Camping can be fun (but not for everyone)
At various points in the making of our Adventuring Out series about area iconic experiences and sites, fellow features writer Rachel Sauer and myself have ended up in several unfortunate, potentially dangerous situations. But no situation has been as unfortunate as our recent camping trip on Slumgullion Pass east of Lake City.
Camping, it could be argued, is an activity beloved by many western Colorado and Eastern Utah residents for any number of reasons. Most of those reasons I don’t understand, but more on that later.
Every summer, untold numbers flee the high desert for the serenity of the cool mountains. They haul multi-colored tents, campfire wood they may or may not be able to use and coolers of high-caloric food and drink.
Rachel is one of those people.
I am not.
I don’t like sleeping in tents. I don’t like campfire smell. I hate bugs, dirt under my fingernails and using smelly outhouse toilets with no hand soap.
Before I get nasty “Why do you live here?” emails, you should know that I do love Colorado, particularly the outdoors, where there are campgrounds. Given the choice, however, I prefer to breathe mountain air, relish in the beauty of nature and return indoors to plumbing and a bed.
In my experience, most people who love camping think it’s ridiculous others don’t. Consequently, friends have tried for years — YEARS — to get me camping. I’ve gone a couple times and lived, so after months — MONTHS — of Rachel asking when she would get to finally convert me into a camper, I agreed it was time to get this over with.
Rachel and I left Grand Junction at 11 a.m. July 11 for Deer Lakes Campground, nearly 180 miles away from the Grand Valley. We arrived in a light mist that quickly turned into rain and hail.
The weather’s refusal to cooperate for the next eight hours forced us to drive 180 miles back mostly on dark, winding, two-lane roads, where trucks often failed to dim their lights or went uncomfortably fast.
We got home about 11 p.m.
In other words, yuck.
Everything about this trip — except for the 45 minutes that it stopped raining so Rachel and I could walk around the lake to spot flowers, watch fish jump and take photographs — sorta stunk.
It was sprinkling when we arrived, but Rachel set up the tent anyway, remarking multiple times she shouldn’t be doing it but kept right on going. It’s not like I knew any better.
To top it off, she set it up wrong, turning a 15-minutes-at-the-most project into a 45-minute, sloppy, wet mess.
We never ate the hot dogs or s’mores we brought. We ate chocolate-covered almonds and cherries, some fruit and three-quarters of a bag of Ruffles potato chips.
After deciding at 6:45 p.m. it would probably never stop raining and we weren’t sleeping in a soaking wet tent with wet clothes because we might freeze to death, Rachel took the tent down.
She assured me multiple times she had checked the forecast and there was only a 20-percent chance of rain by Lake City.
On the drive home, I asked where she checked.
“Weather.com,” Rachel said. “The Weather Channel’s site.”
I laughed. What was I going to do? Be angry?
Rachel wanted so desperately for me to love camping that she took me to one of the most beautiful places she could, to a campground built on her fond childhood memories.
And Deer Lakes Campground was splendid: minimal beetle kill, lush green everywhere, aspen stands as far as the eye could see.
Beauty aside, this “camping” trip was surely the worst one of her life, right?
“Heavens no,” Rachel said matter-of-factly.
I asked her to please write down all the times she considered worse.
They included — and I’m not joking — a tarantula in her campsite, a collapsed tent amid slumber, and a morning wake-up call from snow in freezing temperatures colder than she had previously ever felt.
This, I’m told, is just part of the fun. Sometimes, camping is awful. Sometimes, it’s just mediocre, and sometimes, it’s so perfect you can’t wait to go again and take every single friend who hates camping along.
As for me, I have made the executive decision to go camping again when it isn’t raining and a tent is invented that puts itself up, has a mattress, flushing toilet and a campfire that doesn’t smell.
I’m not an ogre. I do like s’mores.