A friend is trying to drum up interest in going on a camping trip to New Hampshire sometime in June. Luckily, I have plans for both weekends she suggested. I say “luckily” because I hate camping. Or, more accurately, I have been camping once in my adult life, and it was such a terrible experience that I hesitate to try it ever again.
We went in June 2008, shortly after I moved to the Lehigh Valley. A former employee of Backpacker magazine had recommended a location off the Appalachian Trail near Bangor, PA – I believe he referred to it as a “sweet meadow.” It was not a campsite, just a meadow, though it was about a quarter mile from a water spigot (necessary) and a composting toilet (disgusting, worse than going in the woods).
The first problem was our timing. We happened to go during a heat wave, the kind that rarely happens that early in the year around these parts. It was 95 degrees during the day, and it didn’t cool off much at night.
The second problem was what we brought and how we brought it. Instead of cramming the bare necessities into backpacks, we brought things like beer in Wegmans reusable shopping bags. The meadow was about a mile from the road, and we had to make two trips to get everything from the cars. A mile isn’t usually a problem, but the Appalachian Trail is super rocky and slow-going. And because it was 95 degrees outside, almost no one was interested in drinking the lukewarm IPAs once we toted them to the campsite.
The third problem was that one girl in our group was on the Raw Food Diet. She insisted it wouldn’t be an issue, and she seemed fine the first day, so we kind of let it go.
Once we got all our stuff to the meadow and set up camp, we made the best Manwiches I have ever consumed – featuring beef we dropped on the ground in the middle of cooking – and played some card games. Smooth sailing so far. We all turned in before too long, since we were planning a hike to the Delaware Water Gap the next day.
I woke up to a bug biting my eyelid. I now see that this was an omen, a sign of even worse things to come later in the day. We made a bunch of PB&J sandwiches, filled our water bottles, and set out into the heat on our hike.
The hike took five hours. This wasn’t a problem for most of us, since we were all fairly athletic, but our Raw Food Dieter (RFD) just got paler and paler as the day went on. Once we reached our turnaround spot, we picked up the pace a little bit. Thunderstorms were on their way, and we didn’t want to be stuck out in the woods for that.
About a mile from the campsite, the RFD could go no further. She lay down on a log and started throwing up. We were in the middle of the forest, at least two miles of Appalachian Trail from the nearest road, and most of us were out of water. Someone tried to feed the RFD a Clif Bar. She refused to eat it because that would mean breaking her diet. The rest of us were just sitting around, sweating, slowly dehydrating toward death. (Perhaps I am being overdramatic, but I remember being extremely thirsty.)
Finally, someone suggested that a few of us go back to the water spigot to fill up everyone’s water bottles, and I eagerly joined this charge. Being thirsty while watching someone throw up is not really my jam. I headed off with this crew at twice the pace we had been traveling before. By the time we made it back to the campsite with the water, the others were just getting back. I don’t know how the RFD recovered, but she did, thank God.
The sky was looking incredibly ominous by this point. And I was breaking out in hives, probably due to something I had rubbed up against in the “sweet meadow.” All signs pointed to pack-up-and-go-home-early, so that’s what we did. I believe we got caught in the rain briefly, but no one got hit by lightning, so that’s a plus!
I know most camping trips don’t go this poorly, and I should probably give camping another try. I do like nature and campfires and s’mores. But next time, I’m packing the Benadryl, and if anyone in the group is on any kind of diet, I’m staying home.