I just finished a book where the characters went camping in the mountains, and it made me itch to go camping again. The fact that the campers in the novel ended up dead or maimed didn’t affect that yearning, and maybe even made it stronger for some perverse reason — perhaps for the feeling of putting in a total effort, pitting oneself against nature. Chances of my ending up with a wilderness guide who is also a serial killer like the characters in the book aren’t that great especially since I never used a guide on any of my treks, and probably never would.
The book I am reading now takes place not far from the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which is intensifying the camping itch. I so enjoyed that area that it was one of the few places where I extended my stay. Not only did it feel as if I were living in a southwestern botanical garden, but I met some interesting people. One woman, who was the age I am now, more or less stayed there all winter, even though there is a limit to how long you can stay at one time. The people running the place let her stay because the place wasn’t packed, and because of her financial situation, I think. She camped out for long periods of time because she was alone and her teacher’s pension didn’t afford her enough money to live otherwise. I often thought I would do what she did, and in fact I’d planned on it, figuring I would go north in the summer and south in the winter, but fate intervened and I ended up with a permanent place to stay.
Despite the itch, I will probably never go camping again, though “never” is a long time. For now, I’m still enamored of my house, and don’t particularly want to spend a night away (I’d worry more about the house than my own safety, which seems a recipe for disaster). But as time goes on, and the feeling of newness wanes while the feeling that the house will still be safe waxes, I might head for the hills.
Although I stopped at many campgrounds on the cross-country trip I took several years ago, I didn’t visit any of the most prominent national parks, such as Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. And while I took several trips back to Colorado when I was away, I didn’t camp out here either. So there are a lot of unlived adventures if I ever want to answer the itch.
Apparently, despite my saying “never” to camping, I haven’t totally given up the idea since I’ve kept all my camping gear — all the big and heavy stuff for campground camping and all the super lightweight stuff for backpacking.
It’s funny, though, how different things are when you are leading an intermittent nomadic life (periods of staying in one place punctuated by periods of being on the move). I was able to take chances back then because I was still under the influence of grief and felt I had nothing to lose, so any worry about driving a car that’s a half century old into remote areas was shoved to the back of my mind. Now that particular worry doesn’t want to be shoved. And rightly so, perhaps.
But who knows. I might be considered elderly (statistically speaking), but I’m still a young elderly and haven’t yet reached my dotage, so many things are still possible. Perhaps even camping.
Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.