Within the past, say, thirteen to fourteen months, I calculate that I’ve spent over a month and a half sleeping in my tent within the past, oh, year and a half. That means six weeks going without cappuccino. It also means going six weeks without washing, except for grabbing a shower in some gym, jumping into a freezing stream or, last September, giving myself a sponge bath while it was raining, using the same sponge that I use to wash my pans. In fact, riding in the bus coming back from the Gunks in September, my body was just reeking, and I couldn’t even bear my own stink. Strangely though, more people spoke to me on that bus trip than any other. Also, crossing the border was really simple, since I don’t think the border guards wanted to bother with me too much.
This weekend was no different; hiking up to the cliffs on Saturday morning in the sun just got the sweat a’poring, offering a regal smörgåsbord to all the sweat-eating bacteria. Everything was okay that day, but yesterday, which was even hotter, I almost couldn’t bear to reach up for a hold, seeing as how my armpit was directly in line with my face. Regardless, I love sleeping out. Strange, though, that I can enjoy living in a space about 6m2, when I used to come home to a 4-bedroom apartment.
In March, when I was on a road trip in Red Rocks, Nevada, a huge wind storm came up on our last night there. The wind gusted at about 80kmh for hours on end, and it was impossible to go outside without inhaling sand, which was also getting into every nook and cranny. Trying to sleep, the walls of my tent were just getting blasted, and I knew that if the stakes pulled out, the tent–with me in it–was going flying. Scary as all get out. After about 7 hours of this, the tentpoles finally gave out the ghost, completely bending, trapping me under all this nylon, “imprisoned” by the wind. Then again, twice in the past year, I’ve gone to sleep on a beautiful evening, only to wake up in the morning to find the tent buried under a freak snow-storm.
So here’s my latest camping story; whenever we head down to Rumney, NH, we stay on a farmer’s field, across from the cliffs. Saturday evening, speaking to the landowner, she informed me to keep an eye out for raccoons. “Um, okay,” thinks I. It was a beautiful night, with more stars visible in the sky than I’ve ever seen, and I’m lying on my back, just vegging out. I hear this “sniff sniff” outside the tent, but don’t think anything of it. Turn my head and there, staring right at me with bandit eyes, was one of said varmits. “Oh, what a cute animal,” was my first thought, my taking-in-stray-cats sensibility coming up. “I should probably let him into the tent.” Then reality sets in. “Holy crap, this thing is feral and probably has rabies. What the f–k?!” So I hiss at him, he hisses back at me, I hiss louder, he backs up and hisses back. So finally, I start swearing at him. He finally runs off, and I’m left there wondering if he’ll come back and spray my stuff. That was fun.