May 26, 2009

Long weekend

I received a last minute invitation to go camping with some friends over Memorial Day weekend. I had a bike ride on Saturday I needed to do, so I headed up Saturday evening to join the group. They had fortunately picked a site that wasn't too far from home, so even though I was abbreviating the weekend, I would still get a good day and a half out in the woods.

I really enjoy camping. My parents had me out in the woods when I was an infant, and I have tried my best to get out there ever since. For most of the past 20 years, I have been on a camping trip with friends and co-workers at least once each summer. The past few years though, the only camping I have done was when I was on an extended bike ride. A camping trip with my friends was long overdue.

I of course love being out in the woods, but I also appreciate the 'slowness' of camping. I like that it takes 20-30 minutes to get coffee in the morning. Rather than flipping on the coffee maker, camping coffee means pumping up the 50 year old, white gas Coleman stove to the boil water. We have graduated to a coffee press instead of a percolator these days, so the coffee is a little better but it isn't any quicker.

I like that camping is the time I do all the cooking and my wife gets to relax. I enjoy taking the time to make a full breakfast that I so rarely do at home. I love cooking over an open fire, and the food always seems to taste a little better for it. I enjoy staying up late, standing around the fire talking about big and little things in our lives. As the words spill out I tend to the fire, repositioning the logs and stirring the embers to keep things going.

You're so disconnected from the chaos of modern life. No phones, no internet, no constant beeps when you get an e-mail and the feeling that you have to attend to everything right away. Even a walk to the bathroom means walking down a lush path.

Camping is a little different these days. We aren't as far off the beaten path anymore, so there are restrooms, fire pits and camping fees. We're no longer bathing in the river, though I don't let a trip go by without wading into the icy spring runoff.

These days there are kids running around and riding their bikes. It was obviously the same for my parents, and now I'm seeing it from the other side (though not as a parent). A couple of us aren't even staying in tents anymore. One couple had a trailer this weekend, and I suppose it makes all the difference when camping with little ones. We don't stay up as late as we used to, though a couple of us were up til 2:45am on Sunday. Those mornings are a little harder these days, especially when the young ones don't let you sleep in like you wish you could.

This time around was also the first time I was in the middle of training. I ended up doing a 12 mile run on Sunday, which from the outside seemed a little strange to do while camping, but it is just what I do with my weekends now. I ran out of the campground and down to another park four miles down the road. It was a warm day, and I was happy to see another oasis with a water fountain. I wish I could have ended my run here and just walked into the lake when I was finished.

It was great getting away and catching up. I normally spend my camping afternoons reading in the sun, but I read all of a page and a half of my book. This weekend was about drinking in the time with friends (as well as drinking with my friends). I wish we could have stayed and enjoyed it longer, especially considering what the trip home was going to be like.

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