – for a glass of ice.

Turns out our camp is a “hunt camp,” where hunters come in and do their hunt thing. And what they hunt are various critters to keep the populations under control. Among those critters, we learn, are wild boars. Gnats and wild boars, and we’re off to see the wizard.

Back to grace. There is a building with a covered porch. Inside is grace. Grace in terms of one, two, three and yes, four flushing toilets. And four showers with hot and cold water. And a refrigerator.

God’s grace is without limits. Because next to the porcelain cathedral is a small building with a sliding door. And of course I have to open said sliding door.

And the first thing that came to mind was that line from the Doxology – “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” Because behind the sliding door was an ice machine. I’m talking one of those hotel-sized ice machines. A never-ending supply of frozen goodness.

I consider the pros and cons.

On one hand: devil spawn insects trying to suck out my life; ticks and the phrase “Lyme Disease” said in the same sentence; wild boars waiting for me to fall asleep so they can drag me off for a boar-fest, or simply gore me in my tent; feral horses that, we are told by the nice Forest Ranger, have in the past removed the scalps of visitors who got too close; and some type of man-killing plant that shoots its spear-tipped leaves at you and impales you against a tree.

On the other hand: flushing toilets and an inexhaustible supply of ice.

I am well ahead on this trip.

Next time, some lessons learned. Stay tuned.