for her birthday -- her 40th birthday -- mo wanted to go camping in the mountains. i mentioned this to a friend last week, who said, "camping? really? huh. you and mo don't strike me as camping people." i bristled. "we are totally camping people."
and so we set out to prove ourselves.
i learned to camp as a kid, in one of those big ole canvas tents, the kind that was completely moldy by the second trip. we moved up to a pop-top van, in which my parents, my sister and i "stamped around alberta" in the province's 75th anniversary year, and then drove across canada -- several times. when we went to europe, we didn't stay in hotels: we rented a vanagon and put ourselves up wherever the fancy took us. you don't get any more "camping people" than that.
my ex jennifer called the kind of camping i was used to "car camping," as distinct from "backpacking," where, you know, a campstove is a luxury. i played it cool, mostly because i didn't want to ruin the relationship by admitting that only when hell froze over would i schlep a therm-a-rest on my back for the privilege of shitting in the woods and hoisting freeze-dried food up onto a bear pole. happily for heather, jennifer's knees weren't up to backpacking by the time we met, so we made do with whatever you could fit in the back of a nissan acura. too bad!
camping with mo has been perfect, and only got better when she insisted, five years ago, that we buy a little tent trailer. "but i like camping in a tent," i lied. "and think of the ecological footprint." (okay, maybe we didn't talk exactly that way in 2003, but my dignity was at stake so i'm sure i said something appropriately guilt-inducing.) i balked even more when the salesman called it an "entry-level RV," but mo persevered -- apparently her dignity was at stake too, something about not sleeping on the ground by the time she was 40 -- and so we bought The L'il House.
it's really been perfect for us. with all the sides opened up, it's like sitting in a gazebo: cool breezes, no mosquitos. there's space for two big personalities, nieces and mothers-in-law. we can plug in our computers at a power site and we're safe (safer, anyway) from bears. most important of all, acquiescing to the tent trailer has preserved both my wild-child-of-nature identity and my moral high ground, while making a significant concession to the relationship.
and isn't that what camping's all about, when you get right down to it? is there anything better than turning up your nose at the obscene RV, the bus pulling the land rover? yup: kicking back in that very RV, ice clinking in a cocktail glass while you catch up on whatever's coming through the satellite dish. everybody's happy in a campground: the people who drive to the woodpile and the people clucking at them disapprovingly, the women elbowing for mirror space at one of the two sinks in the bathroom and the woman lolling in her spa-like damon tuscany, the good ole boys with all the tarps and the ascetic hikers sipping herbal tea while they shiver under the stars.
as for us, this weekend: we had a great time. the weather was awful, gloomy and pissing rain most of the time, and certainly every time i had to trek to the other "little house." it was so cold and damp that by the second night i had developed a tubercular hack. being out of practice (i tell you, having friends with a condo in canmore nearly put paid to our camping selves), we didn't bring enough food, and the hike we chose to do involved an unrelieved 7% grade and all the mosquitos in tarnation. sure, it ended at the miette hot springs -- but we had to share it with a hundred screaming teenage girls.
what with all that roughing it, we felt utterly justified, on our way back to the l'il site in wabasso, in stopping at the tekarra lodge dining room, shorts and all, where we enjoyed a deconstructed avocado-and-lobster roll (heather), baby spinach with candied walnuts tossed in a citrus vinaigrette (mo), macadamia-crusted arctic char with a ginger remoulade (heather), and pan-fried chicken with banana sauce and organic vegetables (mo).
now, that's camping.