My first camping trip

I’m 53 years old, and I just went camping for the very first time.

It’s not that I didn’t have other chances; you can’t live on this planet for 53 years without being presented with the opportunity to camp. It’s that I was dead-set against it.

Sleeping on the ground holds no charms for me. I don’t want dinner to be whatever I can hold over a campfire, skewered on a stick. And I don’t care much for insects. All of which added up to 53 years’ worth of a no-camping policy.

I was fully convinced that camping wasn’t for me. At the same time, though, I am all in on the tiny house movement. Every time one of my friends posts one of those irresistible itty bitty homes on Facebook, I have to click through. I look at all the interior pictures. I show it to Kevin. “We could live in that, couldn’t we, honey?”

Kevin, as those of you who come here often will know, is nobody’s fool. And he likes to camp. Tents, bugs, and meals on sticks are OK with him, as long as he has an interesting destination and comfortable shoes. And, while he knew he probably wasn’t going to win me over on that kind of camping, there was another kind he thought he could work with.

And so he started showing me pictures of truck campers. Not that he called them “truck campers,” of course. He called them “tiny houses.” Portable tiny houses. Itty bitty spaces with everything you need. Just slide it on to your truck bed and go.

That is how we ended up with Yertle.

Yertle is our truck camper – named, for obvious reasons, after the Dr. Seuss turtle. I’m not yet sure whether the name will stick, so we’re not going to order the decal, but that’s what I think of it as. It’s about as small as truck campers get, and as inexpensive – we bought it from a lovely family who outgrew it when their two kids could no longer share the single bed that the dinette transforms into.

It consists of a platform bed (in the part of the camper that goes over the truck cab), the aforementioned dinette, and just enough in the way of appliances to get by. A 3-burner propane stove, a fridge about half the size of the one in your dorm room, a tiny sink with a faucet you have to pump, and a really good heater. For a bathroom, there’s just a little chemical toilet. (This has prompted a kind of low-level obsession with composting toilets, a subject for another day.)

We have big plans for Yertle, but we figured it was smart to try a shakedown cruise, close to home, to see how we liked truck camping. We made a one-night reservation at Nickerson State Park, about 30 miles up the Cape from us.

I was very surprised. My life-long no-camping policy had meant that I had, literally, zero exposure to campgrounds. When you said the word “camping,” all I saw was tents; when you said “campgrounds,” I pictured clearings in the woods. I had no idea that camping had infrastructure. Flat, cleared spots with numbers, picnic tables, and firepits, sometimes with electrical and water hook-up. There are schedules.  And rules. And access to actual, genuine bathrooms. Showers, even! Park your tiny house on your numbered space, and the world’s your oyster! Camping isn’t so bad after all.

And so I posted a picture of it on Facebook, and my friends were quick to inform me that I wasn’t camping at all. Genuine camping involves, as I’d always suspected, tents and discomfort. The kind of camping that involves tiny houses and electrical hook-up is called “glamping,” a portmanteau word whose constituent parts are “glamour” and “camping.”

Before I plead guilty, allow me to point out that, if you’re looking for a word that evokes luxury and soft living, “glamping” isn’t it. It sounds more like a cross between “glamour” and “eclampisa,” which is very hard to imagine, but unpleasant nevertheless. So, those of you tent campers who are looking to sneer at people who prefer a roof over their heads – and you know who you are – I suggest you go back to the drawing board on that one.

And now I will plead guilty. I prefer a roof over my head. An actual mattress to sleep on. A way to make coffee that doesn’t involve firewood. Heat. All of which Yertle provided.

Check-in time (who knew?) was 1:00, and we arrived a bit early. It took us all of fifteen minutes to set up; Kevin leveled the camper and I unpacked the dishes and groceries. We spent the afternoon hiking around the park, and returned with enough daylight left to make dinner. We brought a little kettle grill, and Kevin smoked a chicken. I parboiled a couple of sweet potatoes and seasoned some asparagus before we left, and we threw those on the grill when the chicken came off. It was about as perfect a camp dinner as I can imagine.

Unless you count the fact that Kevin beat me at gin rummy, nothing went wrong on our shakedown cruise. This has emboldened us, and we’re scheduling a trip up the coast to Acadia National Park, in Maine, some time this summer. If that goes well, who knows? We could show up at your house any day.

A husband who makes breakfast and doesn’t object when you post picture of him in his underwear!

10 people are having a conversation about “My first camping trip

  1. There is not much ‘glamourous’ about a camper in your truck – I can speak with authority, having spent the first 18 years of my life spending every wknd & summer in just such a set-up.
    It was family togetherness at its’ finest, & sometimes at its’ worst – especially with a family of 5 & a dog or 2 thrown in to boot. My parents slept across the dinette & all 3 of us kids slept in the space over the trucks’ cab (end to end in later years).
    I wouldn’t trade my childhood in camper for someone else’s exotic hotel vacations; but glamourous? O hella no.

  2. Welcome to the club!! Ali P and I live in an RV in our backyard now. There’s no going back now Tamar.

  3. Zora Margolis says:

    Kevin has nice legs! If you hadn’t said that was underwear, I would never have known. Love the color. Now I’m going to have to go shopping for some just like that for Jonathan.

    If you take the coastal route (US 1) to or from Acadia, you will go right by us–we are on the Sheepscot River a couple of miles down the Boothbay peninsula. If you aren’t in a huge hurry, consider stopping by for a beer, a drink, a good meal, a soak in the hot tub. Plenty of room to park your rig. I’m serious. If it is possible with their schedules, I’ll invite some Maine-based food journalists you may know, who are friends. Email me, or PM me on Facebook.

    Zora Margolis

  4. Tracy Anderson says:

    We couldn’t agree more about the term “glamping”! Like the concept, but need a new word for us to be able to do it without cringing.

  5. I’m in the group that believes true camping involves tents, but I haven’t slept on the ground in years. To be specific, not since I was 23 and woke up one morning on the ground and decided I was too old for that. We bought an air mattress before our next trip. Also, the only thing we cook on sticks are marshmallows. 🙂

  6. So glad you finally tried! I grew up camping quite frequently, and in tents. When I was in my late teens my folks purchased a motorhome, big change. When the husband and myself started camping we purchased a tent camper. Great until you have a husband, six year old, and 80lb boxer, and a 3 month old. And its 20 degrees in the high Eastern Sierras. And your 3 month old is still nursing. I drew the line. We have a 5th wheel now. There is good cooking that comes from a campfire, its a process of finding a good system. My little ladies love a trout wrapped in foil, little lemon, fresh sage, and couple tablespoons of beer. Throw it over the fire. Serve with cous cous, and a good salad. Then the sticks come out for marshmallows. Hope you find many adventures. PS:“glamour” and “eclampsia”…. as a nurse, this made me chuckle.

  7. I have always loved to camp and get my best sleep in a bag in a tent. Must be the fresh air. So I was a little disappointed when I mentioned that now I get to go camping! shortly after my wedding and my new husband quietly informed me that he was “an indoor cat.” Many years later after figuring out that I shared one of my nights with his college drinking buddies instead of spending it romantically alone with him, and that finding out said buddies’ get together involved an overnight camping situation (“oh- so you’ll camp with them but you won’t camp with me?”) I finally forced him into taking me camping when one of said buddies and his wife were camping and invited us to come along. That was three years ago. Camping for us involves a very tall tent for a very tall husband and a Coleman instant bed, which is not so instant as it takes nearly a half a hour to fill, but is queen-sized and eighteen inches tall, so it’s relatively comfortable, by which I mean it beats sleeping on the ground. But a couple of days ago I mentioned going camping just the two of us and he said yeah, we could do that, so I consider this progress. I just have to make sure that it’s somewhere with an open space and good wind so he can go fly a kite.

  8. Nice write up. I was a bit like you and had the same idea of camping. My first real camping experience was in Australia some years back. We went ‘backpacking’ around OZ for a year and our very first campsite sort of spoiled us. It was in Cairns and it had it all.

    Yes it was full of tents and ‘Yertle’s” (that name is definitely going to stick) but it also had a lot of other amenities you wouldn’t find on a normal campsite.

    For instance we pitched our tent on a well laid out padded slab area that even had its own power points. There was a small en-suite toilet for each of these ‘fancy’ camping sites and a full campers kitchen complete with stoves and bbq’s.

    Yes you could setup camp in the trees and other surrounding ares of the site but for my first foray into camping this was bliss.

    Years later and I haven’t looked back…

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