Thursday, May 26, 2011

Life List Accomplished: Camp Outdoors

Outside Portland, ME - 2010

For most of my life, I'd camped in my living room.  And I don't mean "set up a pillow fort."  I mean "convinced my parents to bring down their three-person Coleman tent from the attic and set it up in our living room."  This was really my favorite type of camping.  By age 24, I had camped in various backyards (including once after Roger's prom), and once on our local lake when I was 12.  Generally, it wasn't my favorite activity, and I woke up freezing and damp and ready to go home.

So, what made me decide that I wanted to "camp outdoors"?  I really have no idea, except that I've always sort of wanted to cultivate the outdoorsy aspect of myself (have I mentioned how much I love L.L. Bean?  No?  Okay, that's an entry for another time.).  Still, that desire to cultivate myself was powerful, and I found myself planning a trip to Maine, to go camping.  I learned how to pitch a tent, and brushed up on my expert firemaking skills (one of two or three hard-skills I have), and packed up the car with the tent, sleeping bag, and bikes.  Was the trip awesome?  Yes.  Would I recommend going to Maine?  Um, yes, or anywhere else in New England, for that matter.  Did I love camping?  Um, no.  Not so much. 

It rained almost the entire time we camped, and since we were always at campsites and not just pulled off from a trail, I sort of felt like it didn't really count as "camping outdoors" to me.  My favorite camp site, in Bar Harbor, was platform camping, and that was awesome, but for the most part, I wasn't in love.  Plus, we'd decided to go camping in part to try out the great outdoors, but mostly to save money.  And when my credit card bill came back, it turns out we really hadn't save tons and tons of money.  Sure, this was mostly due to the fact that we ate lobster every day, but wasn't camping supposed to offset that?  We tried again in Vermont later that summer, and while it didn't rain, it also felt like "not quite outdoors" to me.

So, yep, I crossed it off, because who knows where my camping travels will take me, but they began this way.  Now, a question for all of you real outdoorsy people: How do you camp without a site?  It's not the finding a spot and pitching a tent and sleeping that I worry about - it's the police.  Are you allowed to just pull off the side of the trail in a national park, or the Appalachian Trail, or the Adirondacks and set up shop?  Is this legal?  Is it safe?  Are you more likely to be eaten by bears or Deliverance-style backwoods-crazies this way?  Regular camping tips are also appreciated, but mainly, I just want to avoid being arrested/eaten if I decide to spend a night in Fahnestock or Bear Mountain.


  1. I love crossing things off a list. And hey, maybe you will be a camping fanatic now?

  2. Camping is definitely one of those things that sounds a lot more fun than it is--for me, at least. I love hiking, and I love campfires, but when it comes to sleeping outside it is just not my cup of tea--totally agree on the "waking up damp and freezing and ready to go home" thing. :-)

  3. I love Maine. And list crossings.

    I don't LOVE camping. I like it, but I'm not insane about it.

  4. CAMPING IS GREAT. Jake Weller, oh bearded friend of mine, and I regularly throw down our bivvy sacks on the side of remote New Zealand mountainsides to bunk down for the night before continuing our week-long hike the next morning. Don't worry, baby, I'll take care of you.

  5. WAY late to the party, but hey! You were camping in my neck of the woods! (Bah-dum-DUM) I found your blog through the APW-er network and eagerly anticipate your forthcoming post on the magnificence that is LL Bean. :)