Friday, June 22, 2012

Why Even Bother Camping?

A couple of weekends ago our family went with another family to Garner State Park, about an hour and a half west of San Antonio. We had a great time, almost in spite of the other campers around us.

But before I get into the meat of my rant, I want to pose the question: why do people go camping?  What I mean is, why camp and not stay in a cabin or a trailer or a hotel somewhere?  I guess the obvious answer is that camping is less expensive than those other options.  But me- I go camping to be outdoors and to connect to nature and a simpler, quieter kind of life.  I was a Boy Scout up until I was 18 and couldn't be one anymore.  And I kept camping after that well into college.  I absolutely love camping and being outdoors and just being a small speck of nature.

Let me assure you that based on my last three camping experiences that it seems that the vast majority of people out there do not go camping for the same reason.  There may have been a time when people camped to connect with nature.  But I think these days people just camp because they can get away with behavior that they couldn't get away with at a hotel.  And even worse, it seems that people have lost all common decency and consideration for others as well.

Let me share three camping experiences with you as illustration:

Three years ago, a bunch of us guys (the "Dudes") went camping at a Rocky Creek, local Army Corps of Engineers park, on Lake Somerville.  We camped next to the water at one of the best campsites in the entire park and were all set to have a great weekend hanging out, fishing, drinking and just being guys.  But in the campsite next to ours were a group of teenagers from the local high school on spring break.  Those kids were loud and obnoxious [and yes, I fully realize how old and crotchety I sound writing this] all weekend.  There were about twenty boys and girls partying and coming and going at all hours, yelling and having all sorts of teenage drama all weekend at the tops of their lungs.  It was hell- especially at night when they got really cranked up.  At one point after what sounded like a fight between two of the boys over one of the girls we shouted at the kids to keep it down.  Only it wasn't quite as nice as that.  There may have been some profanity laced in there, as well.  The thing is, it didn't even begin to compare to the profanity we had been hearing spewing from the next campsite all weekend.  The kids shut up... for awhile.  But it was too late.  The trip was less awesome than it should have been because of those $@#*! kids.

In April, my brother and I went camping at Mission Tejas State Park in East Texas.  The park and the weather were great.  We had a great time cooking and hiking - and night hiking - and fishing.  The only major hiccup was a large group that was in a campsite about 100 yards away from us.  I'm not sure if it was a Girl Scout troop or some sort of club or what, but there was a mix of parents and boys and girls of all ages.  They weren't really loud, but their generator was.  That's right... they brought a generator.  And while that's not completely unheard of, it was one of the biggest, highest horsepower generators on the market - you know, the kind that can power an entire house.  And it was loud.  Really loud.  And it echoed all throughout the park from when they fired it up at about 6pm until about 10:30 pm when they shut it down.  Then they would fire it up promptly at 6 am the next morning and run it until about 10 am.  What should have been a quiet weekend in the woods for my brother and I and all the other campers in the park was ruined by the sound of that flibbin flabbin generator.  And the best part of all is that Adam and I were curious about what they could possibly be powering with the generator since they seemed to be cooking on propane stoves.  There was a trail than directly behind their campsite, so as we walked by we decided to look and see what was being powered.  It turns out that the Monster generator was being used to power - wait for it - a strand of rope lights and a coffee pot.  That's it.

And then, finally, there's our trip to Garner.  What I experienced at Garner was mindblowingly ridiculous (enough to spawn this here little rant.)  We experienced inconsiderate people (and not just one or two, but three neighbors around us - not to mention the groups that we saw and heard near the bathrooms and showers) as well as stunning displays of "you brought what camping?"

First off, I could't believe just how inconsiderate people were.  There was a trail (one of many) at the back of our campsite that headed down to the Frio River.  People seemed to have no problem walking directly through our (and our neighbor's) campsites to get to the trail.  It was easily accessible by walking in between the sites, but there were several times I saw people walk directly through sites to get down to the river.

Then, there was the music.  The people in the campsite across from ours seemed to have music blaring from their truck all day and into the night.  It was an odd mix of death metal and country.  The peopl next to them were playing Journey and other more classic rock songs, but still loudly enough so that it could be heard in out site about fifty yards away.  The people in the campsite next to ours also enjoyed listening to music playing from their vehicle. And for some reason, all these people seemed to turn up the music at night after dark.  I'm just glad that we weren't near the showers.  They were blasting Tejano polka up there that could be heard from over a hundred yards away. When all of our neighbors had their music going at 9:30 at night, it seemed almost as if they were having a contest.  And everyone around them was the losers.

I couldn't believe what people bring camping with them.  There were the death metal people that brought their dog, but then left it tied to a tree for the entire weekend.  As we were driving back to the campsite one time, I saw a mini refrigerator  - the kind that a student would use in a dorm room - up on a picnic table.  But that was nothing compared to what Tony told me about... and I didn't believe him until I saw it with my own eyes.  The Tejano music people had brought - in addition to enough Christmas lights to cover a house - a full refrigerator/freezer combo.  This is the kind of stand up refrigerator that most of us have in our kitchens at home.  This one had a refrigerator on bottom and a freezer section on top.  It was just standing there in the grass in their campsite, plugged in to the outlet at their campsite.  I never saw it, but there was also a report of someone having a deep freeze cabinet  in their site, also.

And as we were taking a hayride around the park on the first night, we saw a tent that had a window AC unit sticking out of it.  The park host who was giving the tour said that a lot of tents are actually made with spots for AC units now.

Which brings me back around to my main point - why?  What's the point of leaving the house?  If it's such a burden for people to do without their modern conveniences for a weekend, why don't they just stay home?  It would make them happier and it would make the people in the campsites around them happier.  Why do people feel like they have the right to be inconsiderate just because they're not at home?  Or a far scarier thought - how must they act when they are comfortably at home?  I would hate to be their neighbors.

And please keep in mind that you might, in fact, be the only one who wants to listen to your music.  Keep it down, please.

Friends, this is my plea to you: if you're one of those people, please stay home.  Or get a cabin or a hotel.  Or at the very least, try to be considerate of those around you and remember that some people are out there in our parks trying to have a quiet weekend away from all the conveniences of home.  Some of us are trying to "get away from it all."  Please don't make us have to go home just to get away from you.

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