A Girl’s Guide to Camping: Survival Edition

I just got back from the wilderness and all I want to do is shower in my own personal space.

Every year, my family goes camping.  (For some reason, many white people love the CRAP out of camping.  It’s a thing.  My parents and I are no exception.)  In fact, my family loves camping so much, we usually go twice a year.

No joke. I wrote on a wall in the lodge every year starting when I was 7, which explains the serial killer slant to my handwriting.

We used to go up to the same place in the Sequoias every year for anywhere from three days to a week at a secluded camp site named Camp Wolverton that used to be for Boy Scouts.  When the Boy Scout Council no longer wanted to maintain it regularly, it was kept up by families with members formerly in the scouting program.

Oh, you thought we camped in cabins? That’s cute.

Unfortunately, some S.O.B. administrators shut down our idyllic little private hideaway and we began the hunt for a new location for all of these former Boy Scouts and their families to meet up.  We settled on a place called Camp Whitsett in the southern Sierras. (It’s also a Boy Scout camp; sensing a pattern?)

Now, I love camping.  I love nature and trees and creeks and fattening food and camp fires and bad hair and no make up and great friends and run-on sentences.

And waterfalls. I like waterfalls a lot, too.

And mountainscapes.

And sunsets.

And bad photography.

However, I feel like certain things will never change between camp sites.  There are constants that will never alter.  I feel it is my duty as a woman to prepare my fellow would-be campers with what to expect.  Because camping ain’t a 4-night stay in the Ritz.  Ready?

A Girl’s Guide to Camping: Survival Edition

1) Never look at anything too closely.  A cursory glance for scorpions and flesh-eating parasites is fine,  but further inspection really just reveals things you’d rather not know about, like dead bugs (or live ones), dirt, and violated health and safety codes.  It’s better this way.  Ignorance really can be bliss.

2) There will be spiders.  And other creepy crawlies as well.  Screaming doesn’t help, it just empowers the nasty buggers.  At least you know where the bug is—it’s worse if it disappears.  You have several options: a) back away slowly and avoid the area until the bug voluntarily relocates, b) conscript a spider assassin, or c) grit your teeth and do it yourself.  You can “rescue” it, but don’t be stupid and get bitten while you’re playing at being spider Gandhi.

3)  You will be dirty, you will be sweaty, you will smell like deet, and you will get sap on you at some point.  If you’re pale like this Viking Goddess, you will be coated in sunscreen.  Showers are never guaranteed, so never ever ever ever pass one up if you can afford it.  Always bring shower shoes.

Showering.  Showering is a subsection of this rule because it is so important and often so awkward.  An extra towel is a necessity because people who camp regularly become less and less concerned with nudity, so there will probably be a flimsy shower curtain or one with lots of gaps.  If they even bother with the curtain.  At  Wolverton, you had two showering options–a group shower with three other people and no roof, or a single-person shower  with only three sides and no roof.  Either way, there was no roof.

This was the group shower:

This was the outside of the shower house. The sign was encouraging, don’t you think?

This was the inside of the shower. It had four shower heads. At least I have something to tell my therapist about when I’m 35.

We used this to keep the men out.

It usually didn’t work.

The single person “open to the bears” shower:

If the shower house was taken, this was your only other option.  It was smack-dab in the middle of camp, with the open side facing the most frequented outhouse on the entire site.  Nerve-wracking.  You didn’t have to pay for THAT peep show.  Up side: When people weren’t throwing snowballs at your naked body over the shower wall, they mostly left you alone.  At 4 pm the sun would hit it just right and warm you up.  And the view was beautiful.  If you ignored the outhouse.

This is the shower. Note the three sides and exposed plumbing.

This is the view from the shower. Note the popular outhouse.

My friend launching a snowball at his dad, who is utilizing the open to the bears shower. This may or may not have happened to me as well.

We’re sledding in front of the shower. Note the dismay in the far left corner.

Lesson:  Life is hard.  Shower when you can.

4)   If you have any special dietary concerns  or require specific food, bring alternative food options for yourself.  It’s likely people won’t know what to do with your obnoxious food issue, so suck it up and “be prepared.”  It’s the Boy Scout motto.  I know we’re girls, but you’re going to have to adapt.  Assume all foods will consist of saturated or trans fats, starches, heavy meats, sugar, excessive salt, and gravy.  Prepare to gain weight.  Drink water.

5)  Don’t expect to sleep well.  You won’t.  Also, always bring your own mattress pad, because sleeping on the ground or a similar provided mattress will feel like taking a nap on the pointy side of an Easter Island head.

Another reason you might not sleep is because you’ll be up half the night talking to people around a campfire.

6) There will probably be wildlife.  Deer are cute but they’ll judo-kick you in the face and give you Lyme disease (the deer ticks will, anyway).  That is, if they don’t run your car off the road first.  Back off, city slicker.

He could kick your face and eat your children AT ANY MOMENT.  If he didn’t look so stoned.

7)  There’s about a 60% chance you’ll get a splinter.  Prepare to use your tweezers for something other than your eyebrows.

8)  Don’t run anywhere.  You will trip on a rock and die.  Eventually.  I also hate running so this is an easy rule to adhere to for me.

This is a rock, or “stalagmite.” But you probably won’t trip on it.

You won’t trip on these stalactites either.

9) Never leave food or cosmetics in your car, tent, or cabin in bear county.  Unless you’re too poor to fix your broken air conditoning and decide you want your entire car aerated by bear claws.

And, lastly,

10) Give up on your hair.  GIVE UP.  No one respects your hair dryer and flat iron here.  Embrace your hair issues.  If you have a regular ‘fro, it’s beautiful.  If you have a white-lady ‘fro, EMBRACE IT, IT’S YOURS.

To be honest, I love camping.  You will too.  Be prepared.