Dead Horse Ranch State Park; Photo Credit: Doree Weller
I went tent camping for my very first time this weekend. My husband and I drove up to Cottonwood for the weekend. Except for one trip with Girl Scouts, when we went cabin camping, I’ve never officially been camping. I used to camp out in a van with my grandparents when they were staying over to sell at a flea market… but this definitely wasn’t the same thing.
We bought a tent a few years ago because we wanted to go camping, except that we never went. So when I mentioned again that I wanted to go camping, and my husband finally agreed, I took Saturday off and we jumped in. I knew it was going to be about 45 at night, but that’s not a big deal, right?
We got up to Cottonwood, and the weather was still warm. My dog and I went for a short hike while the husband got the fire going and his camera set up. When we got back, we were starving, so I threw the foil packs on the fire that I’d so lovingly prepared. Green beans, corn, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes with a pat of butter. Some time later, I took the blacked foil off the fire, opened it up, and noticed that an awful lot of my veggies were burned. But that’s okay, right?
Yeah, no. Incidentally, I learned that my dog likes blackened green beans. My husband laughed and said the bits that weren’t black tasted great, and that next time, we just wouldn’t leave it on the fire so long. We had a lovely dinner of s’mores and grilled pineapple. Cooking things in the fire was more fun anyway.
As dark encroached, the temperature started dropping a little bit. The husband set up his camera to do star trails. We ate and drank and looked at the stars. Because the meteor shower this weekend was supposed to peak around 4 a.m., we set the alarm to get up at that time. Then we crawled in the tent. And didn’t sleep.
It. Was. Cold. Really cold. We had sleeping bags rated to 40 degrees and a big down comforter. My dog, a short haired German Shepherd mix, shivered in the corner of the tent. I’d brought her dog pillow, but she had no idea why I kept throwing a flannel sheet over her, so she kept moving out from underneath it.
When you’re not sleeping, shivering in your tent, you tend to lose track of time. At one point, I saw the irony in my situation. You see, I’m reading a great book called Wild by Cheryl Strayed. She set out to hike a large portion of the Pacific Crest Trail with very little preparation or knowledge about what she was doing. Early on in the book, she talks about how when she packed her hiking bag for the first time, the day she was set to leave, she couldn’t even lift the bag. I thought, “Who does something like that without properly preparing for it?”
So you can see why I may have had a chuckle about irony in the middle of the night as I froze my you-know-what off. At one point, my husband started chuckling. ”You know, we pay a mortgage so we can have a house and live inside. And here we are.”
I slept a little. I’m not sure how much, but when the alarm went off at 4, we went out. It was still frigid, but the sky was incredible and clear. I thought we had a good view of the sky where I live, but I saw so many more stars out in Dead Horse Ranch state Park. I understand now how the ancients named the constellations. With the full view of the sky, I saw more of Orion than just his belt, and the Big Dipper practically jumped out at me. We watched the sky and saw a few meteors, though it was too cloudy in the direction we were supposed to watch to see more than a few. Plus, it was cold. Did I mention that? We crawled back into our tent to sleep a few more hours.
I decided to just get up at 7 a.m. and build a campfire. My breakfast of canned potatoes and eggs tasted wonderful. Of course, it took about an hour for my coffee to percolate. I don’t think it’s supposed to take that long, but it just. wouldn’t. boil. We forgot sugar, so we improvised. Marshmallows are an acceptable coffee sweetener. The coffee tasted great, so I guess that’s all that matters.
Believe it or not, we’re excited to go camping again, and yes, we’re planning to go again this winter. It’s just, before we go… we’re buying long underwear.