Real Men Go Camping

by Diana Patrick

I do not like camping.  I like my house and my bed and my shower.  I guess that means I’m weird.  Men are supposed to like camping.  When I was eight, my father took me on our first and last camping trip together.  It was the worst weekend of my life.

It was freezing cold.  It rained.  We went for a hike, and I got lost.  My dad had  tried to teach me how to use a compass.  We walked for a mile while he talked about north, south, east and west.  I was cold and bored, so I didn’t listen very well.  He left me with the compass and told me to find my way back.  My dad says I wasn’t lost for very long.  It felt like a whole day.  I swear it was dark when my dad found me, but he says there was plenty of light. 

The food tasted like dirt.  The sodas were warm even though the temperature was below zero.  My sleeve caught on fire when I tried to warm my hands.  And my dad would not stop talking about survival. “Tommy, if you practice these 33 survival tips, you might be able to live in the woods for up to 4 weeks.”  I have never been so happy to get home. 

My company recently transferred me to Denver, Colorado.  I heard that winters in Denver are almost as cold as Alaska.  My new co-workers have invited me to go hiking or camping several times since I arrived.  I keep making excuses, because I do not want to tell them the truth. 

My wife thinks I should just tell them.  My buddy from Texas thinks I should get over it, because I’m not eight anymore.  I’m afraid that if I go, I will make a complete fool of myself.  If I don’t go, they will quit asking.  If they quit asking, I won’t have any buddies to hang out with. 

Back home, my buddies and I played golf every other Saturday.  I miss golf.  I thought about asking these guys if they want to play golf sometime.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that it was a bad idea.  They would think I was joking.  Wilderness stuff is what people here do for fun. 

I finally decided I would give it a try.  They made plans to hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park this weekend.  Once again, they asked me to join them.  I told them I was glad to report that I did not have plans for the  weekend.  They said they were glad to hear it.  After work, I found the nearest wilderness shop.  The salesperson thought I had lost my mind, but boy  he had a big smile on his face. 

I bought one of almost everything, just in case.  I even bought a wilderness guide.  I think I could survive on Mount Everest wearing the coat he sold me.  I went home and read all the manuals.  I practiced setting up a tent in the backyard.  I tried to build a fire too, but my wife quickly put a stop to that.  I wore my new hiking boots around the house until I got a blister.  I told my wife I planned to sleep on the floor the rest of the week.  I woke up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat.

After packing my car Friday morning, I could not see out the back of my Jeep Cherokee.  Everything I bought was crammed inside.  We decided to caravan to Estes Park and then hike up Beaver Meadow Trail.  The guys said they knew the perfect camping spot. They remembered it from the last time they went on a hike.  I wondered if we would get lost. But I just wanted to play it cool and follow along. 

After work, we met in the parking lot to discuss who would lead the caravan.  As soon as they saw my Jeep, they started giving me a hard time.

“Are ya movin’ in, Tom?”

“Movin’ in where?”

“To the woods.”  They all laughed.

“Oh that.  Just wanted to be prepared.”  They raised their eyebrows and gave me the OK sign.  I felt like a complete idiot. 

“You should have told us.  We would have left everything we own at home.”

“Very funny.  Bunch of comedians." 

On the way to Estes Park, I tried to relax.  I told myself this was no big deal, a piece a’ cake.  I tried to think macho thoughts.  And then it started to rain.  I panicked.  All I could think about was being 8 years old, alone in the woods, cold and hungry.  My stomach was growling.  By the time we got to Estes Park, I thought I might puke.

The guys didn’t seem bothered by the rain.  In fact, they seemed to enjoy it.  We all put on our backpacks.  Once again, I stood out.  My backpack looked spotless.  I forgot to rub it in the dirt and stomp on it.  The tag was still hanging from the zipper.  My backpack was the only one dripping with gadgets.  They all stared at me.


“Nothin’ man, that just looks……uh, heavy.”

“Well, it’s not.”

“OK, man, whatever you say.”

On the way up Beaver Meadow Trail, the rain started to pour.  It was cold and harsh.  It felt like I was being poked with hundreds of forks.  I removed the Mount Everest coat from my waist and put it on.  One of my gadgets was a small, sturdy umbrella.  I pulled it off the hook, opened it, and held it in front of my face.  The waterproof gloves I bought felt toasty warm.  I looked around at my macho friends.  They were checking out my backpack.  I suddenly felt more confident.  They looked miserable, and I almost felt sorry for them.  When it started to hail, we moved off the trail.  The large Aspen tree was not big enough to shelter 5 grown men. 

I removed my backpack.  A rolled up tent was attached to the bottom with straps of Velcro.   They didn’t laugh this time.  It took us 30 minutes, but we finally put the tent together.  It was not big enough for five people.  Somehow, we squeezed inside anyway.  We were almost sitting on top of each other.  After several awkward moments, someone said “So what else you got in that backpack, Tom?”

We spent the next hour joking and laughing and eating beef jerky.  I told them all about my first camping experience.  I also told them that I miss playing golf.  They said they would give it a try sometime.  I decided camping might not be so bad after all.



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