Camping under the stars at my place in the Northeast Georgia Mountains used to be such great fun thirty years ago, but it became a major bitch. My physical recovery generally takes a full day after returning home from a camping trip. I suppose what made camping so much fun years ago, besides my being younger, was that camping offered my buddies and me the chance to get away from our parents. We could drink inordinate quantities of beer and wine irresponsibly without having to listen to our parents’ boring lectures, which did nothing but make our parents feel like they were doing their respective jobs.
Camping requires packing digging and cutting implements, ice-filled coolers, necessary food and drink, cooking and eating ware, a firearm for protection, lanterns and flashlights, sleeping bags and pillows, toilet paper, books and magazines that’ll never be read on the trip . . . The list continues. Over the years, the list grew until packing became an arduous four-hour chore; and I always forgot something like the condiments, the wine glasses, the corkscrew, the coffee, or the drinking water—but never the beer or the Chianti.
When I forgot the corkscrew for the Chianti a few years ago, I had to dig the cork out the bottle with a flathead screwdriver at the campsite. Which is okay, if you like the taste of Chianti mixed with cork shavings. It tastes kind of like a dirt road.
Wine tastes best if it’s drunk from a glass container, and that doesn’t mean right out of the bottle as derelicts drink that MD 20/20 poison. (That sweet, god-awful high-school drinking fare should be outlawed.) Coffee tastes best out of a warmed ceramic mug. And beer tastes best out of the bottle, metal cans, paper cups, plastic cups, ceramic mugs, and even directly from a street gutter downstream of a wild keg party.
The point is that too much dog gone stuff has to be packed for an enjoyable camping experience. My pickup truck fully loaded with camping stuff and my dogs looks something like Jed Clampett’s 1930ish truck in “The Beverly Hillbillies” TV series, one of the last genuinely funny network series produced.
I should have learned a lesson about the benefits of travelling light when I went to Scotland in 2008. If I hadn’t packed so much stuff, I wouldn’t have lost half of it en route from Atlanta to Edinburgh. My stuff never left the layover airport in New Jersey.
Camping became an energy-expending packing drill just to enjoy a few hours by a campfire sipping (or more precisely, guzzling) after-dinner drinks with my friends. Additionally, the offloading had to be done after returning home. Camping was such a hassle that I’d actually pray for an inclement weather forecast to use as an excuse for postponing a planned camping trip.
It doesn’t make sense to spend energy and hours packing myriad things to leave a comfortable home and go camping where you subject yourself to the elements and other hardships. That’s what people did during The Great Depression when they lost their homes to a Mr. Potter.
After 33 years of camping, stumbling around in the dark and getting rained on half of the time, I tired of the hassles of camping: hassles like wearing wet, tight-fitting jeans over an itchy chigger-bitten waist on a hot, humid day. So I spent serious money from June 2014 to June 2015 and built a cottage with a water well and a septic system at my place. I’m through with roughing it and the heavy-duty camping in the morning, that is, the hole-digging scene after drinking hot coffee.
However, I didn’t want to leave behind all of the joy of camping. For example, everything grilled outdoors tastes better, except spaghetti; and my two pointers, Blaze and Dixie, love camping because they get steaks and the chance to gallivant around the countryside, smelling new dirt. Building the cottage in the woods was the solution: I can have the camping ambience with all the creature comforts, even well-cooked spaghetti, to enjoy with my friends and dogs.
Now that I have a cottage with all the amenities including a refrigerator fully stocked with beer in Northeast Georgia, I don’t have to go camping anymore. I just have to move. Somehow, every time I go to the cottage, I STILL manage to carry a truckload of stuff. How? I can’t get away from hauling stuff. But I did get away from the camping hassles.