I was hooked from the very first time.

October, 1962. As Monster Mash hit the charts, we prepared for sleep away camp.

Girl Scouts.Monster_Mash_cover

We rolled corrugated cardboard strips into empty tuna fish cans, covered them in melted paraffin and created a “fuel” for our homemade coffee can stove.

We bought a mess kit and flashlight from the Army Navy Store. Our World War II veteran fathers proudly shared expertise in how to pack and roll a proper sleeping bag.

As I pass the small smokehouses behind a local Farmer’s Market, I always smile and think of those camp bonfires, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over wood gathered in  daylight.

The makeshift coffee can stoves were reserved for breakfast. I should have been more cautious. I anchored mine on a piece of ground that was not quite level; a discovery that came after I cracked my egg and watched it slide off, cooking on the side of the can. I ate it anyway. I worked hard for it. It was the best egg ever.

The cots were primitive. There was no indoor plumbing. We were often cold, a little uncomfortable, there wasn’t much sleeping. It was wonderful.

I would go on to camp for many years. As college students, we gathered in a pine forest behind Beaver Stadium. We took blankets and supplies from our dorm. There were bonfires, beer, jokes, laughter. Far less organized, but so memorable.

As an adult, we camped under the stars in the Utah desert. Away from the lights of civilization, those were some amazing displays in the night sky.

We progressed to a small camper over a pickup truck, used in the woods of northern Michigan. Sometimes with off-road motorcycles, often with snowmobiles.

When the kids arrived, it all seemed like so much work. We started staying in hotels.

It was never quite the same.


** Inspired by Donna’s “Monster Mash Meet and Greet.”

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58 Responses to Camping

  1. Jim says:

    yeh, my idea of camping nowadays requires a Marriott Grand

  2. You’ve conveyed some wonderful, sensory memories. I grew up holidaying in a traveling caravan, which I loved, but I’ve never been into tenting. My husband takes the kids camping in the tent so they do get to experience it. I don’t think my trick pelvis would cope with the sleeping arrangements even if I wanted to camp. My husband has very fond memories of camping out in National Parks. I think if I could do “glamping” I might do it to have that experience.

  3. Oh, this brought back such great memories, Van. What great adventures. Like you, little by little the rougher camping gradually morphed into hotel rooms. I need to get me a tent! 🙂

  4. roweeee says:

    Both my kids do Scouts and my son has Jamboree coming up so he’s camping 3 weekends out of 4 at the moment. He comes back glowing and a bit sunburnt but defintiely better for it. We are going to Tasmania in January and will be doing some camping there…with stretcher beds. I am sort of looking forward to it. That said, I hope there’s a toilet block.

  5. Just Plain Ol' Vic says:

    Ah this post brought back good memories for me. I used to spend many-a-winter in the Cadillac and Baldwin area in N. Michigan snowmobiling. I miss it quite a bit. That and Frankenmuth’s famous chicken dinners….mmm yummy!!

  6. Nurse Kelly says:

    Just beautiful. Made me think of my “Brownie” days when I too, went camping! Did a lot more of it when I was much younger… my husband likes his creature comforts, so getting him to camp is a challenge! But I agree with you, that it can be a lot of fun!

  7. Camping was always so much fun, waking up soaked and freezing cold, but it never bothered us for long. It was an adventure, and a break from the hum drum! 🙂

  8. D. Parker says:

    I have such fond memories of camping and reading your post brought them back, thank you. And thanks for mentioning my post, glad it inspired you. 🙂

  9. We camped a fair bit as kids and I loved it. But, today, you couldn’t pay me enough to go camping. I’ve been too citified I guess.

  10. I love this post! Those old memories are priceless! We camped all the time as kids and it holds such memories, loved reading this!

  11. George says:

    What a nice memory. I can tell by the way that you conveyed it that it still remains so special, and so very close.

  12. Ohh! We joined the party.

  13. AmyRose🌹 says:

    I used to LOVE LOVE LOVE tent camping, Van. When hubby and I were first married, we went camping in a tent in the Black Hills of Pennsylvania. We are talking primitive land where mountain people live. No electricity, and the bathrooms a LONG walk from our campsite so we used Mother Nature as our bathroom. Yes the ground was uncomfortable but the sights and smells and the food that never tasted better …. your post brought such rich memories back. Thank you, Van. Now if I slept on the ground, I probably wouldn’t be able to move the next morning. LOL ❤

    • Ha…same here, Amy. I slept on an air mattress recently while on a visit, getting up off of the floor was the biggest challenge !! ☺ Pennsylvania does have a lot of wilderness. Penn’s Woods is the literal translation. Love it. ☺

  14. lbeth1950 says:

    Made me remember something I need to post about camping. I wished I could be a girl scout when I was a kid. Dis you manage to burn yourself on that stove?

  15. mandy says:

    This sure brings up memories, Van. I try to imagine sleeping on the hard, rocky ground and jumping up in the morning for a day of adventures in the wild–no wonder my body hurts so much today! I, too, remember the progression to small camper and after I married a trailer, the RV and now strictly motels! I still sort of envy the adults who still love all that roughing it stuff 😀

  16. nancyruth says:

    What a wonderful essay. I too started with girl scout camping and family camping in a tent with a broken door, sleeping in bedrolls. Brought up my kids to camp and now my husband and I have graduated to a camper trailer. Hotels are nice but there’s nothing like camping. And the kids, though grown, still are campers.

  17. markbialczak says:

    You’re a trouper, Van. You make camping sound so … fun and romantic. I never took to it. I had to camp out at Woodstock II in 1994, in Saugerties, in a pup tent in what turned into a field of mud. I was working it for the big daily, full days of music and writing and nights of wet tossing and fruitless attemps for a few winks. For Woodstock III at nearby Rome Air Force Base, the daily rented a Winnebago, and the music critic ranked high enough to rank a bunk inside. I was happier.

    • I had to pass on the original Woodstock, was busy earning college $$ at the time. It was fun to watch the mud from afar !! I have family in the RV business, they have come a long way ! I couldn’t live in one, but it seems a fun way to travel and meet some really cool folks. ☺☺

      • markbialczak says:

        We had at least 10 staffers in the little Winnie, and more in their own tents around it, Van. We blitzed that third Woodstock with coverage because Rome is about 40 miles down the NY State Thruway from Syracuse. 🙂 The Little Winnie was quite comfortable, a respite from the madness outside, I thought.

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