Wilderness, Revisited

When I was in my early twenties, I started camping by sleeping in the cold wet woods with a canvas tent and a sleeping bag that provided all the warmth of a baggie.

In my mid-twenties, my sister and I Eurailed around western Europe sleeping in rail cars and on thin towels spread on strange city park lawns. Once we rolled ourselves in a tarp like a burrito and slept in the rain.

Back in the States, we hiked the Appalachian trail and, overestimating ourselves and underestimating the low pewter clouds, slept in a shambled-together boy scout tent poorly assembled in a downpour. We traveled everywhere, sleeping in the car, taking turns in the driver's seat with legs propped against the steering wheel. We camped, if you could call it that, in the most primitive conditions: by unrolling blankets and sleeping on the ground, eating ramen noodles, filling plastic jugs with water primed from rusty pumps.

In other words, I've done my time.

I hope this explains why I can so freely enjoy the ultimate in silly American luxury: the pop-up trailer, or euphemistically, the "tent trailer". I assure you this item is much more trailer than tent, and as far removed from real camping as you can get and still be outside--yet I love this fricking thing! I am not kidding.

We took the Mansion (as we've been calling it) on its maiden voyage yesterday. We camped in a park with all the wilderness feel of a softball field. We set the trailer up in about the same amount of time as it takes to cram a tent into a stuff sack, and with fewer swear words. Fully assembled, this baby sports two beds, two couches, a sink, a fridge, a stove and a propane heater with thermostat. It's sweet. The kids immediately set about romping everywhere, spreading cars, stickers and small plastic animals with sharp features throughout the facility. It was obvious they accepted the Mansion as home away from home, but the real proof had to wait until nightfall. Miracle of miracles, they fell asleep. All night. Happily.

Baby, we are in. While I will always love backpacking, roughing it, sleeping under the cold moon, I just could not do that with my family. Too many nights I looked longingly at the hills, knowing there was no way in hell I was going to get anyone to sleep in a tent. At last we can hit the road as a family, get out of town, be outside, go camping. I don't care if it's trailering or RVing or whatever else--we were outside, together, around a fire, kids shrieking and running in circles in the evening light.

Like so much else in my recent years, I once scorned the pop-up. I now embrace the Mansion with open arms.

Hey, anyone wanna go camping?

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