Some folks like roughing it, or think they do. I did, once. My dream of a good time was hanging like an addled bat from the flank of a knife-edged ridge and snatching forty winks in a gale-buffeted tent, while waiting for the next avalanche to sweep down off the towering heights. So when my first long camping trip proved to be a never-ending ordeal of sodden clothes and blood-sucking flies, I shrugged off my misery, comforting myself with the thought that I was preparing for bigger and better agonies to come.
Here’s what happened. My brother and I pitched camp in a dank sag along a riverbank, right in the center of a dense tangle of alder, birch, and cedar. No hint of a breeze penetrated the thick, interlocked branches. We set up housekeeping in an Army pup tent, vintage 1945. It had no floor and no mosquito netting. Whatever the tent’s shortcomings, though, the blackflies and no-see-ums loved it. And they told all their friends. We were never short of company.
The weather was no help, either. Dense fog blanketed the ground each night and hung around through the early morning. Then the sun took over, turning our canvas shelter into a steaming sauna — just before the daily thunderstorm arrived to fill the sag with standing water. Finding dry wood in this postdiluvian landscape proved impossible. So we ate cold beans directly from the can, and made coffee by stirring powdered instant into tepid water. Our tent, soaked repeatedly by storm and fog and never given a chance to dry, soon developed a microclimate of its own, drizzling a fine mist down on our cotton-batting sleeping bags at all hours of the day and night.
But we were young and fit. We survived. And we bragged later about how we could take it. In truth, though, we’d have enjoyed ourselves much more if we’d followed Nessmuk’s advice. On the other hand, the self-described “limber-go-shiftless” dean of backwoods letters seldom strayed far from the nineteenth-century tourist track, and he often decamped to a waterfront hotel when the going got tough. You may not have this luxury. The longer your trip and the more difficult your route, the more likely it is that you’ll have to rough it at least some of the time. Nature deals the cards, after all. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t try to make the best of even a bad hand. Preparation, organization, and a keen eye for the lay of the land will always improve your odds… Read more…
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