Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Greatish Outdoors

There will be no update this weekend as we are going out to Pigeon Lake with our church. I have referred to this as camping in the past, but since we are staying in a cabin, I don't think we qualify. For that matter, I have to bite my tongue pretty hard when people talk about 'camping' in the 25 foot holiday trailer with stove, fridge, washroom and satellite television. There are undoubtedly those who look down on me since I don't pack my own water into the backcountry on foot, or kill my own food, but that's all right. Roughing it is obviously pretty subjective, but to me, if you are sleeping in a tent, it's still camping, even if you are just in your backyard.

A work colleague said yesterday that his idea of camping is a motel that only has basic cable, and I have had many of my friends express a similar sentiment. I love camping though; in addition to being a fabulous way to maximize your family vacation dollars and experience the unsanitized outdoors in all its filthy glory, it can also be incredibly liberating.

I mean, if I wander into my neighbourhood grocery store wearing my dirty sweats, mud-caked hiking boots, a floppy boonie hat with a sweat stain circumnavigating the brim covering my sun-pinked face and a hoodie smelling of wood smoke with a three-day-old egg stain on it, I can expect to be dealt with at arm's length by most of the people I encounter. If I bring the same ensemble to a government office in, say, Jasper, I get a big smile or a look of jealousy. While camping, you are not only allowed but in many ways encouraged to look like the Unabomber; at least, if you are doing it right.

The inherent freedom in camping transcends mere sloppiness, and the way things get re-prioritized in the bush, like, "if I turn all my undergarments inside out to facilitate re-wearing, I can put off laundry for another four days; six if we go swimming," are a great way to stop taking ourselves as seriously as we tend to do back in 'the world'.

Still, this is Alberta, and we learned long ago that the May long weekend, while in many ways the starting gun for summer fun, is a harsh and unpredictable mistress when it comes to outdoor appreciation. It was actually snowing a bit this morning as I came to work, adn our new tomato plant comes in every night like Fred Flintstone's cat. Our first year at Pigeon Lake, we brought our tent, and withstood the rain and a pinch of snow without complaint, but when the heavy winds had the tent collapsing so the roof was within 8 inches of the floor and then popping outwards in rapid succession, we moved into the lodge. It was after we did this that Audrey confessed that she had been a little un-nerved seeing a coyote walk between our tent and the cabin whose washrooms we were using a mere 20 feet away.

But we will be in sleeping bags at night, and there is a wiener roast planned for Saturday, and a bird-watching hike, and it gets dark enough you can really see the stars (cloud cover notwithstanding), and I am bringing a night-vision monocular so maybe I can see a coyote, so in a lot of important ways, it really is like camping.

Except we are bringing a coffee maker and rice cooker.

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