Pioneer Days. . . and Camping

Remember the simple days? Before phones, electricity, running water. . .Those days, like in Laura Ingalls Wilder, when people built their own houses, and lived on the land. You don’t? Well, I do. Okay, maybe not those ones specifically, since I may have been born after electricity and running water was invented, but I can still state with experience that I remember those days, and they are not as idyllic as they are made out to be.

I was so excited when, at eleven years old, I found out we were going to move to the middle of a forest and build our own house. As a girl born with an old soul, I was convinced God was giving me a dream come true – a chance to live in the “olden days”. What I didn’t account for was reality infused into those daydreams. Let’s skip the minor adventures in between and go straight to the woods. Well, in case no one realized it, you have to live somewhere while you build a house. So we did. We lived. . . in tents. On the land. Next to the house we (and by we, I legit mean my family – we didn’t hire anyone) were building.

We had four tents. Our living quarters, which slept all. . .I think there were eight of us at the time. . . so all eight of us; A tool tent, which housed the building materials, tools, and a small porta-potty in case it was too dark to go into the woods to do our business (emptying that was NOT a fun chore); A clothing/food tent which contained all our belongings and. . . surprise! our food; and a cooking tent, which was a screen tent in which we did a majority of the cooking on Coleman stoves powered by propane (Oooo, modern convenience!). Below is a picture of part of our campsite, in case you were curious.

Tent City

Now, this isn’t actually a post about that part of my life. But I wanted to give you some background for the real post. Because, after six to seven weeks of living in those tents, being constantly filthy, surrounded by spiders and bears, drawing water from wells and creeks, and in general living the life of a pioneer, I came to an important conclusion. I hated camping.

So, I would like you to realize it was monumental when, last week, for the first time in 20 years (two decades, people!), I agreed to go camping with my husband. And, by camping, I mean he said we could go to a beach where there were wild horses, and pitch a tent on the sand and sit by the ocean for a couple of days. Who wouldn’t want to do that? So, for the sake of the ocean and the sand, I was willing to once again set foot inside a tent.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t actually end up setting foot inside a tent. I lasted approximately four hours.

So, Daniel and I were a little discouraged to see that it was going to be coldish. As in, you know, in the 60s, with lows at night in the 40s or so. But, we reasoned, reasonably, one might say, that with the sun and jackets, it would still be fun – we would just sit around a fire and stroll by the ocean, and probably not attempt to go swimming.

I am here to inform you that we failed to account for wind chill.

We arrived at the campsite, stepped outside the car, and immediately dove for jackets. I was also in felt-lined tights, boots, and a sweater—besides the jacket. I was already looking around skeptically, but Daniel suggested we go look at the ocean, and then we could think about whether we wanted to chill on the beach – in our jackets – or begin setting up camp. Well, once we got over those dunes only a few feet away and stood only a yard or so away from the ocean, Aeolus, the god of the wind, decided to make his presence known. I’m not sure which of his four children he sent after us, but based on the piercing cold, I’m guessing it was Boreas.

Ever heard of wind-swept hair? I’m telling you now, the romance novels are deceptive – there is NOTHING romantic about wind-swept hair, and you are too busy trying to stay on your feet to romantically contemplate the dramatic implications of standing on a cold beach looking out at a cold ocean.

The sand itself looked like it was trying to emulate fog by forming its own cloudy substance as it swept down the length of the beach.

After a few minutes of this, we trudged – literally trudged – back to the car. As in, I had to concentrate to keep one foot in front of the other – and had to rest after the three to five-minute walk. But had we learned our lesson? No. No, we are stubborn humans and we were there to enjoy the ocean, so we were going to enjoy it no matter what Aeolus thought.

Besides, Daniel assured me, it couldn’t get much worse and the wind was bound to lighten up soon. Lies. All Lies.

We proceeded to get out chairs and books and drag them back to the beach, where Daniel had to literally hold my chair in place so I could sit down before it blew away. We settled in, and stared with determination at the ocean. I occasionally broke my gaze to read on my phone, since I didn’t actually trust the wind to not tear pages out of a real book. See below for an attempt at a pleasant picture and don’t forget to look at the brush behind us as the wind attempts tear it from its roots.

The only picture on the beach we managed to capture of us. Note the brush behind us bent in half. And my romantic windswept hair.

I don’t know how long we lasted in this position, but I don’t think it was long. Daniel apparently decided the only way to survive the onslaught was comatose because he actually went to sleep in his chair. Apparently Boreas didn’t like that because the wind became sharper and more insistent and eventually, as my hands became numb, I informed Daniel in no uncertain terms that I was cold. Whereupon he somehow managed to make it back to the car and brought back two blankets and hand warmers. He wrapped both blankets around me and gave me the hand warmers, which was very sweet and allowed me to last . . . mmm, maybe ten more minutes?

At which point, we both gave up, fought against all odds, made it back to the car, and sat inside with the heater on full blast for half an hour before we thawed out.

But had we had enough at this point? No. We were not that wise. You know that saying, you get wiser with age? I think it is a lie, because I’m pretty sure when we were younger we would have given up at this point. But instead, we decided, as we sat inside the car and watched other campers attempting to put up tents, that we would keep going.

Daniel did decide he would wait a little to put up the tent because one person, in particular, had three adults working on putting up their tent and it took them about 45 minutes to accomplish it against the wind—actually, I’m not certain they ever fully succeeded. Another family gave up at some point, left all their stuff in their campsite, drove off, and we didn’t see them again.

So, pretending to have some wisdom, we decided we would start a fire, make dinner, and then decide whether we wanted to attempt a tent or drive the three and a half hours back home.

Allow me to shorten this for you by providing bullet points of what happened over the next two hours:

  • We could not keep a heater going because the wind kept blowing out the pilot light.
  • My attempt to wrap potatoes in tinfoil could have been its own comedy routine as the wind continually blew the tinfoil into my face. Also, the olive oil. Yes. When I attempted to pour oil over the potatoes, that also blew onto me. And also the salt.
  • Even Daniel’s tin cups attempted to elope with the wind.
  • We burned through two bags of wood and ¾ bag of charcoal in 45 minutes.
  • Our attempt to warm ourselves with coffee failed epically – because we couldn’t get the water to boil.
  • The cheese for the burgers Daniel was cooking over the fire? Literally blew off of the burgers. Three times. Half ended up in the fire, just to make sure we couldn’t rescue them.
  • Despite being buried in the burning coals, the chopped and seasoned potatoes were still cold and crunchy 45 minutes later.
  • Now on the upside, the burgers, which were, as mentioned, being cooked over the fire, actually did cook! However, we failed to fully account for the sand being blown up by the insane wind. . . which meant with every bite we took, we also were given the nutritional gift of crunchy sand.
  • All this meant that, despite bringing a full meal, the only thing remotely edible at the end of all this was the lukewarm canned beans and a bag of chips we had wisely left in the car. You will understand just how desperate we were when I tell you that Daniel ate the burgers anyway—sand and all.
  • And, just to add salt to the wound, despite being right next to the ocean, we could not so much as hear the waves over the wind.

You may bemoan the plight of our cheese with us in the picture below.

This is Daniel attempting to save cheese that is flying off of the burgers. Note the one pressed up against the side of the grill as if clinging for its life.
One or two slices may have succeeded in their suicide attempts. Or do we call it murder, since the wind was responsible?

Suffice to say, by 8:00 PM, we were packed up, in the car, with the heat again on full blast, and headed for blessed home, where we settled in on the couch, under blankets, with a TV show, fast food, and a bottle of prosecco.

I told Daniel that it was my fault for attempting camping, even next to the ocean, and there was clearly a reason I had been avoiding it for two decades. He didn’t argue, but he did hint at trying again next summer.

I have not agreed to this.

At least I got to see a horse? There have got to be easier ways to do that.

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