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Every year, a good group of my buddies and our significant others go “camping” at the same spot. It is one of my more cherished memories because it all started in 2010 after our second year of college.
We all took a random Tuesday off from our summer gigs, packed up a tent, some chairs, and a 30-rack of Bud Light to split between the four of us. Our tolerance hadn’t quite developed because, believe it or not, none of us had really started drinking heavily at that point in our lives. Shocking, I know. But I digress.
We got lost and drove around for far too long looking for a spot my grandmother had taken me as a kid, about 25 miles away from my house. It’s technically illegal to stay there overnight, but those are just details. The spot is at the outlet of a dam that has an amazing sandbar and a slow moving river with a couple of rope swings along the bank. We set the tent up, lit a fire, and it was off to the races. We cooked hot dogs, drank beer, and made friends with some other folks who had set up a midnight game of polish horseshoes with glow sticks in the bottles and a light-up Frisbee. It was one of the better memories I have and as such, we all go back every single summer for a one-night stand with the place we call Billows.
To some, that might sound like camping, but it isn’t. Camping, to me, involves a minimum of a two-night stay. You have to actually prepare for a couple of meals, pack a change of clothes, and have enough fire wood to last you quite a while. If I have to prepare to have fun, it’s not that fun. I hate packing. And I hate hauling stuff. Camping involves multiple trips to the site with packs and bags full of supplies and necessities to survive a couple of days in the wilderness. Camping requires you to check the weather and plan for a long enough stretch where it could possibly rain. Camping involves shitting in the woods. Camping requires effort. I just want to tie one on with nature.
Sure, our annual trip has a lot of aspects of actual camping — tents, a fire, no running water, etc. But here are the differences between camping, and just getting drunk in the woods for a night:
— There are tents but they are just a formality. I’ve passed out in the sand as many times as I have slept in a tent at Billows.
— No one needs to plan meals for this trip because for the most part, you drink your calories.
— With a one night trip, you can just scavenge the bare minimum of tinder to get you enough light to last until midnight when the last person calls it quits. I’ve sliced my foot open searching for wood one too many times because drunk me thinks I have the calluses of fucking Tarzan himself and that I don’t need shoes.
— On the same level as firewood planning, I need to pack two things for sustenance for a one night gig: Angus Beef Ball Park Franks and alcohol. A cooler, the shirt on my back, and a lighter are all I really need. Drink the beer and use the case as a fire starter. Cook the hot dogs on the fire you started. Boom. Bear Grylls status.
— You can get away with just having to piss in the woods. Even if you frequent number two multiple times a day, you can usually get away with holding off until you’re back in society if you just do a one-night trip. Unlike pissing outside, shitting in the woods is a terrible experience.
It isn’t that I’m soft (necessarily) or that I don’t know how to survive — I just prefer short-term commitments. If I can put minimal effort into planning something and still have a great time, that’s the path I am taking. The path of least resistance. I like to go camping where I can sit around a campfire and shoot the shit with my buddies for a few hours and then wake up and grab breakfast and coffee that I don’t have to cook over a fire I had to re-ignite the morning after.
One day I’ll teach my future kids how to camp legitimately, I am sure. And one day they will borrow my truck to pack up a ton of shit they don’t actually need for a one-night booze fest in the woods just to become so hungover they have to pull over and puke the next morning. Just like me. .