It's safe to say I'm not an avid outdoorsman. I've never hunted, I've fished a few times, and I've camped maybe a half dozen times in my life, never alone.
Until this week. Actually I wasn't alone. I took my dog Lucy along on a one night, two day adventure around the Upper Peninsula--it was part of a writing project that I'm now working on.
So there we were, Monday night at about 7:30, setting up our little tent at a campground outside Brimley. Lake Superior was lapping quietly at the shore behind us, the temperature was a pleasant 60 degrees, and I was busily engaged in erecting our housing for the night.
Truth be told, I was a little anxious because I hadn't set it up in over a year and I had visions of tearing fabric and breaking the aluminum sticks and shouting curses at the pines high overhead.
But no. I had it up in 15 minutes. After staking it down, I just stood there and beamed at it with pride. I was a skilled outdoorsman!
Lucy, meantime, stood by watching, seeming to say, So? You mean this is where we're sleeping tonight?
Yes, it was.
But first, it was time for dinner. Which meant I was off to the Bay Mills casino, five miles away, for the $12.95 dinner buffet. No point in going to extremes with this camping thing.
Then, back to the campground where it was still light outside but the temperature was cooling. Time for a campfire! I bought some firewood at the camp headquarters, gathered some sticks for kindling, and grabbed a couple of old Time magazines out of the back of my car.
I crumpled up the magazines in the fire pit, piled the kindling on top, and laid some chopped wood on the very top. Perfect! I was a regular Daniel Boone! I pulled out my matches....Drip....Drip....Drip, Drip....
What's a little shower or two? Come on, we're camping! I lit the fire in several spots. Then several more.
Drip, drip, drip.
Lucy's sitting under a tree, watching my diligent efforts, thinking, Uh, Mr. Cabell, maybe you noticed? The water coming down from the sky? It's...uh...well, I'm starting to get wet, and that tent thing you set up over there, maybe we could go inside...
Strangely, the little fires I was setting on the Time magazine pages kept getting extinguished, and now my hair was matted against my forehead. Still, I persisted. Come on, campers have to tough things out!
Lucy was now shivering, wondering about her master's intelligence. Uh, Mr. Cabell, I am now soaked. As are you. Maybe you should re-consider this fire idea, and maybe, you and me, we should get into that tent thing...
Which we finally did, fumbling with the zippered door, stumbling on top of sleeping bag, and managing, after a minute or two to get the door of tent and the fly zippered up. Unfortunately, during that minute's time, enough water leaked inside to create a puddle near the foot of my sleeping bag.
Nevertheless, I lay down on my back and stared up at the roof of my tent and listened to the heavy patter of raindrops overhead. I checked my watch. Nine-fifteen. Still light outside, and I had nothing to do except look at Lucy who stared back at me. So this is camping, Mr. Cabell? This is, like, supposed to be fun? I mean, I'm wet, you're wet, and now we're stuck in this little tent thing.
Time ticked away exceedingly slowly. Finally, I recalled that I had another Time magazine in the car. Entertainment! Salvation! I stumbled out of the tent and over to the car to retrieve my reading material, getting even more thoroughly soaked in the process.
But I was now back in the tent, all zipped up, to discover (not surprisingly), that Lucy had managed to worm her way down to the foot of my sleeping bag.
I tried, without success, to evict her. She became an inert canine mass. Wouldn't budge. Squatter's rights. You snooze, you lose, Mr. Cabell.
So we shared the bag, and I lay back again, opened up the Time magazine, only to discover that it was now just dark enough to prevent me from reading.
Super. I laid the magazine aside.
It's 10 pm, I'm wide awake and wet, my feet are fighting for space with Lucy's inert mass, and I've got eight hours before sunrise to ponder the state of the world. My hips, thighs and elbows all ache, the hard ground beneath me is unforgiving, and I come to realize that I've discovered a new version of hell.
I doze off from time to time, once to discover that Lucy was out of the bag and slurping up the water from our tent puddle. Good dog.
All told, I get maybe 90 minutes of sleep before I welcome the first glimmer of dawn. Lucy sleepily watches me roll up the tent, no doubt thinking, So this was supposed to be fun? This camping thing we did? You know, frankly, Mr. Cabell, I would have much preferred spending the night in my smelly dog bed at home. I mean, seriously.
Can't say I disagree with Lucy. The next time we go on a camping adventure, we'll dispense with the tent thing and, instead, check into the Circle Q Motor Inn, complete with bed bugs, a leaky toilet, and a staticky black-and-white TV. I figure it's got to be a slightly more palatable version of hell.